Address by the Minister, Mr. Brian Cowen TD, to the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (Part 1)
I am honoured to accept the invitation of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy to join you today and to share some thoughts on the way forward for all of us - including you in the United States and we in Ireland - in the transformed world post 11 September.
For America and the world, the events of September 11 were a defining event that have radically changed the international landscape, almost certainly in ways that are permanent and that will profoundly, and in ways not yet easy to assess, affect the future shape of international relations across the globe. In the words of the Irish poet John Montague, "old moulds are broken": to what end remains, as always, up to us to determine.
For Ireland, our position has been steadfast and clear: we stand with the United States and with the rest of the international community in asserting that the barbarism of 11 September cannot be allowed to succeed; that the scourge of international terrorism must be permanently ended; that there must be a total commitment by all Governments to this task, with all the energy and resources at our disposal.
Ireland last week saw an enormously important event in our own history: a quantity of IRA weapons put permanently beyond use. In the history of the peace process in Ireland, this is a transcendent moment: it means our energies can now focus more fully on the development of the institutions put in place under the Good Friday Agreement, and that we can realistically hope that political engagement and dialogue will definitively replace the conflict and division that have brought such terrible suffering to our island. We now have the opportunity, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, to "think anew and to act anew".
There is a clear thread between the events of 11 September and the historic developments in Ireland last week. It can be summed up in the words of the American poet, Archibald MacLeish, when he wrote of the loss of all innocent lives in violent conflict: "...our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them.... whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing, we cannot say; it is you who must say this.....".
Today, I want to look at the enormity of the challenge in these words as they relate to the world after 11 September and to our own situation in Ireland. At a time of flux and uncertainty we now need to maintain a clear intellectual and moral framework as we face the new challenges that confront us all.
Defeating International Terrorism
Defeating international terrorism will be a hard and long task. Ireland is convinced that the United Nations must have a pivotal role to play in the struggle to overcome this enemy of everything we value.
There are several levels in which we must operate to combat and to defeat international terrorism. First, in compliance with UN Resolution 1368, we must do everything in our power to bring to justice those who perpetrated the vile acts of 11 September, and to prevent further terrorist attacks. Second, as UN Resolution 1373 states, we must now put in place across the entire international community permanent barriers to the operation of terrorism: ending its funding and methods of operation; removing its capacity to operate; preventing its ability to group and re-group. Finally, as countless other UN Resolutions as yet unimplemented confirm, we need to address the causes of conflict and tension and to tackle those dangerous fault lines in global peace which terrorists, all too often, exploit for their own ends.
Ireland has been President of the Security Council for this month. We have been actively engaged in helping to shape the Security Council response to the immediate security situation in the aftermath of the September atrocities.
In my discussions of recent weeks with Secretary General Annan, Secretary of State Powell, my European Union colleagues and other leaders, we agreed on the need for the Security Council to speak and act with one voice in meeting this challenge. This has been achieved and maintained.
The Security Council acted quickly, strongly and decisively in the immediate aftermath of 11 September. The Council acknowledged in Resolutions 1368 and 1373 the inherent right of individual and collective self defence as recognised in Article 51 of the UN Charter. For their part, the countries participating in the military actions now underway in Afghanistan rightly came to the Security Council to outline their course of action.
Challenges in Afghanistan
During October, Ireland has arranged each week for the Security Council to focus on the situation in Afghanistan at two levels, on the humanitarian needs of the people, and on the urgency to put in place an overall political settlement, in which the UN must play the key role.
On the humanitarian side, we have emphasised at every opportunity that, as the campaign against terrorism unfolds, it must be accompanied by a visible humanitarian strategy. Priority must be given to the safe and consistent delivery of aid to those in need, with the full involvement of NGOs, including Irish NGOs, who are at the forefront of aid distribution.
With winter fast approaching, we are faced with the problem of getting food supplies into Afghanistan and of distributing them around the country. There has been worthwhile progress in the delivery of food over recent weeks but this progress must not just happen: it must be seen to happen; both by the Afghan people themselves and by the wider international community. This is a point that my colleagues from the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee who are with us today have strongly emphasised to UN officials in recent days.
It goes without saying that the humanitarian situation will only be properly resolved in the context of an overall political settlement. After all the misery they have endured for over two decades, the Afghan people deserve the chance to put in place a fully representative, broad based and multi-ethnic Government. That is the first prerequisite for long term peace and stability there.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Special Representative on Afghanistan, Lakhadar Brahimi, have discussed with the Council on several occasions in recent weeks the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the shape of a possible future UN role in that country. Mr. Brahimi, who is currently in the region, will shortly be outlining the detailed options as he sees them.
