The motion addresses the need for Ireland to pursue a principled independent foreign policy in light of two challenges facing the international community today — the uncontrolled proliferation of the arms trade and the unprecedented population explosion. These two issues are extremely important. However it is a reflection of the world today that the motion could equally have highlighted a range of other international issues, many inter-related, which require of Ireland and of the international community a strong and committed response. These include the rise of ethnic tensions and conflicts in many parts of the world, including Europe; the degradation of the environment; the plague of drugs and international crime; the abject poverty in many parts of the Third World versus the prosperity of the First World; the dangers of nuclear proliferation; and abuses of human rights. The list goes on.
What all of these issues have in common is that they can only be tackled effectively by concerted international action. It has become a cliche to talk of the global village and of the world being a small place but today more than ever, in economic and political terms and in terms of communications, the world is one community. To tackle the issues threatening the international community requires responses at the national, regional and global level.
Each member of the international community shares responsibility for tackling these issues. They must engage in the analyses of the issues, debate what responses are called for and play their part in the solutions. The Irish people have long had a strong and principled interest in foreign policy issues and as a result Ireland has a distinguished record of engagement in the important international issues of the day, be they human rights, peacekeeping, disarmament or issues of justice and development. I acknowledge the role of the Seanad in our approach to foreign policy and the way it debates so many current issues.
At the regional and global level, in recognition of the international community's increasing interdependence, the network of multilateral organisations and institutions addressing the international agenda has grown and developed — the UN and its family of organisations, the EU, the CSCE, the Council of Europe, ASEAN, the Organisation of African States, the Organisation of American States, NAFTA — a veritable alphabet soup.
Underlying all these acronyms is the basic message that we must co-operate or else. Peace and security, stability and prosperity depend on increasing co-operation at the regional and international level. Not even the large powers can ensure their own securities and destinies in today's interdependent world.
Ireland, as a member of the EU, is involved in one of the most advanced regional co-operation arrangements in the world. Through its common foreign and security policy, the EU has a significant contribution to make in international affairs and through our participation in the CFSP Ireland can make a contribution out of all proportion to our size and greater than if we acted alone.
The global threat posed by the uncontrolled proliferation of the arms trade is a good example of an issue which must be tackled at all levels. We need only look at the number of conflicts in the world to day to realise that the excessive accumulation of arms is one of the principle threats to international peace and security. Whether the appalling events in Rwanda and Somalia and the death and destruction in the former Yugoslavia could have been avoided, there can be no doubt the availability of large quantities of arms contributed to the scale of the carnage.
So far as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is concerned, the Government is pursuing actively its efforts to help achieve universal adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a successful outcome to the NPT Review and Extension Conference next year. The threat of nuclear proliferation has not diminished with the end of the cold war: on the contrary, as developments in North Korea demonstrate, the dangers are now greater than ever. The further spread of such weapons would have destabilising regional effects, encouraging weaker states in a region who may not have the means to acquire other weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent. The Government is also active in international efforts to eliminate biological and toxic weapons and it was an original signatory last year of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
With regard to conventional weapons, Ireland neither produces nor exports arms. We have advocated the maximum possible restraint in the production, sale and transfer of all conventional weapons. The question for our foreign policy is how our analysis of the issue, which identifies arms control and reduction as a major factor in ensuring international peace and security, can be converted into meaningful action at the regional and international level.
The international recognition of the threat posed by the uncontrolled proliferation of conventional weapons emerged at the end of the cold war. When the threat of "mutually assured destruction" by nuclear weapons — that chilling phrase from the recent past — receded, the need to focus on the dangers posed by conventional weapons was recognised. The end of the East-West confrontation resulted in massive stockpiles of military hardware becoming available. The danger this posed was inescapable.
At the European Council in June 1991 the EC Heads of State and Governments expressed alarm at the stockpiling of conventional weapons in certain regions of the world. The European Council stated its belief that far reaching international action was needed immediately to promote restraint and transparency in the transfers of conventional weapons and technologies for military use, in particular towards areas of tension.
