Speaking to the more than 100 world leaders and foreign ministers gathered in New York, Mr Downer said individual nations have to act if multilateral mechanisms fail.
He says Australia remains committed to institutions like the United Nations but that does not exclude acting outside multilateral institutions which are ineffective.
“The major global disarmament and non-proliferation treaties remain critical to setting norms of international order, but, ultimately, those instruments must be enforced. States aren’t merely entitled, but obliged, to take action to uphold those norms, especially when the transfer of weapons of mass destruction outside internationally agreed frameworks is involved. The conviction that states must uphold international norms, particularly in relation to weapons of mass destruction, led Australia to join the coalition to disarm Iraq.”
With calls by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to reform the United Nations, Mr Downer also suggests Indonesia be allowed to join an enlarged Security Council.
Suggesting the council be expanded to double its size, he says Indonesia deserves to be represented, not because it is a Muslim nation but because of its size.
“The composition of the Security Council is out of step with geopolitical reality. The permanent membership of the Security Council should be expanded to reflect the current realities with the addition of countries such as Japan, India, Brazil, Indonesia and an African nation.”
Talk about increasing the size of the Security Council goes back more than a decade and still has little support among the five permanent members.
They include the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.