Europe

Australia wins seat on UN Human Rights Council despite criticism

Australia will use its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council to push for the empowerment of women, indigenous rights and abolition of the death penalty.

Australia will use its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council to push for the empowerment of women, indigenous rights and abolition of the death penalty.

It will also push for reform of the controversial body.

Australia was elected unopposed to the council on Tuesday (AEDT), joining Spain as a Western European and other States representative for a three-year term, replacing the Netherlands and Portugal.

Australia to bring 'pragmatic approach' to UN Rights Council: Bishop
Australia to bring 'pragmatic approach' to UN Rights Council: Bishop

Angola, Congo, Senegal, Slovakia, Ukraine, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Spain were also elected to the council, while Nigeria and Qatar won second terms.

It's the first time Australia has had a seat on the council.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop nominated the empowerment of women around the globe, indigenous rights, abolition of the death penalty and crises in North Korea and Syria as the issues Australia would pursue during its tenure.

"Australia will bring a very principled and pragmatic approach," she told reporters in Canberra.

It will also push for reforms to the council which includes representatives from nations with a poor record on human rights.

"I believe it is an opportunity for other countries to scrutinise their record and hold them to account," Ms Bishop said.

Australia's bid to serve on the council has attracted criticism, most recently from World Vision Australia boss Tim Costello.

He called on the government to close its "inhumane" offshore detention centres which were a "blight on Australia's international reputation".

"If we are to play a credible role in promoting human rights internationally, we need to look to our own behaviour," he said in a statement.

"We need to do more than talk the talk on human rights, we need to walk the walk."

The UN is set to scrutinise Australia's human rights record on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a regular examination process.

"Of course Australia is open to scrutiny," Ms Bishop said. 

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch