Statement by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern T.D., to the General Debate at the 58th General Assembly of the UN. New York (2)
We must also remain resolute in our determination to counter the threat of
terrorism. We owe it to the victims of September 11, and to all the
victims of terrorist atrocities before and since. The measures put in
place by the Security Council have made it more difficult for international
terrorist networks to organise and to finance their activities. These
organisations, however, do not stand still. We must remain vigilant and
redouble our efforts to make it impossible for the agents of international
terror to operate.
In doing so, however, we must be clear that the need to act against
terrorism offers no license for action contrary to the UN Charter, or
against the body of international human rights and humanitarian law that we
have so painstakingly constructed.
We must also seek to deal with the causes of terrorism. Terrorism is not
some kind of original sin. No child is born a terrorist. At some point in
their lives, some people become terrorists. We have to identify how and
If we find that young people are being indoctrinated into terrorism, we
have to deal with those who seek to incite hatred and terror. If we find
that they act, however wrongly, in reaction to real or perceived injustice,
we have to confront this fact and, as far as is possible, seek to eliminate
the reality or perception of this injustice. To seek to understand the
causes of terrorism should not be misunderstood as being soft on terrorism.
On the contrary, it is an essential step in its elimination. I can speak
from experience of developments in my own country.
The Government and people of Afghanistan face important challenges in the
coming year, in particular the adoption of a constitution and the holding
of national elections. Severe difficulties stand in the way, especially
the precarious security situation. The sustained and wholehearted support
of the international community is required if Afghanistan is to recover
from its long ordeal. For Ireland's part, it has delivered on its pledges
to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
In Africa, encouraging progress has been made in the past year towards the
resolution of some long-standing and intractable conflicts. We urge the
parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to
implement the commitments that they have entered into. Neighbouring states
must abide by their commitments, and their obligation, not to interfere in
Sierra Leone remains on track, with the help of the United Nations, towards
a future of peaceful development.
Progress has been achieved in Liberia. I wish to pay tribute to the
efforts of those member states that have contributed to this positive
development. Their continued engagement, along with the United Nations,
will be indispensable in helping the people of Liberia to consolidate what
has been achieved and to build peace in their country. I am pleased to
confirm that my government in the next few days will recommend to our
Parliament that Ireland's Defence Forces participate with a sizable
contingent in the forthcoming United Nations peacekeeping operation in
Respect for human rights is an essential foundation for peace and security.
Lack of respect for human rights is at the root of many conflicts, internal
and international. The promotion of human rights is rightly the concern
of the international community as a whole. It must remain a central task
of the United Nations, and must be integrated into all of the UN's
There is no room for complacency. We must all recognise that no country,
including our own, is perfect. We can all do better.
I pay tribute to the many brave individuals around the world ? defenders of
human rights - who risk discrimination, imprisonment or worse to ensure
that governments live up to their human rights obligations.
The establishment of the International Criminal Court was a clear signal of
the determination of the international community to bring to justice those
who perpetrate genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Ireland,
together with its partners in the European Union, will continue to offer
firm support to the ICC, as its work gets under way. I urge those who
have not signed or ratified the Rome Statute to do so, and I urge all
states to adhere firmly to the principles on which it is based.
The peace process in Northern Ireland remains a major priority of the Irish
Regrettably, due to diminishing trust between the political parties, the
devolved political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended nearly
one year ago. Since then, we have been working to re-establish the trust
and confidence necessary to restore and sustain these institutions.
This involves both ensuring that all vestiges of paramilitary activity are
consigned to the past and that all parties commit themselves to the full
and stable operation of the democratic institutions of the Good Friday
Agreement. Following intensive negotiations, we came tantalisingly close in
April to making the required breakthrough but unfortunately did not get
matters fully resolved at that time.
After one of the most peaceful summers on the streets of Northern Ireland,
the process is now entering another decisive phase of challenge and
opportunity. Developments over the next few weeks will have a crucial
bearing on whether elections ? which I believe should take place before the
end of the year ? will be held in an atmosphere that is conducive to
forming a working administration on the other side of the polling date.
For this to happen, all of the pro-Agreement parties must show leadership
and courage; must face up to their responsibilities and take the decisions
they know are right; and must stretch their constituencies so that they can
reach out to others. As partners in this process, Prime Minister Blair and
I ? and our two Governments ? are working closely together to support and
encourage all of those political and community leaders who are taking risks
From other areas around the world struggling to escape from a legacy of
violence, we in Ireland know all too well that a process of conflict
resolution cannot rest still. Either it continues to move forward or it
loses momentum and direction and falters. To complacently assume that
current opportunities for progress can be deferred until a more politically
convenient moment is both wrong and dangerous. In the case of Northern
Ireland, the moment of opportunity is now and it is my hope that in the
weeks and months ahead all of the parties who subscribed to the Good Friday
Agreement will collectively rise to that challenge.
Poverty and insecurity go hand in hand. The efforts of the United Nations
to promote international peace and security must be closely aligned with
its work in tackling the root causes of poverty.
When I launched the UN Human Development Report in Dublin last July, I
noted how powerful a reminder it was that the world was becoming a more
unequal place. Fifty- four countries, according to the Report, the great
majority in Africa, were poorer now than they were in 1990. A world where
over 1.2 billion people continue to live on less than a dollar a day, where
14 million children are orphaned because of HIV/AIDS, where women in the
poorest countries are 175 times more likely to die in childbirth than in
rich countries, is inherently unjust, and hence insecure.
At the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, I said Ireland would
increase its contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS by an additional
$30 million per year. Our spending on HIV/AIDS programmes in 2002 exceeded
$40 million, a ten-fold increase over the past three years.
The Millennium Declaration called for a global partnership for development,
and as in any partnership, there are responsibilities on all sides.
Undertakings on Official Development Assistance, on debt relief, and on
governance must be achieved. We must be rigorous in assessing our
progress, as we are committed to do, in 2005.
At the Millennium Summit, I committed Ireland to reaching the UN target for
Official Development Assistance of 0.7 per cent of GNP by 2007. Since
then, Ireland has increased its ODA to 0.41 per cent, and remains committed
to reaching the target by 2007.
Fair and open international trade is essential for global peace and
prosperity. It is an integral part of the multilateral system that we are
pledged to protect.
I regret that it did not prove possible to reach agreement at the recent
WTO talks in Cancún. I understand the frustration of those who consider
themselves unfairly treated in global markets. But if we turn our back on
the multilateral trading system, and allow trade and investment to be
diverted and distorted by bilateral and regional arrangements, we will
damage, perhaps irreparably, the best tool available to us to make serious
inroads into poverty and to raise standards of living on a global basis..
Let us redouble our efforts to achieve an agreement that offers fair market
access and at the same time allows all of us preserve the essence of our
rural culture and environment.
The past year might have been a difficult one for the United Nations but
events have demonstrated that, for the people of the world, it is the
indispensable organisation at the centre of our system of collective
security. We have invested it with unique legitimacy and unique authority.
People around the world look to it in hope and expectation.
Let us work together to make sure that the United Nations is an
organisation worthy of the ideals enshrined in its Charter; worthy of the
trust of those who rely on it for help and protection; worthy of the
idealism and dedication of those who work for it, and of the sacrifice of
those who have given their lives in its service.
As the Secretary -General made clear when he addressed this General
Assembly: we are at a fork in the road. Let us be sure to take the right
Thank you, Mr. President.