- Irish participation in international organisations and UN bodies
- Purposes and Principals of the UN
- Organs of the UN
- Useful links
- Council of Europe
Ireland is a strong supporter of the rules-based international order, with the United Nations at its centre, as the most effective means of addressing common threats and maintenance of international peace and security, the pursuit of economic and social development and the protection and promotion of human rights.
Ireland is an active participant in international organisations and legal bodies.(See Statement of the Minister for the Foreign Affairs on Ireland's participation in International Organisations in reply to a Parliamentary Question)
Ireland and the UN
Ireland's foreign policy is shaped by our values and by the external environment to which we relate them. Ireland is committed to an international order based on the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes. The United Nations has been a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy since we joined the Organisation on 14 December 1955. As a nation, we take seriously our obligations under the Charter, and our foreign policy has been framed with these obligations in mind. For many years , prior to our accession to the European Community, our membership of the UN provided us with the only forum where we could express our concerns across a wide range of international issues including decolonisation, disarmament, human rights and peace-keeping. With the emergence of newly independent states in the nineteen-sixties, Ireland took up issues of development and equity in economic relations which came to assume increasing importance at the UN.
On three occasions Ireland has served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, in 1962, 1981-82 and 2001-02. In January 2003 Ireland began a three year term on the UN Economic and Social Council. Ireland was a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights from 1997 to 1999 and again from January 2003 for a further three year term.
Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002.
Election of Irish citizens to selected treaty bodies and international courts and tribunals:
An Irish lawyer, Judge Maureen Harding Clark, served as a judge ad litem on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and was subsequently elected as a judge of the International Criminal Court by the Assembly of States Parties to the Statute.
Having acceded to the Hague Convention for the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes 1907, Ireland has nominated four members to the Permanent Court of Arbitration's Panel of Arbitrators: Mr Rory Brady SC, Attorney General, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Ms Justice Fidelma Macken and Mr Francis Mahon Hayes. Professor Yvonne Scannell has been appointed to the Permanent Court of Arbitration's Environmental Panel. Mr Francis Mahon Hayes has also served as a member of the International Law Commission.
Ms Justice Mella Carroll served as a member of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation for fifteen years, including a period as vice-president of the Tribunal. In addition, Mr Justice Frank Spain and Mr Justice Kevin Haugh have served on the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations. Currently, Judge Andrias Ó Caoimh is a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities and Judge John D Cooke is a judge of the Court of First Instance of the European Communities. Professor William Duncan is Deputy Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law and Gerard Hogan SC is a member of the Governing Council of UNIDROIT, the International Institute for the Unification Private Law.
Peter Croker of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has been elected to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf three times (1997, 2002 and 2007) and was elected by the members of the Commission to serve two consecutive terms as its Chairman (2002-2004 and 2004-2007).
Ann Power SC assumed a position as Judge of the European Court of
Human Rights on 3 March 2008.
More information on Ireland 's membership of the European Union is available from the Ireland and the EU section of this website.
Purposes and Principals:
The United Nations was established at the San Francisco Conference in 1945. Ireland joined the Organisation in December 1955 and since then the UN has remained a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy. Ireland takes seriously its obligations under the UN Charter and Irish foreign policy is framed with these obligations in mind.
The founding instrument of the United Nations, the UN Charter, sets out in Article 1 the purposes of the Organisation as follows:
- "To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
- To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
- To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
- To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”
In pursuing these objectives, the UN is obliged to act in accordance with certain fundamental principles (Article 2):
- all Member States are to be treated equally, no matter how big or how small;
- all Member States must fulfil, in good faith, their obligations under the Charter;
- all Member States must settle their international disputes by peaceful means;
- all Member States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN;
- all Member States must help the UN in any action it takes under the Charter, and must not help any state against which the UN is taking preventive or enforcement action.
- with the exception of where enforcement measures are taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, the UN must not interfere in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.
The six principle organs of the UN are the General Assembly Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat.
The General Assembly is made up of all Member States and meets every year from mid-September to mid-December. Although decisions of the General Assembly cannot compel states to take action, widely supported General Assembly recommendations are often significant statements of world opinion. The General Assembly has six main committees dealing with a variety of topics. The Sixth Committee deals with matters of international law.
The Security Council has primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security. It has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States of America) and ten non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly. Ireland has served as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1962, 1981-82 and 2001-2. Security Council resolutions are binding on Member States. A nine-member majority is required for a resolution to be carried, with the five permanent members having a veto power. The practice of the Security Council often has an important impact on international law, particularly in areas where the law is unsettled, for example international law governing the use of force.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is the principal organ concerned with economic and social activities carried out by the UN. Whereas all Member States are represented in the General Assembly, ECOSOC is made up of 54 states, participating for three years at a time on a rotating basis. Ireland began a three year membership period on 1 January 2003. ECOSOC plays an important role in coordinating the activities of what is termed, “the United Nations family of organisations”. These organisations are made up of programmes ( eg. UN Development Programme, World Food Programme) funds (eg. UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)) and specialised agencies (eg. World Health Organisation, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)). ECOSOC also oversees the work of five regional economic commissions.
The Trusteeship Council had as its task to supervise the administration of Trust Territories placed under the UN Trusteeship System. On 1 October 1994 Palau, the last remaining UN trust territory, obtained independence. As all trust Territories have attained self-government or independence, either as separate states or by joining neighbouring independent states, the Trusteeship Council suspended operation on 1 November 1994. Its mechanisms are still in place and may be reactivated if required.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, also known as the World Court, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It began work in 1946, when it replaced the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) which had functioned since 1922. It operates under a Statute annexed to the UN Charter.
The ICJ has a dual role: to settle in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorised international organs and agencies.
The peaceful settlement of disputes is one of the primary functions of the United Nations as is evidenced by references to such settlement in the UN Charter. All Member States of the United Nations are automatically Parties to the Statute of the ICJ, which forms an integral part of the UN Charter. In addition, States may make a declaration under article 36(2) of the Statute, accepting as compulsory the jurisdiction of the Court in settling legal disputes with other States which have similarly made a declaration under that article.
Although the Court's judgments are binding only on the parties to any particular case, given the calibre of the Court's judges and its status as the principal judicial organ of the UN, decisions of the ICJ are themselves often cited as evidence of international law. The Court has given important decisions and opinions on such topics as the law of the sea, boundary disputes, the use of force and the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The text of the Court's decisions may be accessed from its website.
The Secretariat carries out the day to day activities of the UN. It is headed by the Secretary General, who is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term. In addition to providing secretarial services such as translation and organising conference, the Secretariat administers peacekeeping operations and conducts studies into issues such as disarmament and human rights.
Website of the UN family of organisations (providing links to each UN committee, commission, agency, fund, programme and other bodies)
Mission of Ireland to the United Nations
(containing statements made by Ireland at the Security Council and the General Assembly, as well statements made by Ireland on behalf of the European Union during its EU Presidency)
The Council of Europe is the continent's oldest international political organisation, founded in 1949. Ireland was one of the ten founder member states. It currently has 47 member states, with a further applicant state (Belarus), as of 1 February 2008. The Council has also granted observer status to five other states (the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico). …
The Council of Europe is distinct from the European Union. The headquarters of the Council are in Strasbourg, France. The Council's main component parts are the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and the Secretariat. However, the most notable organ of the Council is the European Court of Human Rights, also based in Strasbourg.
The aims of the Council are to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law; to develop continent-wide agreements to standardise member states social and legal practices; and to promote awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures.