Mr. Brian Cowen,
T.D. Minister for Foreign Affairs

During the General Debate at the
Fifty-Sixth Session of the General Assembly of the
United Nations

New York, NY
12 November, 2001

Check against delivery


Mr. President,

I congratulate you on your election as President of the 56th General Assembly and thank you for your successful efforts to take forward the work of this Assembly.

My colleague, Foreign Minister Louis Michel of Belgium, has already addressed this General Assembly on behalf of the European Union. Ireland associates itself fully with his remarks.

Mr. President,

We meet at a moment of uncertainty. The specter of war once again casts its shadow across the continents. Forty years ago, when addressing this Assembly, President John F. Kennedy warned that "mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind". Of course, President Kennedy was addressing a different world than the one we now live in. The war he feared was a war between two great power blocs that would end in assured mutual annihilation.

Thankfully, the threat of conflict on such a scale is now a far more remote prospect, but war and conflict continue to cause enormous suffering in many parts of the world. This, together with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological - means that war, and its mutation, terrorism, continue to threaten mankind - our lives, our liberty and our prosperity.

 This is simply not acceptable. We, the peoples of the United Nations, created, joined and sustained this organization in the determination to save this and succeeding generations from the scourge of war. We must now demonstrate renewed and sustained commitment to the realization of this goal.

Mr. President,

Many speakers in this debate have spoken about the events of 11 September as a defining moment in history.

During the Twentieth Century, we faced a number of such defining moments - World War I, World War II, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, which heralded the end of the Cold War. These defining moments are perhaps best reflected in the popular phrase, found on the lips of men and women of all races and creeds at such times - "things will never be the same again". Out of such defining moments, there comes the resolve to learn the lessons of history, to change the existing order, to make sure the calamities of the past can never happen again.

In the heat and clarity of the immediate aftermath of such events, expressions of resolve are abundant. And yet, from the examples I have just outlined, it is clear that in the past our resolve has faltered as the immediate threat receded, and that the determination required to tackle the underlying causes and injustices that give rise to conflict, has proved difficult to sustain.

Today the international community is again at a crossroads. If we want a true and lasting victory over international terrorism; if we want safety, security and prosperity for our own people and our children, then we must act with sustained resolve and sustained determination.

Our immediate agenda is clear.

 Action against terrorism must be pursued, resolutely, across a wide front and over a sustained period.
In undertaking this necessary endeavor let us be honest and realistic. With retributive justice must come distributive justice.

The peace and security which we crave for ourselves and for future generations will not be secured unless we simultaneously tackle the root causes of conflict; injustice, poverty and the abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Too often multilateral action has been characterized as being taken in reaction to the outcomes of conflict. Last year's Millennium Declaration confirmed the public commitment of the world's leadership to resolving also the root causes of conflict. The United Nations was created out of the determination to tackle conflict and its causes. On that basis, let us this week recommit and re-dedicate ourselves to the achievement of the goals and objectives of the United Nations. A s the secretary-general pointed out when opening this General Debate, "none of the issues that faced us on September 10th has become less urgent".

We must act more resolutely through the United Nations, with sustained commitment and sustained determination, to address this equally urgent agenda. We must implement with determination all UN Security Council resolutions.

Let us realize and build on the pledges we made at the Millennium Summit. Let us strive much more effectively to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Let us also improve the working of this Organization by making it more efficient, adaptable and joined up. In the words of the Secretary-General this week, let us ensure that when the UN acts, "only the best is good enough". Only in this way will the United Nations and its member States succeed in overcoming the massive challenges which now confront us.

 In addressing this comprehensive agenda, we must not relax our efforts on human rights. This Organization was founded out of a determination to assert human rights, the dignity and worth of the human person, and the equal rights of men and women. We must not equivocate on any of these principles. And in pursuit of this, Ireland looks forward to the imminent establishment of the International Criminal Court, and appeals for its universal recognition.

