Speech by Minister Cowen to the Heads of Diplomatic Corps part 2
Further afield, we will be working with many of your Governments on the UN Security Council. We are committed to a strong UN which can properly address issues of international peace and security and help deliver global economic and social development. For over 40 years we have been among the leading contributors to UN peace keeping operations and we will be supporting the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in analysing the Brahimi Report in order to ensure more effective peace-keeping operations. We see the steps being taken to develop European capabilities for crisis management as complementing the strengthening of the UN's own rapid reaction capabilities, as foreseen in the Brahimi report.
Respect for human rights remains, of course, central to the maintenance of peace and the promotion of development. The Human Rights Commission, established here recently under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, is working with its counterpart in the North to provide us with a level of human rights protection second to none.
We are committed to the protection of human rights at home and abroad and will be participating later in the year in the UN World Conference Against Racism in South Africa. Tackling the scourge of racism, sadly present in all of our societies should be a priority for every Government and Ireland's ratification last month of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination is a demonstration of our commitment in this area. I know that this is a commitment shared by all of you too.
When the Taoiseach formally committed Ireland at the Millennium Summit to meeting the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for development assistance by 2007, he was giving voice to Ireland's sense of solidarity with the developing world. This decision will result in a four fold increase in our overseas aid over seven years. Our pledge to increase quantity is accompanied by a pledge to maintaining quality. Our focus will remain the elimination of poverty. We have established a Review Group, chaired by my colleague in Iveagh House Minister of State Liz O'Donnell T.D.. This review will examine how best Ireland Aid can contribute to making a reality of a vision of the world which is less hungry, less violent - a world of peace and security. This is a vision all of us share and the challenge for us over the coming months is to get the mix right. The Review Group will be inviting submissions - we hope that you will take up the invitation because your input will be an invaluable part of this process.
In June, the Special Session of the UN General Assembly will focus international attention on the need for a co-ordinated, well funded global response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. A crisis which has afflicted our friends in Africa in particular. Ireland has developed a HIV/AIDS strategy which is being mainstreamed into our overall aid programme and we are allocating substantially increased resources to tackle HIV/AIDS in our priority countries.
The year ahead will, of course, be dominated by regional issues confronting the UN Security Council. Fortunately, there have been encouraging and significant developments in the Balkans in recent. The democratic transition in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has removed the greatest obstacle to achieving long-term stability and development in the region. But we have to recognise that this is a difficult time for the Peace Process in the Middle East. It is a responsibility for all of us to support the process in order that the parties can arrive at an enduring resolution which recognises the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and Israel's right to live in peace and security.
The Government intends to play a constructive role on the Security Council and to demonstrate that small States can be effective members of the United Nations. The cornerstone of our campaign for election to the UN Security Council was the distinctive role we have played in areas of the UN such as peace-keeping, disarmament, human rights and development cooperation and our commitment to these crucial areas is now being carried through in our work on the Council.
Last year we may have enjoyed success at the UN. But we have also been enjoying economic success in recent years. The key driver of this success has been trade. We are currently the largest software exporter in the world. Over two thirds of the computers sold in Europe are made in Ireland. With trade now accounting for over 160% of GDP we are the second most open economy in the world.
Membership of the European Union has been the decisive step in reaching this level of internationalism. About 23% of all US mobile investment in Europe locates here despite the fact that we account for only 1% of the population. Our attractiveness to inward investors has rested largely on our access to the single market of 400 million high income consumers and this market is set to grow dramatically with Enlargement.
We see education as the key the future in the information age. Spending on education has increased by 40% in the last three years and now supports nearly one million people in full-time education today. This investment in education is contributing greatly to sustaining a strong and prospering economy.
The message is clear. Ireland is open for business and investment as never before. We have the vision, the policies and the resilience to sustain our strong economy, an economy which is full of promise and opportunities. We have worked with many of you to get to where we are now in terms of transformation. We have more to do and we want to do share it with your entrepreneurs, your universities and your investors.
Finally, Mary and I would like to wish all of you a very pleasant evening here and to thank you once more for helping to build such strong relationships between your own countries and Ireland. We look forward to seeing more of you during the year ahead as we work together to build a better future for the respective peoples.