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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter with Prime Minister Brian Cowen, T.D.

Dublin, Ireland, 7 July 2009

Dia Dhaoibh, ladies and gentlemen of the press.

Thank you very much for your invitation. This is my first visit to Ireland in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations. So let me start by expressing my deepest and warmest thanks to the Government and people of Ireland for extending me the invitation to visit this great country.

Ireland has been a strong supporter of the UN since 1955. It has contributed to peacekeeping operations for over fifty years and has even lost 90 service officers to the cause of peace. Today, around 500 Irish military and police are serving in 7 peacekeeping missions throughout the world and I would like to take this opportunity to particularly express my gratitude to the government of Ireland for rehatting these EUFOR soldiers to the United Nations Peacekeeping operations and I would like to commend the distinguished leadership role by General Pat Nash of EUFOR and also at this time deputy force commander Brigadier General Gerald Aherne in Minurcat. We regard such a cooperative relationship with the European Union, not only in Chad and not only in Afghanistan but all around the world, as very important. We regard the role of the regional organizations like the African Union and the European Union as very important in carrying out the role and the objectives of the United Nations.

But I would like to emphasize that peacekeeping is only one of many causes that Ireland has taken up in fulfilling its commitment to the ideals of the United Nations. Ireland's staunch advocacy and generous contribution of more than 12 million dollars for UN peace building efforts, particularly in Africa, are helping, in very concrete ways, to bring stability and the hope of a new beginning to countries emerging from devastating conflicts.

I am also particularly grateful for Ireland's support for the UN's mediation efforts as I believe the UN has significant value to add in contributing to the successful resolution of conflict situations. Ireland's financial support to the Mediation Support Unit of the United Nations has had a significant impact on our efforts to assist current mediation initiatives and strengthen our overall capacity in this field. I hope that I can count on Ireland's continued support in these and other areas.

Certainly, I am aware that the global economic downturn has affected Ireland just as it has most countries. So I am particularly gratified that Ireland remains committed to reaching the UN contribution target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP). Yet another expression of Ireland's dedication to the United Nations, in times good or bad, is its contribution and commitment to the UN Millennium Development Goals and in particular eradicating hunger by 2015. I recall my meeting with Prime Minister Cowen last year at the United Nations and Ireland´s report on hunger eradication strategy. I am also very grateful and I would like to commend that Ireland has earmarked 20% of its ODA to this food and hunger crisis.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the Irish Government's support for the efforts to enhance system-wide coherence of the UN. It has provided over 7 million dollars in support of the countries piloting the Delivering as One initiative, which aims to rationalize UN interventions in the field.

Finally, Ireland's principled voice on the Responsibility to Protect will be critical in the coming weeks as the General Assembly Debate approaches. It will be important to reach out to developing countries, as Ireland has been doing in many areas, to support the protection of human rights and the prevention of mass atrocities.

These are, in a nutshell, some of the issues and themes that I have discussed in my meetings with both President Mary McAleese and Prime Minister Cowen. I will just add to what the Prime Minister has explained to you about the topics we have discussed. They are all important topics and priority issues which the United Nations, the Irish Government and the European Union in a broader sense are committed to work together in this regard. I would like to remind you, Mr. Prime Minister, that I have invited you to participate in a summit meeting on climate change on September 22nd. Your participation and leadership as a global leader will be very much appreciated in our effort for sealing a deal in Copenhagen in December on these climate change issues.

So I'll stop here now and allow myself and Prime Minister Cowen to take a few questions.

Go raibh maith agaibh. Thank you.

Q: A question – firstly on the possible contradictions between Ireland´s participation in UN Peacekeeping missions and participation in EU security missions, and secondly on Ireland´s contribution to the Climate Change summit.

SG: This is a totally comparable commitment. I made this clear in my address this morning, organized by the institute of European and International affairs. We appreciate the strong commitment and participation of the Irish Government during the last fifty years in our peacekeeping operations and peacebuilding operations. This is in line with, and comparable with the ideals, goals and objectives of the United Nations and therefore I count on your continued commitment and participation in this.

Q: On kidnapped Irish nationals in Sudan

SG: Let me add to this, that I am sorry and I am concerned that your nationals have been kidnapped in the Sudan. I assure you, that we will spare no effort in providing necessary support and cooperation in terms of logistics, in terms of providing information, in terms of working together with the Sudanese Government, first of all in trying to identify and locate and try to have a safe return of your nationals.