Yes. The Senator put his finger on a weakness. I do not think that is necessarily a fatal weakness of the future goals and targets. No, they will not be legally binding. It would have been inconceivable to get the agreement of 193 countries to some kind of court situation where they would be required to account for their performance. The poorest countries would obviously claim that they were unable to implement to the degree that the rest of us wanted because they did not have enough capacity to do so and it is up to us to help them to get this capacity. At the same time there is an enormous moral force that comes from the fact that, for the first time ever, almost 200 countries will sign up to the same set of commitments.
I have used the phrase "political embarrassment" which is quite a real thing. Countries will not want to be seen to ignore what they agreed to at the UN. They can claim that, due to circumstances beyond their control, they are a bit behind in terms of implementation. What they will not be able to do is simply say "we are not going to implement them." Such a degree of intensity has built up around these new goals and targets that they will be a fixture from now on and will always exist. Therefore, it will be hard for a country to ignore them. There is also the peer review aspect. Let us say one has eight or nine countries in Central America reporting individually on how they have done. Each of them will want to be seen to be up to speed with the others, roughly speaking. Incidentally, a regional implementation of goals and targets is also important. In some ways, it will be more important than the global level. Overall, it would be difficult for a country to wash its hands of them.
The universal agenda was one of the points mentioned by Deputy Smith, or perhaps it was Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan. The universal agenda is an extremely ambitious approach.
It is necessary to allow for the various differentiations at the regional or national level. We have to make a go of it and begin by saying that these are commitments that every country in the world agrees to.
In practice, we know that countries will set their own priorities. We do not necessarily approve of that, but we know that it happens as a matter of human nature. For example, Austria will not prioritise the goal relating to oceans. I am being a bit facetious in saying that because it is a landlocked country and it will have other priorities. It follows that some of the goals will be more important to a country than others. There will be self-selection within the full set of goals. Officially, every country is taking on the full set of commitments and will need to show why, in practice, it went for one set of priorities rather than another. There will be a lot of understanding for such a position. People know that it is not realistic to expect that there will be 100% performance across the full range of goals.
There is also a desire to have a positive spirit for all of this. It is not a question of finger wagging and telling a country it has fallen way behind the rest. It is meant to be almost a collective self-assistance. We want to help developing countries, in particular, to make the progress required. The reason I am emphasising this is that, for example, people sometimes ask if the process would be like the universal peer review pertaining to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The answer is "No, it won't be" because there are international human rights treaties which have been signed up to and are legally binding. The commitments to which I refer are political. If there is a voluntary political commitment, one cannot denounce a country because it has not moved as fast as it should. The Senator is correct that if something is not legally binding, it may somehow fade away, but the collective moral force of the single agenda being taken on by all countries will not go away easily and will ensure that some progress is made.
I will take Deputy Smith's questions. On the restructuring of the UN, he is quite right. The issue has been around for quite a while and there are a couple of dimensions. First is how the Security Council could and should be reformed. The second dimension concerns UN agencies and whether they might find that their mandates need to be reviewed in light of the new goals and targets we are agreeing. I will discuss the Security Council first. It is true that the five permanent members of the Security Council have a certain interest in maintaining the status quo. That said, they declare themselves open, to one degree or another, but some are more open than others, to an expansion of the Security Council.
There are two main models being proposed. I will not go into detail about them, but one, in effect, envisages creating an additional number of permanent seats and non-permanent two-year terms. The second model proposes no new permanent seats, but more non-permanent seats. From the point of view of a country like Ireland, we hope to be able to maintain a rhythm of getting onto the Security Council about once every 20 years. That would be seen as reasonable and normal. We would not want to see any new model adopted which would reduce the frequency with which we would get on and many other countries will feel the same way.
Geographical representation needs to be expanded. Africa, for example, accounts for about two thirds of the workload of the Security Council, but African states have to queue for a two-year term here and there. There is a strong case to be made for creating some expanded representation for African countries. Another issue is rising regional powers. One could ask whether countries such as Germany, Japan, Brazil and South Africa should be given a permanent seat. In the minds of many people, the questions have been answered and the answer is that they should be, but we are still at the debate level.
It had been hoped that concrete proposals for the reform of the Security Council would have been brought forward this year, marking the 70th anniversary year. I doubt if we will make that deadline. It is a matter for the General Assembly, which has considered the issue of reform of the membership of the Security Council for about ten years. The debate will run for a little bit longer. Ireland is involved with a number of other countries in trying to reform the working methods of the Security Council which is also important. It means, for example, greater transparency vis-à-vis the rest of the UN membership and is a valid objective in itself. It is, strictly speaking, separate from who the members of the Security Council would be.
