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Speech by An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin T.D., United Nations General Assembly 75 Saturday 26 September 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations General Assembly meets this year in a
virtual format, in the shadow of COVID-19. The pandemic
has taken an immense toll on our countries, our citizens, our
economies, indeed on our entire way of life.

It has imposed a particular burden on those least able to bear
it: countries with weak healthcare systems, and civilian
populations suffering from insecurity, displacement, conflict
and poverty.

The pandemic has also revealed the best of humanity - the
heroic efforts of our front-line workers to provide care and
essential services to those directly affected; the remarkable
social cohesion, solidarity and civic responsibility of people
throughout the world through many months of restrictions and
disruptions to lives and livelihoods.

Mr President,
The pandemic reminds us that multilateral responses to global
challenges remain essential. The reality is that we are
interconnected, and interdependent. Even the strongest of us
cannot succeed alone.

This is the guiding spirit of the United Nations since its
foundation. The same unwavering commitment to working
together underpinned Ireland’s candidature for a seat on the
United Nations
Security Council.
We are humbled and honoured that you, the members of the
General Assembly, have placed your trust in us.

You elected Ireland because you believed that we could make
a real contribution on the core mandate of the Security
Council; the maintenance of international peace and security.

I promise that we will do everything we can to fulfil that trust.

It is sobering to consider that, since Ireland last served on the
Security Council in 2001 and 2002, the number of issues on
the Council’s agenda has tripled.

Violent conflict and insecurity continue to grow.

We face enduring global challenges: hunger and food
insecurity; the existential threat of climate change; violations
of international humanitarian and human rights law, and
impunity for perpetrators.

The Security Council can, and must, play a central role in
addressing them.

We are under no illusions. Deep divisions exist on the
Council. But we do not accept that these divisions mean that
the Council can step back from its responsibilities. It must
fulfil the role entrusted to it by the UN Charter and by the
member states.

Mr President,
Ireland joins the Council with firm principles and clear
Three principles will underpin our approach: Building Peace,
Strengthening Prevention, and Ensuring Accountability.
These are at the heart of the Council’s mandate.

Building peace means ensuring that we promote sustainable,
durable solutions to conflict. A key aspect of this is
peacekeeping. Ireland has a longstanding and proud record of
continuous service on UN peacekeeping operations.

As a member of the Council, we will take a keen interest in
shaping the mandates under which UN peacekeepers serve.
We want to change aspects of peacekeeping for the better, for
both peacekeepers and host communities.

In line with the Secretary General’s Action for Peacekeeping
initiative, peacekeeping operations must be adequately
resourced, have access to appropriate training and be sensitive
to local needs.

A commitment to upholding human rights and gender equality
must be at the heart of all missions.

We also need to become much better at linking peacekeeping
to peacebuilding, ensuring continued and sustained support
for countries emerging from conflict.

Peacekeeping is a vital task; it saves lives, and prevents
conflict. But, as Secretary General Guterres has frequently
said, we need durable solutions to the causes of conflict.
In Ireland, we have had our own experience of conflict. We
know that conflict resolution is a long and complex task. It is
rarely smooth or linear. It takes commitment and belief.

The voices of women, young people and civil society must be
central. Peace processes cannot succeed unless women are
fully involved.

Mr President,
Regional organisations such as the European Union and the
African Union are making an increasingly important
contribution to how the UN responds to international crises.

Ireland is proud to play an active role in UN-mandated, EU
led military crisis management missions, and in EU civilian
missions. Irish troops, police officers, judges, coastguards,
experts in rule of law and security sector reform serve in UN,
EU and OSCE missions around the world, from Mali to
Lebanon to Ukraine.

We actively support African-led operations, both
peacekeeping and preventative diplomacy missions, including
through the African Union, and IGAD, the Intergovernmental
Authority on Development.

Strengthening prevention is also vital. The UN needs to
deploy all its resources – country teams, special
representatives, political missions, mediators and more – to
intervene early; to highlight and stop human rights abuses; to
prevent conflict; and to support the efforts of local
stakeholders in peace-making and peacebuilding.

Crucially, we must address the factors underlying conflict,
including insecurity, hunger, poor governance, climate
change, violations of human rights, and the proliferation of
small arms and light weapons.

We have heard the argument that issues like climate, hunger
and human rights do not belong in the Security Council. That
there are other fora to discuss these issues. That they do not
belong in discussions of international peace and security.

Let me be very clear. We reject that argument.

It is not a case of either/or.

We know that climate change not only impedes sustainable
development but also contributes to conflict.

We know that human rights abuses and the denial of justice
can fuel radicalisation and extremism.

We know that poverty, hunger and resource deprivation fuel
insecurity and violence.

We know that rising oceans pose an existential threat to some
Small Island Developing States.

We know that without a firm commitment to supporting the
poorest and most vulnerable countries on their development
pathways, we will never adequately address insecurity and
conflict. This drives Ireland’s commitment to reach our
official development assistance target of 0.7% of GNI by

We have ample evidence of these trends.

What we do not yet have is a Security Council ready and able
to take on its responsibilities to address these issues. Ireland
will do everything possible over the next two years to make
all the progress we can.

Accountability will also be a watchword of our term on the
Ireland stands firmly in support of the International Criminal
Court. The Court has a unique and vital mission to ensure that
those responsible for the most serious crimes of international
concern cannot act with impunity. We are deeply concerned
by any measures taken against the Court, and against its
officials and staff.

Ireland remains firmly committed to upholding universal
human rights, the dignity of all, and providing support to
those who promote and defend human rights in the most
difficult situations.

Humanitarian workers must be able to work safely while
helping the most vulnerable.

The Security Council also has its own responsibility to
prevent mass atrocity crimes. We strongly support the ACT
Code of Conduct, which pledges Council members to act to
prevent such crimes, as well as the French-Mexican initiative
on restricting the use of the veto.

We have seen the veto repeatedly abused over recent years, to
prevent the Council from taking necessary actions, including
on access to vital humanitarian relief and in response to the
use of chemical weapons in Syria.

This speaks to the wider need to reform the Council.

The longer the Council goes unreformed, and the longer
African countries in particular are denied their rightful level
of representation, the greater the threat to the legitimacy of the
Council itself.
Accountability also extends to failures to respect the
Resolutions of the Security Council. States cannot unilaterally
decide which aspects of international law to adhere to, and
which to set aside when politically inconvenient.

Mr President,
The Council has a large number of country situations on its

From Syria, to Libya, to Yemen, our approach will be driven
by a profound concern for protecting citizens and improving
humanitarian conditions.

We will support efforts for peace in Afghanistan, in which the
rights of women must be included and respected.

We will also work tirelessly to promote tangible progress
towards a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

Security Council resolutions set out recognised international
parameters for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These
are reflected in the General Assembly resolution Ireland
introduced in 2018, and balance the legitimate rights and
responsibilities of both sides. As an international community,
we need to create the space for direct negotiations.

Ireland has long championed disarmament and non

We played an important role in negotiating the Treaty on the
Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and are proud to have
become the 41st country to ratify it, this year. Nuclear
proliferation must remain at the heart of the Council’s work.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea must abandon all
nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic
missile programmes in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear
programme must be implemented in full - it is the most
effective mechanism for preventing Iran from developing
nuclear weapons.

Iran must also end destabilizing activities in the region, to
create a context for an alternative future of economic
cooperation and development.

Peace and security in Africa, a key focus of the Council, has
been an important priority for Ireland since the deployment of
Irish UN peacekeepers to the Congo 60 years ago.
On the Council, we will actively support peace and
democratic progress in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Mali, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Sudan and South

We will also carefully consider plans for the drawdown of
some peacekeeping missions, ensuring there are no ‘cliff
edge’ departures; rather, we need comprehensive and
inclusive transition plans that safeguard progress towards
security and development.

The Peacebuilding Commission has an essential role to play
in this regard.

Mr President,
The Security Council is often criticised for its failure to
prevent and resolve conflict.
Sometimes, that criticism is justified.

But we must also remember the successes. We have seen, for
instance, the significant contribution that the Security Council
and the wider UN system made to the peace process in
Colombia, including the verification of the laying down of
arms, clearance of ordnance, and the reintegration of former

Peacekeeping missions such as UNIFIL and UNDOF – both
of which have strong Irish participation – provide vital
stability in volatile regions.

Numerous peace agreements around the world have been
brokered by the UN, with the active support of the Security

But we need to see more concrete outcomes, more often.

That is what the Security Council was created to do. We must
build the trust and political will necessary to achieve progress
in even the most intractable conflicts.

My primary focus today has been on Ireland’s forthcoming
membership of the Security Council.

But we are at all times cognizant that the United Nations is a
far broader and deeper entity. The UN’s work on human
rights, international development, disarmament, trade and
economic cooperation, terrorism and crime, the use of
technology and safety of cyberspace, remains critical.

We need to see full achievement of the Sustainable
Development Goals, Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
We must continue to support an effective, coherent
multilateral response to Covid-19. The guidance and global
coordination efforts by the World Health Organisation have
been crucial. And Ireland is proud to be part of the European
Union’s unprecedented global response, including support to
the COVAX Facility, which will ensure developing countries
have access to vaccines.

Mr President,
The United Nations is not one monolithic body. The United
Nations is all of its 193-member states; it is us.

Small states such as Ireland depend on the rules-based
international order to survive and to thrive.

As a member of the Council, we will tirelessly uphold the
primacy of the United Nations and the multilateral system as a
We will be guided by the principles of the UN Charter. We
will listen. We will work across regional and ideological
boundaries. We do not have historical baggage, or special
interests. We intend, Mr. President, to make every day count.
Thank you.