Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ceisteanna (26)

Niall Collins


26. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on efforts to obtain a seat at the UN Security Council for the 2021-22 term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21310/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Ceist ar Foreign)

I ask the Minister to update the House on Ireland's efforts to win a seat at the UN Security Council for the 2021-22 term, given that we last held a seat almost 16 years ago in 2001-02.

As the Deputy may remember, the 9/11 attacks occurred during that period. I remember it very clearly because Ireland had quite an influential position in advocating for the protection of civilians and a human rights approach post-9/11 when the war on terrorism began in Aghanistan. Ireland chaired the UN Security Council at the time, which was a very pivotal position for a small country such as Ireland to hold. That we did so skilfully at such a tense time globally shows the quality of the Civil Service. We want to be a member of the Security Council again because Ireland has shown itself to have the capacity to influence decisions in a positive and peaceful way as a small country.

We are seeking election to a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-22 term. We are one of three candidates for the two available seats in the western Europe and others regional group. The other two candidates are Canada and Norway which, like Ireland, have strong records of engagement at UN level and which will provide stiff competition. In order to be elected to the UN Security Council, Ireland must obtain the support of two thirds of the membership of the United Nations General Assembly or approximately 129 votes of the 193 member states at the election in June 2020. Our candidature was first announced in 2005 and the campaign has since been building under successive Governments.

I take every opportunity to raise our candidature with representatives of member states and press the value of Ireland playing our role on the Security Council. The President met several member state representatives during his visit to the United Nations last month. The Taoiseach, in his address to the Brookings Institute in Washington in March, outlined the importance of an effective multilateral system to Ireland and small countries in general. With my Cabinet colleagues, I will continue to make Ireland’s case in the period ahead. This political engagement is underpinned by my Department’s diplomatic personnel and we will launch our campaign in the coming weeks. In making Ireland’s case to the electorate we will highlight our consistent record at the United Nations over more than six decades of membership across a number of areas, including peacekeeping, sustainable development, humanitarian action, disarmament and human rights. If Ireland were to be elected to a non-permanent seat at the Security Council, our fundamental approach to any agenda item would be to advocate for the core values of our foreign policy, namely, peace and security, justice, equality and sustainability.

Fianna Fáil supports Ireland's bid to win a seat at the UN Security Council and recognises it as a valuable opportunity for it. Almost 1,000 of our peacekeeping men and women have served on UN-mandated missions during the years and we currently have several peacekeepers on the Golan Heights. It is a huge opportunity and Fianna Fáil is very supportive of the efforts being made to win a seat. I refer to the use of the veto within the Security Council. The Security Council has largely been ineffective in dealing with many conflicts because of the use of the veto. There are conflicts in the Middle East, Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, to name but a few. Has the Tánaiste raised the prospect of reform of the veto and would he support its regulation or reform, in particular in instances where war crimes are being committed?

I would support such reform, for which we have advocated. I spoke on the issue at the UN General Assembly last September. The UN Security Council is dysfunctional in making decisions when one of the five permanent members has a vested interest. We have repeatedly seen one of the five permanent members using the veto to protect itself, its allies or vested interests. Innocent civilians are often the victims, as was the case in the chemical attacks in Syria and other attacks elsewhere in the world. France recently proposed that the veto not be used in cases involving significant civilian casualties or potential war crimes. I strongly support that approach.

I think more fundamental reform is needed in the UN Security Council because the permanent membership of the Security Council does not represent the state of world politics today in the fullest sense possible. We will continue to advocate for reform, but in particular in the short term we will support France and others who are looking for a more responsible use of the veto.

The Minister said earlier that winning a seat on the Security Council will be difficult and I agree with him because to secure 129 votes out of 193 is not an easy feat. We wish the Government well in its bid and we are supportive of it in relation to it. If we are successful in securing the seat, what areas in particular does the Minister want to see prioritised? I know he said in his initial response that Ireland will subscribe to its core values of the promotion of peace, but is there anything in particular?

We will focus on areas where we have credibility. Ireland, for example, along with Kenya, was very involved in chairing the committee that eventually got the sustainable development goals across the line. Ireland has credibility in Africa on the development agenda. We have a lot of credibility in peacekeeping and post-conflict management-----

And I hope conflict prevention.

Yes, and conflict prevention. We are doing a lot of work within the UN structures in areas such as gender-based violence. These are areas where small countries matter and have a say and can put new thinking and alliances together. That is the kind of thing we would like to do. The one thing we will definitely do is be a strong, independent voice. We will not be in anyone's pocket, which is very important for a relatively small member state of the UN wanting to be on the UN Security Council. We have been there before and our record is one that we can stand over. The election will not be an easy process to win but we are in reasonably good shape. This campaign will intensify in the months ahead.