Since then, the EU member states, including Ireland, have taken a number of initiatives to promote transparency and restraint in arms transfers. The UN Register of Conventional Arms was established by a UN General Assembly resolution in 1992, which was based on a joint EU-Japan initiative and was cosponsored by Ireland. It took much effort, argument, debate and persuasion on the part of the EU and its member states to achieve this important development. The first returns under the register in 1993 were encouraging; over 80 states submitted returns. The EU has encouraged those countries which failed to submit returns in 1993 to do so in 1994, and has also submitted suggestions to the Secretary-General to improve the level of information contained in the returns for future years.
Improved transparency in arms transfers is only one element in a strategy to deal with the threat posed by the uncontrolled proliferation of arms. Measures to encourage restraint by countries which export or import arms are another important aspect. At the regional level in Europe the CSCE has adoptedPrinciples Governing Conventional Arms Transfers. This was also the result of an EU initiative. This document, which is politically binding, came into effect on 1 January 1994. It is, in effect, a set of guidelines to encourage restraint in arms transfers, in particular to areas of conflict or potential conflict. It encourages the CSCE states to introduce effective national control mechanisms with regard to arms transfers; to take account of legitimate security requirements and the objective of the least diversion of human and economic resources for armaments; and to take account of human rights compliance by arms importing states.
At the UN General Assembly last year, the Tanáiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, proposed that the UN should elaborate a code of conduct for conventional arms transfers which would encourage states to exercise responsibility and restraint in their arms transfers and which would set out common principles to be observed in this area. This would be similar to the CSCE principles, but would apply to the international community as a whole. We are currently discussing this initiative with our partners in the EU, with a view to securing EU support for our efforts. As was demonstrated in the case of the UN arms register, the full support of the EU. was a key factor in the speed with which the proposal was adopted by the UN.
It would be misleading to suggest that the UN arms register and the UN code of conduct, which the Tanáiste has proposed, would be sufficient in themselves to put an end to the uncontrolled proliferation of arms. These two measures taken together would, however, represent the first steps in an international regime in this area, to be built in future years. Ireland will continue to advocate maximum restraint in arms transfers and we will intensify our efforts to this end.
One category of weapons requires urgent attention. The Government is extremely concerned at the death and suffering caused to civilians by antipersonnel mines which are widespread throughout the countryside in Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique and Combodia, where I saw at first hand the devastating effect of these mines. I am pleased that both Senators raised this issue in their contributions. In additions, these devices have far reaching effects on the welfare, medical and infrastructural systems of the countries affected. Antipersonnel mines, especially unmarked and undetected ones, also pose considerable problems for peacekeeping forces. The consequences of the laying of mines persist long after the cessation of any hostilities which may have motivated their deployment in the first place.
Ireland does not manufacture or permit the export of antipersonnel mines. Within the context of the wider question of promoting greater restraint in the manufacture, possession, transfer and sale of all conventional weapons, Ireland advocates that such restraint should also be applied to landmines. Ireland is strongly supportive of the provisions of the UN convention known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention and is presently taking steps to ratify it. Furthermore, Ireland is supportive of efforts to improve the convention by strengthening the Protocol which deals with landmines and intends to contribute actively to the review conference in 1995. Ireland welcomes the decisions of some manufacturing countries to introduce moratoria on the export of landmines and calls on other producing countries to consider doing likewise.
The Government notes with concern recent reports that companies engaged in the development of landmines have secured contracts for demining in Mozambique. The cost of demining is estimated to be 100 times the cost of laying mines. That is a staggering statistic. It is important to be sure that no company which profits from the manufacture of mines is involved in demining projects. I assure Senator Henry and Senator Norris that I will continue to speak out on this issue and to raise it at every available forum. As a result of my visit to Cambodia, the Government last March made available £300,000 to speed up the process of demining there. This funding is to be channelled through Concern and will be used for removing mines in the Pursat region where Concern has a number of development projects.
As set out in the motion before us, the United Nations is organising a major conference on population and development in Cairo from 5 to 13 September this year. It follows two previous conferences on population which took place in Bucharest in 1974 and Mexico in 1984. The Cairo conference is one of several major conferences with a development theme to be organised in recent years, commencing with the Rio Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. The Cairo conference will be followed in March 1995 by the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen and by the International Conference on Women in Beijing later next year.