One positive development is a French initiative to voluntarily abandon the veto right when it comes to mass atrocities. France, as one of the five permanent members, developed a proposal that the permanent members would voluntarily not use their veto rights for some particularly awful crimes, along the lines of Rwanda or Srebrenica. So far, no conclusion has been reached. Ireland and many other countries think it is a good idea and it is the first sign or recognition that veto rights are quite unhelpful. However, the other four permanent members are not yet on board. It is still a positive development.
On peacekeeping, I could not agree more that is a major plank of Ireland's reputation at the UN. When the Government decided in 2013 to provide an Irish contingent for a peacekeeping mission on the Golan Heights, UNDOF, it was warmly appreciated by the UN because another country had withdrawn its troops abruptly due to the dangerous situation involved. Ireland stepped up to the mark and is known to be a reliable country in that sense. It gauges each situation carefully, but the fact is that Ireland's decision to join UNDOF at that stage, as well as UNIFIL, was very much appreciated by the UN and was seen as another example of Ireland's commitment to peacekeeping.
On the civil society space, our colleagues at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Ireland is completing a three-year term, have brought forward a civil society space initiative. In our post-2015 talks, I and my Kenyan colleague have arranged for a more informal civil society involvement whereby once a week during our monthly sessions there is a direct three-hour engagement with civil society, which has been appreciated. We are now coming into the final stretch of our negotiations and want to find some way of keeping that going. There is no particular restraint on us because we happen to be one of the two co-participators. Ireland is known for its absolute commitment to civil society involvement in negotiations of this kind and the general human rights and political space. That is not compromised in any way by our role in the post-2015 talks. The real difficulty is that I and my Kenyan colleague cannot impose an arrangement on the 193 countries. We have to win their support. Civil society has been given considerable access to our negotiations and they appreciate it.
I refer to the targets under consideration.
No, these are not particularly critical targets. That is what I was talking about a moment ago when I referred to technical improvements. In the rush to finish the earlier negotiating phase, some gaps were left in the proposal. For example, if one of the targets involved increasing something by X%, the percentage was not filled in at the time. Now it will be, I hope, and that is why we are talking about technical improvements.
The role of the private sector is a big theme for Addis Ababa because the World Bank issued a report a couple of months ago called From Billions to Trillions: Transforming Development Finance/Post-2015 Financing for Development: Multilateral Development Finance. Billions is what is accounted for by existing or projected levels of ODA; trillions is what we will need to implement to achieve entire goals and targets, because they are on such a vast scale, and that will require private sector involvement of all kinds. The private sector wants to be involved. Of course there are commercial opportunities, but many private sector organisations also have a strong sense of solidarity with this entire exercise and they want to recognise a social responsibility. The private sector, therefore, is ready to become involved for different reasons, and that will be theme of the Addis Ababa conference.
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan raised a number of points. On the question of the 17 goals, I was involved in the earlier negotiating phase and because we had to cover all of these new areas, such as climate change, environment, sustainable cities, human rights and even the means of implementation, that inevitably brought us from eight goals to close to 17. Then it became 17. We hoped that it would have been possible to reduce the number to approximately 15 goals at the time, but nobody could agree on what two should be left out. Eventually it stayed at 17, and no serious effort has been made to reduce the number because if, theoretically, one was to combine climate change with something else to bring the number down, then the climate change people would say that that devalues climate change as a component in the framework. That is why it was left at 17.
The question of tax justice is a matter for the Addis Ababa conference because taxation is a means of implementation. The issues around international taxation and co-operation relate to an important means of implementation, and they are not directly for our negotiations, but we are hoping there will be a good outcome on that, which we can then reflect in the document for September. As it is, we will annex the Addis Ababa agreement to our own document for September, and tax justice is clearly an important issue. It has been, though, one of the issues that has held up finalisation of the Addis Ababa document, because developing countries want to see an upgrade, as they call it, for a tax committee that exists at the UN, but some developed countries do not want to bring tax policy within the remit of the UN; they feel it is for the OECD. There is a fundamental division of views on tax but, nevertheless, there will be reasonably good language in the Addis Ababa document.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade answered the question about the delegation yesterday. All EU member states will be represented at the Addis Ababa conference at development minister level.
The Millennium Development Goals are important. We have tried to make clear in our document that we will complete the unfinished business of those goals through the new goals and targets. There is no chance that they will be forgotten about. What they failed to achieve is still there in the first six or seven of the new goals. It is an important issue, and many groups of countries insist that this unfinished business will be a vital part of what we do.