Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D., to the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Part I
I first addressed this General Assembly in the year 2000. The Millennium year was a time of great hope, reflected in the outcome of Millennium Summit. World leaders committed the peoples of the planet to a new beginning in which the dawn of the twenty-first century would mark a break from the past, with a new sharing of burdens, and a new common dedication to peace and human progress.
Today, the light of that new dawn is obscured by the dark clouds of war, terror, ethnic violence and continuing abuse of human rights. Twelve months ago, and again this week, the Secretary-General pointed out that this Organisation is at a fork in the road and that we have to decide on the way forward. Much work has been undertaken since the Secretary-General laid down that challenge. The Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change is working on its report and I am pleased to recall the European Union made a detailed submission to the Panel, drawn up during Ireland’s recent Presidency of the Union. We also took a decision to mainstream the issue of effective multilateralism in the Union’s discussions with other regional groups.
We await the Panel’s report and the Secretary-General’s recommendations which will follow. In his address on Tuesday, the Secretary-General expressed the hope that when Heads of State and Government meet next year to review progress on the Millennium Declaration they will be ready to take bold decisions. They must, because the longer we linger at the fork in the road, the more difficult will be the road ahead. We cannot afford to postpone action. More and more citizens of the world are questioning whether the UN has the capacity or even the will to prevent conflict and protect the vulnerable from injustice. They are becoming increasingly disillusioned with an Organisation which either cannot take decisions or whose decisions are ignored with impunity. They see the politics of the lowest common denominator in operation, with strong and sensible draft Resolutions watered down to mere platitudes. They fear that the Organisation is no longer driven by the determination and idealism of the founding fathers
My Prime Minister, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, made clear last year, when he addressed this General Assembly, where the fault lies. It rests with us - the governments of the Member States. We have a strong and much respected Secretary-General in Kofi Annan. We have brave and dedicated officials. Many have put their lives on the line for this Organisation and what it stands for. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice. UN staff deserve better protection in future. It is time for the governments of the Member States to act. We need, as the Secretary-General put it, “to seek common solutions to common problems”.
This will require political will and effective structures. Neither one on its own will suffice. The essential requirement is a more effective system of collective security. Such a system requires the unique legitimacy offered by an effective United Nations and its Charter. It is clear that the composition of the Security Council no longer accurately reflects global geopolitical realities. In Ireland’s view, a modest and regionally balanced increase in its membership, both permanent and non-permanent, is justified. Increased representation from the developing world would enhance its legitimacy, and thereby its effectiveness.
But a more effective Security Council will need more than a change in structures. There has to be a change in attitudes. Those States who sit on the Security Council have a responsibility to rise above national or regional interests and act in the wider interests of mankind. This is an obligation which rests on each and every Member of the Council. But those who either assert or aspire to positions of world leadership - and there is no shortage of candidates - bear a particular responsibility to act in the global interest. Putting national interests first is not an effective answer to the challenges which confront us. While most of us continue to wish to organize and govern ourselves primarily within the framework of the nation state, we must recognise that technological development and economic integration is impairing the effectiveness of the nation state as a defensive bastion.Power and influence must be used in the interests of the international community as a whole, rather than for the pursuit of narrow, short-term interests. States and regions have broad and varied interests, individual and collective. Our system must accommodate and reconcile these interests; otherwise we are doomed to division between those who would impose hegemony, and those who would resist it.
In his report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration the Secretary-General has warned that the world is falling short in its performance toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In sub-Saharan Africa, especially, many countries are caught in a poverty trap and face the crippling challenges of unsustainable debt and HIV/AIDS, often compounded by instability. Ireland fully recognises the seriousness of the shortfall in development funding that faces us, estimated at $50 billion. The best means of bridging this gap is for donor nations to recommit themselves to reaching the United Nations target for Official Development Assistance of 0.7 percent of GNP. The Irish Government remains committed to this goal. Ireland, which has increased its ODA very substantially in recent years, will continue working actively with its developing country partners to build a strong global partnership for development.
Economic and social development is the means by which the world’s poorer countries can be lifted out of poverty. An open international trading regime aimed at facilitating investment is an integral part of our multilateral system, and fair market access is an essential part of this. Some developing countries estimate that, in a best-case scenario, a successful outcome to the Doha Round could help raise up to 500 million people out of extreme poverty. Fairer international trading arrangements are imperative if we are to address the problems of under-development. Ireland and its European Union partners are determined not to be found wanting in the task of bringing the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, finally, to a conclusion with an agreement that meets the essential concerns of all sides.