Speech by Minister Cowen to the Royal Irish Academy (Part II)
Europe, through the EU, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has the most advanced and developed set of regional organisations. We have proven that much can be achieved at the regional level. This experience is increasingly being taken up in the developing regional processes in Latin America, Asia and Africa. I warmly welcome it. At a basic level, it can provide the framework for neighbours to get on with each other. It also offers a building block between the national and the global level. A more developed and effective network of regional cooperation could greatly enhance the effectiveness of the multilateral system.
Ireland will assume the Presidency of the EU in January next year. As a Union of 25 Member States with over 450 million people producing a quarter of the world's Gross National Product, the European Union is inescapably a global actor. Our size and wealth bring not only opportunities but also obligations. I believe the EU is uniquely placed to play a stronger role in support of peace and security, human rights and development. Together, we have at our disposal a wide range of tools which sets us apart from any other organisation. The Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy, including its developing capabilities in civilian and military crisis management, is just one element in this broad spectrum which also encompasses development cooperation assistance and trade relations as well as diplomatic and political relations.
This is the premise behind the EU's Security Strategy which is currently being prepared. Ireland has played an active role in shaping the Strategy, which is in keeping with our approach to questions of international security. The Strategy is not a charter for military intervention or foreign adventures. As currently drafted, it sets out a holistic approach to security, going beyond purely military aspects. It reflects a shared view held by the Member States that global security can only be achieved through collective action by the international community as a whole. That is why support for effective multilateralism and the role of the United Nations is at the very heart of the strategy. The Strategy also recognises that we cannot achieve security if we do not tackle the causes of conflict. For this reason, conflict prevention and the importance of focusing on the upstream dimension to security problems have all been highlighted.
It is proposed that the Union will finalise and adopt the Security Strategy at the European Council next month. It will fall to Ireland, as Presidency, to guide the Union's first steps towards implementing its recommendations. We are working closely with the current Italian Presidency and the Union's institutions in this regard. Follow up will involve practical and operational means to support and advance effective multilateralism, conflict prevention and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These three issues are central to achieving international security.
Here in Ireland, we have traditionally seen international security through a different prism than most of our partners in the European Union. Quite often, we discuss these issues as ones of principle and theory, rather than of real and direct relevance to our own national security. Our history and geographic location made our experience in the 20th century very different to other European nations, large and small. But we are coming to accept that the EU as a global player has real security interests and concerns, and that these are equally our interests and concerns. I am not for one moment suggesting that we abandon our traditional approach to foreign policy issues. But what I am suggesting that we have to test and apply our principles to the realities that increasingly face us and our partners in the European Union. If we want an effective multilateral system, we simply have to ensure that the EU has the capabilities to contribute meaningfully to it.
The European Security and Defence Policy is the key instrument. Through it, the EU can make a practical contribution to conflict prevention and crisis management. But to be able to do so, we need to further develop the Union's capabilities – capabilities which are civilian as well as military. Ireland will take forward work in this area during our upcoming Presidency.
This year alone the EU has undertaken three operations under the ESDP.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, an EU police mission has been underway, in succession to the outgoing UN operation there.
During the summer, the EU and the UN worked closely on a military mission which aimed at stabilising the situation in the Bunia region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The EU undertook this mission at the request of the UN Secretary General. One very welcome consequence of this has been a substantial development this year of the relationship between the UN and the EU in crisis management – a development which Ireland will work to see developed further.
The Union has also undertaken a UN Security Council-endorsed military monitoring mission in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which will end next month. This mission will be succeeded by a policing mission in the same country that also commences in December. It is expected that the EU will provide a follow-on mission to the current NATO-led multinational peace stabilisation force SFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Ireland has made contributions to the police mission in Bosnia and the military operation in the DRC.
There is great scope for the EU to offer assistance in post-conflict stabilisation, policing and judicial reform, re-establishment of the rule of law and building civilian administration. I have seen at first hand the value of this work in the Western Balkans where the EU is playing a leading role in support of reconstruction and reconciliation. It is also an area in which the EU and the UN are working closely together.
