Austria and the United Nations

Since joining the United Nations Organisation (UN) on 14 December 1955 as its 70th member, Austria has established itself as an engaged UN Member State. Austria advocates a strong and efficient UN and actively participates in its work.

Besides peace and security and conflict prevention, Austria puts great emphasis on strengthening  human rights and the rule of law, the protection of civilians (in particular women and children) in armed conflict and the fight against impunity. Austria´s efforts were instrumental in increasing UN focus on these issues. Through its engagement, Austria has secured broad recognition and support for these topics within the UN Security Council.

The fight against drugs and organised crime, disarmament and non-proliferation, the environment and the further development of international law are also of particular interest to Austria. In the past, Austria repeatedly acted as a mediator and made a substantial contribution to the development of international law ("Vienna Conventions").

A further priority for Austria is the current UN reform process, where Austria, among other issues, is committed to improving the working methods of the UN Security Council.

During the UN General Assembly in the autumn of 2015, member states reached agreement on Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development and pledged to work together to combat the global and complex challenges of today such as poverty and climate change and to leave behind a better world for future generations.

Agenda 2030 forms the basis of Austrian development cooperation with partner countries. 

Austria will also contribute to the sustainable development of Austria and the world as a whole, with the aim of realising human dignity for all, a healthy planet, and just, resilient societies, and economic well-being.

Vienna International Center Picture: Österreich Werbung/Popp

Vienna International Center Picture: Österreich Werbung/Popp

The Vienna headquarters has become an important centre for addressing global security challenges and the issues of our times, such as nuclear safetyor the fight against organised crime, as well as a venue for international meetings.

Through its active, fair, and principled engagement, Austria enjoys a high profile in the UN.  Such recognition takes many forms, including the triple election to the Security Council (1973/1974, 1991/1992 und 2009/2010), as well as the election to the UN Human Rights Council (2011-2014). Austria´s reputation has also helped secure the appointment of Austrian nationals to key posts within the UN as UN officials or independent experts. From 1972 to 1981, Kurt Waldheim acted as UN Secretary General. From 2012 to 2014, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal was the UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.

Protection of Civilians

The protection of civilians and the commitment to upholding international humanitarian law are longstanding Austrian foreign policy priorities.

During Austria’s Presidency of the UN Security Council in 2009, Austria sponsored resolution 1894 on the protection of civilians. Implementing key aspects of the resolution, the Defence Ministry designed an interdisciplinary training programme, in cooperation with the foreign and internal ministries as well as the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR), on the protection of civilians for senior staff in peacekeeping operations.

Since 2012 this course along with a UN train the trainers’ course on the protection of civilians, are held regularly at the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ÖSFK) in Stadtschlaining.

Austria actively participates in the open debates of the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict through national statements and EU statements.  Austria is also a member of the relevant UN Group of Friends in New York.

Rule of Law

Strengthening the rule of law in international relations is a priority for Austria’s UN policy. Austria´s standing and leadership on the issue is widely recognised, including due to the initiative launched by Austria in the context of its Security Council membership in 2009-2010 on the role of the Security Council in strengthening a rules-based international system.

Since 2005, Austria coordinates the “Group of Friends of the Rule of Law“ in New York, an informal network of around 50 UN Member States from all regional groups.  The group meets at the invitation of the Austrian Permanent Mission at Ambassador and/or expert level to discuss various issues, and to work together to promote strengthening and coherence of UN rule of law activities. The 2012 Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels(A/RES/67/1) marked an important milestone as it was adopted by the UN General Assembly by consensus.  The issue of the rule of law creates tensions amongst UN member states, which made negotiations on the declaration difficult. Many member states were concerned with the increasing focus on the rule of law at the national level and feared interference in domestic policies. Nevertheless, and also thanks to Austrian efforts, the text that was adopted encompasses both the international and the national levels of the rule of law in a well-balanced way.  The high level declaration also calls for an annual report by the UN Secretary General on the linkages between the rule of law and the three pillars of the UN - peace and security, development, and human rights. The Rule of Law topic is discussed every year in the framework of the 6th Committee of the UN General Assembly, and Austria works with the Group of Friends to preserve the cross-cutting nature of the discussions relating to all three pillars of the UN.

As coordinator of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, Austria contributed significantly to anchoring the rule of law in the Post 2015 agenda by, inter alia, delivering group statements in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, coordinating a joint letter signed by nearly 60 States from all regional groups, and information exchange and coordination at expert level.

Austria also delivers statements on other rule of law related issues on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, including in open debates of the UN Security Council.

Furthermore, Austria is actively engaged in negotiations on the annual resolution at the UN General Assembly on “The rule of law at the national and international levels“.

An initiative by Austria together with Liechtenstein, Mexico and the UN Secretariat has led to better exchange of views between the UN Secretariat and UN Member States through a series of briefings.  Discussions with representatives from DPKO, UNDP, UNODC, UNEP, UNCITRAL und OLA were positively received and met with much interest, including by critical UN Member States, as an opportunity to exchange views.

As a member of the Group of Like-Minded States on targeted sanctions, Austria is also dedicated to further improve due process with regard to UN Security Council sanctions regimes.

In the context of peacekeeping, Austria supports the DPKO’s Office of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI) and actively participates in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34).

In recent years, the UN’s Rule of Law of Architecture has undergone significant change, aimed at making the UN more efficient and coherent. The UN’s Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group now encompasses 20 entities with important normative components in their mandates, including DPA, DPKO, OHCHR, OLA, UNDP, UNODC, UN Women.  The Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections Areas in the Rule of Law in Post-conflict and other Crisis Situations was set up to ensure better coordination and coherency amongst UN entities  as well as  with donors and recipients.