The divisions caused in the United Nations Security Council and beyond by the refusal of the then Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to comply with the demands of the council and by the subsequent military action in Iraq were unquestionably damaging.
At the General Debate in the UN last September, Secretary General Annan characterised the UN's position as having "come to a fork in the road." He pointed to the need for the Security Council to regain the confidence of states, and of world public opinion, by demonstrating its ability to deal effectively with the most difficult issues, and by becoming more broadly representative of the international community as a whole as well as of the geopolitical realities of today. He also spoke frankly of the need for the revitalization of the UN General Assembly.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September, the Taoiseach strongly supported the call made by Secretary General Annan to the international community to tackle the fundamental policy issues and the structural changes needed in the United Nations if it is to deal effectively with global issues, particularly those of international peace and security.
The Government believes that this is an issue of cardinal importance and, accordingly, the Irish Presidency of the European Union has made effective multilateralism a central priority. The Government believes that the European Union needs to develop a political profile at the United Nations commensurate with the substantial financial contribution its members make to the organization. It further believes that this collective strength, which will increase substantially on 1 May, should be used to support the strengthening of the United Nations.
The Union's strength has recently been put to good use in supporting the process of revitalization of the work of the UN General Assembly, on which a landmark resolution was adopted by the General Assembly in December. In its Presidency, Ireland is working to ensure effective implementation and follow-up.
On the more fundamental questions concerning the role of the UN, Ireland has obtained the agreement of partners that the European Union will make a contribution to the work of the Secretary General's high level panel on threats, challenges and change which is undertaking an analysis of current and future threats to peace and security and assessing how best collective action can meet those challenges.
Ireland is using its EU Presidencyinter alia to focus on implementation of the European security strategy, which is aimed ensuring a stronger international society, a rule based international order and strong international institutions, including, most importantly, the United Nations. Ireland is working to render operational the EU-UN joint declaration on co-operation in crisis management, which was signed in September 2003, and reach agreement on how an EU rapid response capability might support the work of the United Nations. Ireland's Presidency programme is also committed to the advancement of the international development agenda, principally the implementation of the millennium development goals agreed at the United Nations in 2000.
I outlined Ireland's Presidency priorities in this regard to UN Secretary General Annan on 28 January. The Secretary General expressed his appreciation of the European Union's developing relationship with the United Nations and his confidence that Ireland would use its European Union Presidency constructively and effectively in support of the United Nations.