I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 and 353 together.
My predecessor, Deputy Cowen, delivered Ireland's national statement in the general debate at the start of the 59th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 23 September 2004. The statement reflected the Government's view that the session just commenced will be one of the most important in the history of the United Nations. After the serious divisions that arose in 2003, and confronted by continued war, terror, ethnic violence and abuse of human rights, the organisation is now engaged in a period of serious reflection. A strong momentum for reform of the United Nations now exists, generated in no small part by its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, whom we were pleased to welcome to Ireland last week. In addition, preparations are in train for a review of the commitments undertaken at the millennium summit, and of progress to date in the implementation of the millennium development goals.
During this session, therefore, the groundwork must be laid for a new compact by which the member states will invest the United Nations with the strength and capacity it needs to meet the threats and challenges of today, and rededicate themselves to the task of achieving by the target date of 2015 the goals established at the millennium. These goals, as the Secretary-General reminded us last week, include such important aims as halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensuring universal primary education.
Our national statement to the General Assembly called for bold decisions, that would restore the determination and idealism of the founding fathers of the United Nations, and provide a more effective system of collective security. Such a system required the unique legitimacy offered by the United Nations and its charter.
A high-level panel on threats, challenges and change was established by the Secretary-General last year. The panel's mandate is to examine and analyse current and future threats and challenges to international peace and security, to identify the contribution that collective action can make in addressing these challenges, and recommend necessary changes, including a review of the principal organs of the United Nations. The panel is on course to deliver its report to the Secretary-General by 1 December. Secretary-General Annan, when he receives the report of the high-level panel, will embark on a series of consultations to establish a basis for consensus. I assured him when I met him last Friday that he would have Ireland's support and help in this complex task.
Our national statement to the General Assembly drew attention to the EU contribution to the panel's work, co-ordinated by Ireland during its recent Presidency. EU partners agreed that security and development are intimately connected and that there should be no hierarchy of threats. The EU contribution pointed to the need for enhanced early warning systems that identified states or societies at risk of instability and for sustained engagement with such states to ensure that they do not descend or relapse into conflict, as well as new structures to ensure such engagement by the UN system and the international community in general. It called for enhanced involvement by the Security Council in addressing the threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and pointed to the need to establish a basis for a common assessment of threat and to agree on criteria for intervention. It also pointed to the increasing contribution that regional organisations, including the European Union itself, can make to the maintenance of international peace and security under the overall authority of the Security Council.
There is no consensus among European Union partners on the specific means by which the Security Council itself might be reformed. The Minister, Deputy Cowen, however, told the General Assembly that Ireland favoured a regionally-balanced increase in the membership, in both categories, permanent and non-permanent, which would mean more legitimacy and, therefore, more effectiveness for the Security Council. He also pointed out that an effective Security Council required more than a change in structures, it also required a change in attitudes. Those who aspired to world leadership bore a particular responsibility to act in the global interest.
Ireland's national statement this year could not but condemn the dreadful terrorist attacks that had recently taken place, particularly at Beslan in southern Russia, where hundreds of innocents — men, women and especially children — were ruthlessly slaughtered. It also recalled that terrorism can rarely be defeated exclusively military or security means alone and that it was necessary to address root causes and maintain due regard for international law and human rights norms.
The statement dealt with non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear non-proliferation. We signalled our intention to work with our New Agenda Coalition partners to strengthen the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at its forthcoming review, noting the mutually reinforcing nature of disarmament and non-proliferation. The importance of dealing with the threat posed by conventional weapons and land mines was also stressed.
The Minister, Deputy Cowen, offered the General Assembly the Government's perspectives on a range of regional issues. He urged the authorities in the Sudan to fulfil the obligations imposed by the Security Council, to co-operate closely with the monitoring mission of the African Union, to bring the Janjaweed militias under control and disarm them, to bring to justice those responsible for serious violations of human rights and bring about secure conditions so that people can return voluntarily to their homes. He called on all parties, including the rebel groups, to show flexibility and good will so that the underlying problems of Darfur can be resolved peacefully.
The Minister welcomed the passage of Security Council Resolution 1546 on Iraq, which represented a coming together of the international community on the importance of reconstruction, saying that it was vital that the interim Iraqi government be able to establish a full democratic mandate. He called for an end to the lethal violence that was disrupting the normal development of the country. Ireland has always seen the United Nations as central to reconstruction and, with its EU partners, will seek to ensure that the UN mission is provided with the necessary security to carry out its tasks.
The national statement described the violence that the people of Israel and Palestine suffer as futile and tragic. It called on Israel to halt the expansion of settlements and criticised the line taken by the security fence, which creates severe hardship for Palestinian communities and will perpetuate facts on the ground that will make a resolution of the conflict, which is fundamentally a struggle over land, more difficult. It also called on the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities under the roadmap and to exercise effective and responsible leadership. The statement recalled the Tullamore Declaration, in which EU Ministers acknowledged the impetus that could be given to the peace process by Prime Minister Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza, as long as it took place in the context of the implementation of the roadmap for peace.
The Minister, Deputy Cowen, also availed of the opportunity to brief the General Assembly on ongoing work to consolidate peace and stability in Northern Ireland, saying that the complete implementation of the Good Friday Agreement was the best way forward. While it had not been possible to achieve agreement among the parties on the operation of the political institutions of the Agreement at Leeds Castle, he noted that Dr. Ian Paisley had made the point immediately after the talks that "a golden opportunity has been available to realise a stable and entirely peaceful future".
In conclusion, the Minister exhorted the members of the General Assembly to make 2005 the year in which the United Nations was reborn, strong, effective and respected, as its founding fathers intended it to be.