The Cairo conference will provide an opportunity for the international community to consider the important issues of human population growth and distribution and their implications for our planet's economic and social development. At present, the growth rate of the world's populations is at an all-time high, with an increase of over 90 million people taking place each year. By the year 2015 it is estimated that the world's population, which at present stands at 5.7 billion, may reach as high as eight billion.
While such projected increases are in themselves alarming, the situation is exacerbated by their global distribution. Approximately 93 per cent of current population growth is occurring in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. While Europe has an average growth rate of just 0.3 per cent a year, Africa's population is increasing annually by 2.9 per cent.
The rapid rate of growth in population is placing enormous demands on those societies which are most vulnerable and least able to meet the challenges posed. These challenges are many and varied and include insufficient food supply, increased demands on water resources, greater pollution and poverty in ever-expanding urban centres, and severe pressures on already inadequate health and education systems.
It is against this background that the Cairo conference will take place. In Cairo governments will attempts to agree on a comprehensive response to the challenges posed by population growth. Already there have been three meetings of the preparatory committee and attention is now focusing on the Draft Programme of Action to be adopted at Cairo. This Draft Programme of Action will address the problems raised by population growth in the context of sustainable development. The first substantive chapter of the text is entitled, "Interrelationships Between Population, Sustained Economic Growth and Sustainable Development", and argues convincingly that these issues are inextricably linked. To quote from the Draft Programme of Action: "The everyday activities of all human beings, communities and countries are interrelated with population change, patterns and levels of use of natural resources, the state of the environment, and the pace and quality of economic and social development."
The Cairo conference will also deal with a number of other topics which are closely connected with population growth. Gender equality, empowerment of women, health, population distribution and urbanisation, emigration and refugees, education, and research and technology will all be considered in the specific context of population and development. This all encompassing approach, which is similar to that used at the Earth Summit in Rio, has been adopted because it is accepted that attempting to discuss population and development in isolation from these related issues would be a futile exercise.
In many of these areas it is the developing countries which are taking the lead as they witness at first hand the problems posed by the demographic explosion. More and more countries now recognise the need for population programmes which include family planning components. These population policies are essentially a national responsibility but they deserve the support of the international community.
In 1992, the Development Council of the European Community adopted a set of basic principles and implementing guidelines for population programmes. These principles, which Ireland fully supports, include non-coercion and non-discrimination, the observance of the rights of individuals and couples to choose the number and the spacing of their children; the need to integrate population policies and development policies, and attention to be paid to the needs of individuals, families and the wider community.
Although substantial progress has been made at the meetings of the preparatory committee charged with preparing the draft programme of action, a number of issues remain to be resolved at Cairo. One such issue, which is of great concern to Ireland, is that of abortion. We have made our constitutional and legal position on this subject clear to our EU partners and the Irish delegation at Cairo will seek to have language included in the final version of the programme of action which is consistent with our position.
Last year, for the first time, Ireland contributed £50,000 to the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and in 1994 we are increasing our contribution to £150,000. The role of UNFPA is to provide assistance in the field of population, including family planning, awareness and education programmes in response to requests from developing countries. These contributions are in response to the challenges posed by population growth and reflect the growing importance of the issue both within the European Union and in the international community generally.
I have set out in some detail the approach the Government is taking with regard to the two specific subjects mentioned in the motion. I have also sought to outline the broader context within which specific policies are being pursued at national and international level. For our policies to be fully effective and to achieve maximum impact, we must not approach problems as though they existed in isolation; rather, we must have full regard for all of the relevant factors and trends, political and economic, social and cultural, which interact one upon the other. Similarly, we must seek to mobilise the greatest possible support for our efforts, both nationally and internationally, if the desired results are to be achieved.
In conclusion, I again welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate in the Seanad. As this House will recall, one of the early decisions of the Government was the establishment of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was long overdue. The experience to date is encouraging, with the joint committee providing the opportunity for an ongoing input from elected representatives to the foreign policy choices facing the Government. This evening's debate on the motion tabled by Senators Norris and Henry provides a welcome opportunity to hear the views of Members on these important issues.