We believe that the United Nations has a pivotal role to play in helping to bring about this new political order in Afghanistan. Realistically, this must be inclusive of all the main traditions and groups in Afghanistan. We need to get this right if the Afghan people are to be rescued from the internal strife and impoverishment they have endured for the past two decades and more.
New International Action to Combat Terrorism
Let me come to the second level in combatting terrorism that I mentioned earlier: the need to combat terrorism by legal action and concerted international cooperation.
Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted at the end of September, requires of all States that they put in place a range of clear and precise measures to combat international terrorism, including freezing of assets and fund raising. As President of the Council this month, one of Ireland's first priorities was to oversee the establishment of the Security Council Committee to monitor implementation of this Resolution. This week, the Committee will be sending to all States guidelines as to what is expected of them in implementing this Resolution. Under the terms of the Resolution, all States must report within 90 days on steps they have taken to implement its provisions, including measures to prevent the financing or planning of terrorist acts.
I remain convinced that the best long term way to combat international terrorism is to bind all Governments into a range of legal instruments to combat the roots of this evil, and to totally prevent its operational capacity. There are twelve different International Conventions already in existence relating to these matters. All States must move quickly to ratify these Conventions. Early agreement on the draft Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism would likewise confirm the seriousness of our intent.
Tackling Causes of Conflict
I mentioned a third dimension in combatting terrorism: the need to tackle the sources of conflict, alienation and political instability so that terrorists cannot exploit these types of situations for their own ends.
Across the world today, many countries, often away from the glare of cameras or the CNN news, are experiencing violent conflict and division. As President of the Security Council this month, Ireland arranged for an active Council focus on some of the more sensitive areas on the Council agenda, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Burundi and Angola.
On the Congo, Ireland organised two separate meetings of the Council to discuss the situation. The Council agreed to support a far reaching plan proposed by the Secretary-General for the future involvement of the UN and the international community in that country, including the withdrawal of foreign forces and the disarming of factions engaged in conflict. This will substantially strengthen the peace process there.
On Somalia, Ireland attaches the utmost importance to having discussions of substance on ways forward for that traumatised country. This we achieved. Somalia, unfortunately, has for too long been ignored by the international community. Our efforts have helped ensure that it has now been placed firmly back on the Council agenda.
The situation in Burundi, while still fragile, has been strengthened by the adoption yesterday of Security Council Resolution 1375. By this Resolution, the Council has moved to buttress the installation on this coming Thursday of a Hutu-Tutsi power-sharing Transitional Government. It has also signalled its strong support for the establishment of an interim multi-national security presence which will protect returning political leaders and train an all-Burundian protection force.
Ireland's Ambassador to the UN, Richard Ryan, is Chair of the Security Council Committee that monitors the implementation of sanctions against the Angolan rebel group UNITA. These measures include a ban on the sale of weapons and a prohibition on dealing in "blood diamonds" mined by UNITA. During October, the Council extended the mandate of the monitoring mechanism that assists Ambassador Ryan and the Committee.
As East Timor moves towards full independence, I will tomorrow chair a meeting of the Security Council to consider the continuing support that country will need from the international community in the period after its independence is declared in May next year.
The humanitarian tragedies of recent years in the Great Lakes region and in other areas of Africa are an affront to the conscience of the world. We allow such political and humanitarian disasters to happen at our peril. We need - in our own interest as well as the interests of justice - to now place the rights of developing countries at the forefront of the international agenda. Developing countries today rightly demand an honourable and fair relationship with the developed world. This means shaping a future based on long term sustainable development, enhanced economic progress and the full development of human and social capacity.
In this huge task, the UN has the key role to play in shaping international action. The agenda was agreed in the UN Millennium Summit Declaration. The Summit was attended by almost all world leaders. Goals have been set to reduce poverty, enhance education prospects, and share technological advancements. The quality of life of billions of individuals will be transformed if we have the necessary collective political will to implement the Declaration. Last year's UN consolidated donor appeal for humanitarian purposes yielded only half of its target of $2.5 billion - less than the cost of one Stealth bomber. We can and must do better. Let us see every Government set out its commitment to reaching the target of 0.7% of GNP for development assistance within the next five years. Ireland has already made it clear that it will deliver on its commitment in this regard.Top