Drawing these different strands together, actual conflict prevention will be an important cross-cutting aim for our Presidency, as it is for Ireland's national foreign policy. It is in this area, where States are struggling to develop new approaches to preventing and resolving conflicts, that effective multilateralism is crucial. Our aim is to mainstream this important objective in the Union's relations with the wider world. As part of our commitment to this area, we will host a conference on conflict prevention in Dublin in late March which will focus on the important role civil society and non-governmental organisations can and must play if effective conflict prevention strategies are to succeed in arresting violent conflicts.
I have set out my views on how I believe the EU should play a greater role in support of international peace and security. It can only do so effectively, however, within a more effective multilateral framework.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The most effective means of ensuring the security of all States remains the multilateral system. The UN Charter embodies the only agreed means of dealing with threats to international peace and security, and of conferring a unique legitimacy on measures taken to preserve or restore it. It enshrines the principle of conflict prevention and conflict resolution. Moreover, the Charter emphasises the critical importance of cooperation in solving problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
Since Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955, the multilateral system of collective security enshrined in the UN Charter has been the strongest component of our foreign policy. This has been given concrete expression in our continuous involvement in UN peace-keeping since 1958, in our sponsorship of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and support for disarmament, and in the growth of our commitment to Official Development Aid, in line with the growth in our prosperity.
Our commitment remains as firm today as it was on the day that we joined the UN. This week the Oireachtas gave its approval for a contingent of 430 Defence Force personnel to participate in the UN peace-keeping mission in Liberia. I wish the men and women of the Defence Forces well as they prepare to leave home for a difficult and challenging mission. They take with them the good will and support of the Irish people.
The multilateral system is about empowerment and ownership. We are all responsible for finding shared solutions, and for playing our part in implementing them. This responsibility is borne equally amongst the large and the small; the rich, and the less developed. Earlier this week, I met with the African Union as part of the EU troika. One of the issues we discussed was how the EU can support developing African capabilities for conflict prevention and conflict resolution in Africa. The African Union and the EU are examining the modalities for funding a Peace Facility for Africa that will assist African partners in developing their capacities in this area.
Of course, the multilateral system is not perfect. As the Secretary-General has said, we are at a fork in the road. There is no clearer example of this fact than the divisions within the international community over Iraq. The UN's membership was unable to arrive at a shared view on how to respond to Iraqi defiance of successive Security Council Resolutions. The consequences of this are clear today. If we are to persuade countries that the multilateral path is the best way forward the corollary is then that the UN system is able to take action and deliver when this is required. That is the essence of effective multilateralism.
If we are serious about our commitment to making the multilateral system work, then we must take action now. I welcome the Secretary-General's announcement of the establishment of a High-Level Panel to examine the major threats and challenges the world faces in the broad field of peace and security and to bring forward proposals for reform of the UN. It is an experienced and broadly-based panel, and its report will carry authority.
Perhaps inevitably interest has focused on how the institutions of the UN could be reformed, and whether changes should be made to the composition of the Security Council. These institutional issues are of course politically charged. There are conflicting views about how far reform should go. There is, in my view, a need to make the Security Council more representative of today's geopolitical realities. There needs likewise to be a better regional balance among both permanent and non-permanent members. There is also scope to improve the way the General Assembly conducts its business and the way the Secretariat is organised. These are important issues. But reform of the UN should not only be about institutional change. The millions of men and women suffering through conflict, poverty and injustice will not thank us if we confine ourselves to rearranging the chairs around a table in New York.
We must look beyond this question to the broader and, in my view, much more pressing issues. How, for instance, can the UN best promote global security in the face of threats from non-state actors such as international terrorism, from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and from cross-border crime? What answers do we give to the Secretary General on these issues?
How, likewise, do we reconcile the right of states on the one hand to protect themselves and their population in the face of trans-national threats such as international terrorism, drugs cartels and human trafficking with, on the other, the protection of individual human rights? This question has arisen in particularly acute form as a result of the activity of groups such as Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamyah. Of course, we must find ways of protecting ourselves; but we must also preserve the very ideals which these groups seek to subvert and destroy.