Violent conflict and internal strife are the reality of daily life in many regions and countries across the world today - the Middle East, the Great Lakes region of Africa and many other places, such as Sudan, where people are being killed and maimed. Ireland has worked hard since joining the Security Council last January to focus on the need to address these and other conflicts. We have given particular attention to Africa and to the efforts, frequently African-led, to solve the many
conflicts there. We have consistently sought to highlight the humanitarian aspects of the various situations coming before the Council. We were particularly gratified during our Presidency of the Security Council last month to have presided over substantial discussions on Somalia, and on the UN's support for post-independence East Timor.

We remain concerned about the humanitarian situation of the people of Iraq. The Iraqi government can and must do more within the system set out in the Security Council resolutions to meet the humanitarian needs of its own people. For its part, the Security Council and its members must redouble their efforts to reach agreement on the outcome of its review of the sanctions regime. But we must not lose sight of the fundamental purpose of the sanctions regime; Iraq must allow verification that it has met its essential disarmament obligations.

 Mr. President,

The Irish Government is grateful to those Members who supported Ireland's membership of the Security Council. We will continue to strive to vindicate the confidence that they placed in us.

The UN's role in peacekeeping has been at the heart of our collective endeavors now for over fifty years. Ireland has played a proud part in UN peacekeeping across the continents. This evening I want to take a moment to thank the Irish soldiers who have served with such distinction and dedication in the Lebanon for the last twenty-three years. The last Irish battalion leave UNIFIL tomorrow. The people of Ireland are proud of their service and achievements in the cause of peace. In particular I want to pay special tribute to the memory of those soldiers who lost their lives in the service of peace.

Ireland's commitment to UN peacekeeping remains undiminished. We continue to participate in around a dozen missions. A new contingent of our troops will soon begin service with the UN peacekeeping operation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, UNMEE.

We must equally give priority to achieving sustainable development and meeting the humanitarian challenges that confront us. The UN's State of the World Population 2001 report, published last week, reminds us that half the world's 6.1 billion people still exists on less than $2 per day and forecasts that the world's population will rise by 50% to 9.3 billion by 2050. Is it acceptable that over 3 billion people are today living in total and abject poverty, while the developed world is struggling to come to terms the problems of over consumption and environmental pollution? Are we prepared to accept that there will be over 6 billion people living in poverty by 2050?

 Let us see every Government set out its commitment to reach the target of 0.7% of GNP for development assistance within the next five years. Ireland has already made it clear that it will deliver on its commitment in this regard and will increase our ODA budget by over $100 million next year to keep on track towards this target.

Let us reassess the sustainable debt levels and provide additional relief to the heavily indebted poor countries of sub Saharan Africa who will suffer hardest in the present economic downturn.

Let us redouble our efforts to overcome a HIV/AIDS pandemic which is killing over 6,500 people per day in Africa and which has already orphaned over 9 million children on the continent. The Declaration of Commitments agreed at the UN General Assembly Special Session in June has established the framework and the targets. It now has to be financed and implemented.

Let us work harder together to prevent climate change devastating poor and vulnerable countries.

We have achieved much already. This is recognized by the awarding of this year's Nobel Peace Prize jointly to our Organization and to our esteemed secretary-general, Kofi Annan. I offer my warmest congratulations and appreciation to Kofi Annan, and all who serve the United Nations. But the Secretary-General would be the first to emphasize that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize must be seen not only as a recognition of past achievement, but as an inspiration to renewed commitment and determination.

 Mr. President,

The terrible events of 11 September, which struck most fiercely at the city of New York - seat of the United Nations and melting pot of all races and creeds - brought home to us all that the collective security of the international community is only as strong as its weakest link. As long as a single government or, in the case of the Taliban, a single de facto administration, is prepared to allow its territory to be used as a base for terrorist attacks against people anywhere on this planet, we can never feel secure.

We must confront and defeat the scourge of international terrorism and bring those responsible for the barbaric acts of 11 September to justice, not out of a need for revenge, but because the perpetrators of these acts are capable of, and make no secret of their determination, to repeat such attacks. They can and must be stopped.

