“Ireland Will Remain At Forefront of UN Reform Drive” Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern T.D., has said that the Government will give its full backing in 2006 to efforts to fulfil the commitments to United Nations reform agreed at the UN 2005 World Summit.
Speaking today, Minister Ahern said:
“2006 will be an important year for the future of the United Nations.
“I pledge that during 2006 the Irish Government will remain at the forefront of the drive for a more effective UN, capable of delivering on its vital and wide-ranging mandate.”
“Last year Ireland celebrated fifty years of proud and committed UN membership. I personally had the honour to serve as one of Secretary-General Annan's five reform Envoys in the lead up to last September's World Summit.
“One of the major decisions of the September Summit and has already been implemented, with the establishment on 20 December of the Peacebuilding Commission.”
“This body will work to ensure that countries emerging from conflict do not revert to violence. The Government will make a contribution of €10 million to the associated Peacebuilding Fund. This very substantial contribution underscores the great importance Ireland attaches to the new body, for the creation of which we were among the first to call during our EU presidency.
“I call on the UN and its Member States to devote every effort in the year ahead to the resolution of conflict in troubled areas across the world, including in Darfur, Northern Uganda, and Sri Lanka.
“The Government is determined to play its part in ensuring that the Millennium Development Goals are achieved, and will meet the commitments made at the Summit by the Taoiseach on behalf of Ireland. I urge our international partners, in both donor and developing countries, to meet their commitments also.
“The Government's decision to increase our Overseas Development Aid means that Ireland, already a major contributor to UN bodies such as the UN Development Programme, UNHCR and UNICEF, will be able to increase our funding substantially in 2006. Our voluntary contributions to these bodies will rise from €47 million in 2005 to €57 million.
“As our financial commitments increase, we will work with like-minded donors to ensure that reform efforts result in better coordination and more value for money for the UN's development activities and a more rapid and comprehensive response to emergencies.
“Ireland will remain closely involved in peacekeeping, including in the EU context, the importance of which has been strongly underlined by Secretary-General Annan as well as by world leaders at the September Summit.
“Ireland will work to strengthen the UN's role in enhancing respect for human rights throughout the world, including through the creation this year of an effective Human Rights Council. I will be especially concerned to ensure that civil society is closely involved in its work, as it is now in the work of the Commission on Human Rights which the Council is intended to replace.
“I welcome also the provision in the 2006-2007 UN Budget, which was agreed by the General Assembly on Christmas Eve, for the establishment of an independent audit function, and for a UN ethics office, which will protect whistleblowers in the Organisation.
“I look forward to the recommendations that Secretary-General Annan will shortly make for further management reform, and to discussing the implementation of these with international partners. "
“These reforms are necessary to ensure that the UN has the capacity to remain at the centre of international action in meeting the threats and challenges of the twenty-first century.”
Note for Editors
On 21 December, Minister Ahern, in welcoming the formal establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission by the UN General Assembly the previous day, pledged a contribution of €10 Million to the associated Peacebuilding Fund. The Peacebuilding Commission will advise the Security Council and other UN bodies on measures to ensure that countries emerging from conflict do not revert to violence. It will help mobilise resources for this purpose, and oversee their deployment on the ground.
On Christmas Eve, the UN adopted a budget of US$ 3.79 billion for the biennium 2006-07. At the same time, it decided to establish an Independent Audit Advisory Committee, to strengthen the General Assembly's oversight function, and made provision for a new ethics office, as well as strengthening protection for “whistle-blowers”.
However, as an exceptional measure, at the insistence of the US and others, the General Assembly limited the first portion of the Organisation's expenditures to US$ 950 million, which would cover the needs of the United Nations only for approximately half of 2006, pending consideration by the General Assembly of further reform recommendations from Secretary-General Annan. These further recommendations in the area of management reform were requested by world leaders at the Summit, and are expected from the Secretary-General in February. The General Assembly will also conduct a review of UN mandates.
(Note: the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations are not affected by this restriction on expenditure, as the costs of these are met through a separate Peacekeeping Budget which varies in line with the peacekeeping activities of the UN. Expenditures under the Peacekeeping Budget are expected to reach approximately US$ 10 billion during 2006-2007.)
The September Summit decided to establish a Human Rights Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights, at the recommendation of Secretary-General Annan. The details, however, were left for further negotiation. While some progress has been made, a number of difficult issues remain, including the size of the new Council, the manner of its election, the criteria for membership, and the extent of involvement of non-government organisations in the Council's work.
Ireland's contribution to the UN Regular Budget for the biennium 2006-2007 is expected to amount to some €13.7 million. Its contributions to the UN Peacekeeping Budget over these two years are likely to total around €28 million.
4th January 2006