Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (224)

Bernard J. Durkan


363 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the role he sees for the UN in the context of international peacekeeping or peace enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25525/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

Peacekeeping is a central part of the work undertaken by the United Nations in fulfilling the first of the purposes for which it was established, to maintain international peace and security.

Conflicts and tensions in the Middle East, Africa, Central America and elsewhere have ensured a continuing demand for United Nations peacekeepers through the years. The need for UN peacekeeping continues to increase, especially in Africa. Secretary General Annan made it clear in his address to the National Forum on Europe on 14 October that the demands on the member states for troops and funding for peacekeeping operations is likely to grow in the years immediately ahead.

During the Cold War, a peacekeeping operation typically acted as buffer between parties to a conflict, in support of a ceasefire or a peace process, and to permit the affected population to resume normal life in reasonable security. These operations were generally mandated by the UN Security Council under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which is concerned with the pacific settlement of disputes.

Since the end of the Cold War, peacekeeping operations have grown in number and complexity. The United Nations Security Council has been increasingly called upon to address intra-state conflict, where state institutions have broken down and gross violations of human rights have taken place, or are threatened. The Security Council has resorted more and more to the deployment of peacekeeping troops, and authorising peacekeeping operations under Chapter VII of the Charter which is concerned with action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression.

Along with the increased resort to robust Chapter VII mandates, the UN has turned to regional organisations and "coalitions of the willing" to undertake and lead missions under the overall authority of the Security Council. Examples include the operations launched to liberate Kuwait in 1991, to stabilise Bosnia, SFOR, and Kosovo, KFOR, and to restore order in East Timor, INTERFET. In many cases, these operations, having dealt with the immediate crisis, made way for a more traditional UN peacekeeping operation. This took place, for instance, in East Timor, facilitating the emergence of the independent Timor Leste, in Sierra Leone, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the French-led EU "Operation Artemis" restored stability, and in Liberia, where US and west African troops acted under the authority of the Security Council to restore order and handed over to a UN operation.

It is the firm belief of the Government that the United Nations will remain centrally involved in peacekeeping. We welcome the Brahimi report, which was directed at making UN peacekeeping operations more efficient and effective, and look forward to its full implementation.

In the coming years, regional and sub-regional organisations can be expected increasingly to develop crisis management capacities, and to exercise them under the overall authority of the Security Council. This applies particularly to the European Union. During the recent Irish Presidency, important progress was made in implementing the EU-UN joint declaration on co-operation in crisis management. Secretary General Annan, in his address to the National Forum on Europe, emphasised the importance that he attached to the capacities that the EU can make available to the UN in its task of maintaining international peace and security. The African Union is also developing its capacity for crisis management, and under the Irish Presidency, agreement was reached on an African peace facility, under which the EU would make €250 million available to the AU to help it to develop its capacities. It is facing its first big test in the Darfur area of the Sudan where it has mounted a monitoring mission under the authority of the UN Security Council.

As the Secretary General made clear in Dublin last week, peacekeepers from the developed countries will continue to be required to provide capacities not yet available in the defence forces of developing countries. As an indication of Ireland's commitment to the region, 480 members of the Irish Defence Force are serving with the UN mission in Liberia.

In the Government's view, the security of states rests ultimately on the international legal order and in the mutual guarantees that reside in the UN Charter. When this order is under threat, states are called upon to act in its defence. Peacekeeping under the authority of the United Nations is therefore an essential expression of our foreign policy. This is reflected in Ireland's continuous involvement in peacekeeping operations, mandated or authorised by the United Nations Security Council, since 1958.

Ireland is currently providing personnel for UN peacekeeping operations in Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Western Sahara, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cyprus, Lebanon, Kosovo, Timor Leste and the Middle East. Ireland also provides military personnel to multinational operations authorised by the United Nations Security Council in Kosovo, KFOR Bosnia-Herzegovina, SFOR, and Afghanistan, ISAF. A number of Permanent Defence Force personnel participated last year in EU Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was mounted at the request of the United Nations Secretary General and on foot of UN Security Council Resolution 1484.