Ireland's position has been steadfast and clear: we stand with the United States and with the rest of the international community in asserting that the barbarism of 11 September cannot be allowed to succeed; that the threat posed by international terrorism must be permanently ended; that there must be a total commitment by all Governments to this task, with all the energy and resources at our disposal.

My Government hopes that the military campaign now underway will achieve its objectives in as short a time frame as possible. Every effort must continue to be made to spare civilian casualties. And it is crucial that the military campaign be accompanied by a visible and effective humanitarian strategy. The long-suffering people of Afghanistan deserve no less. There must also be a concerted international effort, coordinated by the United Nations, to assist the people of Afghanistan in establishing a broad-based government, representative of all the ethnic groups which make up the country. This must be accompanied by a comprehensive and generous program of support for the post-military rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. The international community must stay engaged once a representative government is established there.

Mr. President,

In Ireland, we continue to make steady progress with our own peace process. As delegates will be aware, the British and Irish Governments and political parties in Northern Ireland successfully negotiated a comprehensive peace settlement over three years ago, known as the Good Friday Agreement. Since then, we have worked hard to secure the full implementation of this agreement. Two of the most difficult and sensitive issues we had to face were the putting of paramilitary weapons beyond use and the putting in place of a new beginning to policing. I am very pleased to be able to inform this Assembly that very considerable progress has recently been made on both these crucial issues. As a result the way is now clear for a sustained , committed and enthusiastic implementation of all elements of the Good Friday Agreement.

We have learned a lot from our own voyage towards peace. We have put in place new constitutional and institutional arrangements, which fully recognize and respect the legitimacy of both political traditions on the island of Ireland. We have established the primacy and full relevance of politics in peoples lives in Northern Ireland. We do not pretend, of course, that we have found a solution that has universal application - we know too well how local and individual conflicts can be. But, through our own process of trial and error, we have learned lessons and established principles that may be useful in resolving conflicts in other parts of the world. From our own experience of peace building we enumerate the most important elements of any truly sustainable peace process as follows:

    There can be no purely military solution. A lasting settlement must always address the root causes of conflict.

    Compromise is essential. Recognizing that extremism breeds in the absence of reason, conflict resolution demands that we rehabilitate the concept of compromise. In the context of effective political dialogue and the peaceful resolution of disputes, peacemakers should not regard compromise as representing appeasement or surrender, victory or defeat. Neither does compromise necessarily require splitting the difference between the parties.

    A lasting agreement must be comprehensive and address all issues of concern, even if the parties might agree to deal with them in different time frames.

    Those in favor of peace in each community must work together - even in the face of hostility from the enemies of the peace process in their own community. They must stick together in adversity. They must avoid excessive and damaging criticism when mistakes are made, as they inevitably will be. They must be prepared to face down the enemies of peace together.

    The international community must support the peace process in a balanced and objective way.

    A successful process needs a route map, such as those already prepared by Mitchell and Tenet in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also needs a mechanism to arbitrate on who is meeting, and who is not meeting, their commitments under any such agreements.

    Those driving the peace process must rise above the politics of the last atrocity. This is an attitude which, while understandable in terms of domestic opinion, is ultimately bereft of vision and hands control over progress to the enemies of the process. There is a particularly compelling message here for those charged with advancing the peace process in the Middle East.

 As I have already said, there is no "one size fits all" solution to conflict. I do believe however that, if these principles were to be applied in certain other conflict situations, they could make a significant contribution to the achievement of peace and political progress.

Mr. President,

The world we seek cannot be brought about overnight. Building peace, ensuring justice, widening respect for fundamental human rights and eliminating poverty will take time. We will require stamina, determination, inspiration, patience, generosity and compromise. We have all these qualities in abundance if only we can find the political will to use them and the determination, together, to seek new ways forward.

Thank you,
Mr. President.