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Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 13:24 | SYDNEY
Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 13:24 | SYDNEY

Getting Australia on the Security Council

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20 August 2008 09:25

The conventional wisdom has it that for Australia to win a slot on the UN Security Council then it will have to do some serious schmoozing in Africa, which it otherwise chooses mostly to ignore. Australia, at last count, had six missions in continental Africa (Accra, Abuja, Cairo, Harare, Nairobi, Pretoria and over in the Indian Ocean, Port Louis), so we don't exactly have the place well covered. 

In this context, I'm wondering how the government will approach the schmooze-fest. Presumably, it would be a little too gauche to rock up just before the election and request the support of African states in return for asking nicely? I'm guessing, we'd at least need the veneer of some long-term engagement. If that's the case then perhaps we can expect a few more embassies to open up in the not too distant future — for example in Addis Ababa, home to the headquarters of the African Union.

But even so, it would seem unlikely we'd be able to afford or be able to justify opening enough missions to adequately cover all of Africa, so presumably we will again resort to a series of roving envoys to lobby on our behalf (eminent, long-retired ex-diplomats better check their passport expiry dates).  And as for our aid to Africa, well the figure is still probably a little embarrassing to flaunt as a justification for supporting our candidacy ($116 million in 2008-09 for around a billion people). Does that mean we can expect to see at least a partial shift in aid flows from the Pacific and Asia to Africa?

However, the whole exercise doesn't have to be a one-off spendathon. The latest Lowy paper points to the boom many Australian resource companies are experiencing in Africa and our growing interests there. Twinning those interests with our expanding African engagement would be a good way to start.

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