Statement by

Mr. Brian Cowen T.D.
the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland
57th United Nations General Assembly
New York 13 September, 2002

Mr. President,

I congratulate you on your election as President of the 57th General Assembly. I look forward to working closely with you as the Czech Republic, a good friend of my country, moves ever closer to membership of the European Union.

Our thanks are due to Mr. Han Seun-soo for his work as President of the 561 General Assembly. I am delighted to welcome Switzerland as new members of the Organisation and look forward to the imminent membership of East Timor, a nation whose birth was fostered by this Organisation.

Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark has already addressed this General Assembly on behalf of the European Union. Ireland associates itself fully with his remarks.

Mr. President,

We are all still haunted, a year later, by the shadow of the terrible events of 11 September. Last year in the delayed General Debate, I spoke about the implications of these atrocities. I set out my thoughts on how we, as the international community, should respond. My conclusions last year and my message today are the same.

The United Nations is at the centre of our system of collective security. It is a mirror of our determination and our political will. This is the world body invested by the peoples of the world with unique legitimacy and unique authority. Around the world people look in hope and idealism to the United Nations. We must be worthy of their trust.

I want to fully endorse the Secretary-General's address to this Assembly yesterday. As the Secretary-General said " all States have a clear interest, as well as a clear responsibility, to uphold international law and maintain international order". States must honour their international obligations. Unless we consistently call to account those who defy or flagrantly violate their obligations, our system will be discredited.

The choice we face is stark. Either we stand by and strengthen the international system and the rule of law or we invite anarchy. The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats put it graphically:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world"

That was what the perpetrators of 11 September wanted. Their vicious attack was not just on the innocent people - of many nationalities, including my own - in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania; not just on the United States; but on the very values we cherish and that are the foundation on which this organisation is built.

They will have succeeded if we are provoked into abandoning these values and laws. Ultimately they can only be defeated, and the scourge of international terror ended, if we stand united in defence of our international obligations and the rule of law.

Within our system, the Security Council is charged with responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. When there are threats to international peace and security, member States concerned are obliged to bring these matters to the attention of the Security Council. When the Security Council acts in such cases all member States are obliged to implement its resolutions. Regrettably, they sometimes fail to do so.

Any law that is flagrantly violated becomes weakened over time. That is why flagrant violation and defiance of Security Council Resolutions should be a matter of the utmost concern to all member States.

Mr. President,

The terrorist attacks on 11 September required an urgent response from the international community. It was vital that the UN Security Council was at the centre of the international community's response. The Council, to quote the Secretary General, responded "with patience, creativity and determination."

The Security Council adopted Resolution 1368, demanding the fullest possible cooperation of the international community in bringing the perpetrators to justice. It subsequently authorised the deployment of an international security force to Afghanistan. It put in place measures to counter international terrorism.

The establishment by the Security Council of the Counter-Terrorism Committee to oversee the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1373 was a landmark development. Its work has been instrumental in making it more difficult for international terrorist networks to organise and finance their activities.

Continued persistence and vigilance is required. We still have much more to do. We must make it impossible for the agents of international terror to operate. We must persevere with initiatives such as the freezing of assets and the denial of safe haven. At the same time, we must ensure that everything we do respects the UN Charter and the body of international human rights law we have so painstakingly constructed. That is our best guarantee against evil and its perpetrators.

Mr. President,

In his address to this General Assembly yesterday, the Secretary-General also correctly identified four serious current threats to world peace.

First, on the Middle East. There can be no doubt that there is a need for greater urgency in the efforts to bring an end to the conflict. The vision of Security Council Resolution 242, 338 and 1397 must be implemented.

For far too long the Palestinian people have been denied their legitimate rights. Today they exist in a state of deep impoverishment. Ireland strongly believes that to reach a settlement that will give the Israeli people the security they deserve, and that will give the Palestinian people their legitimate rights and sovereignty, the parties must move forward. They must, in particular, address, not just the security issues, but also the economic and humanitarian needs of Palestinians. And they must establish a concrete target for a political settlement.

For its part, the European Union, working closely with the UN, the United States and Russia through the Quartet, will continue to encourage and assist the parties to end the conflict and move towards a permanent peace.

This conflict has been an ongoing source of suffering to the peoples of the region and of instability for the rest of the world. It remains a threat of the utmost gravity to international peace and security. We can and must give it the highest priority.

Second, Iraq. Iraq has been in violation of Security Council resolutions, in particular on arms inspection, for some considerable time. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been engaged in serious efforts to encourage Iraq to comply with its obligations under these Security Council Resolutions. We will continue to strongly support his good offices.

Let us express wholehearted agreement with the call by the Secretary-General for Iraq "to comply with its obligations for the sake of its own people and for the sake of world order. If Iraq's defiance continues, the Security Council must face its responsibilities."

We call on Iraq to respect its obligations and implement in full and without preconditions all the Security Council resolutions addressed to it. The weapons inspectors must be allowed in to do the work authorised by the Security Council. Iraq's leadership has it within its own power to end the current predicament and to alleviate the great hardship on its people. It should do so without delay.

Third, it is essential for the international community to maintain its strong and active support for the Government and people of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has come through great trials over the past year. We should not overlook that, despite the best efforts of the international coalition to ensure that the use of force was targeted and proportionate, many innocent Afghanis have died. We should remember them too in our prayers. Ultimately, they are just as much victims of the terrorist groups who carried out the attacks of 11 September, as those who were murdered in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Considerable progress has been achieved in Afghanistan with the help of the international community. There are clear signs that, overall, the quality of life is improving. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go if Afghanistan is to completely escape the violence and instability of the past.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains acute. The sustained and wholehearted support of the international community remains essential, therefore, if progress is to be maintained.

For our part, Ireland has been active in the Security Council, particularly in highlighting the humanitarian situation. We have pledged $12 million over the next three years, the majority of which has already been dispensed. We are also contributing personnel to the international stabilisation force.

Fourth, as regards India and Pakistan, we welcome the decrease in tension between these two countries. The risk of open conflict between two nuclear capable countries is a matter of the utmost concern to all of us. We encourage the leaders of India and Pakistan to address the underlying causes that give rise to the potential for conflict.

Mr. President,

The proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction - chemical, biological and nuclear - is, of course, an issue that goes far beyond Iraq. They represent a major threat to international peace and security. The international instruments and regimes to control the spread, and bring about the elimination, of such weapons must be strengthened and fully implemented. Ultimately, the long term control and elimination of Weapons of Mass Destruction can only be achieved through a comprehensive and rigorous system of international treaties and obligations that are verifiable and universal.

Ireland, together with our New Agenda partners, will continue its efforts in this regard during this year's General Assembly. We call on all States who are concerned about these issues to become more constructively engaged in the period ahead.

Mr. President,

All of us recognise that conflict prevention, not just conflict resolution, is the central challenge facing the United Nations. Poverty, inequality and injustice are all too often the breeding ground for instability and for threats to peace. They are an affront to the international conscience. We must tackle the injustices that all too often allow conflict situations to develop.

Our challenge is to show that there is a peaceful and legitimate way of dealing with these problems. It is only through the development of integrated strategies that address the underlying causes of conflict - poverty, injustice and the abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms - that the international community can bring about long term peace and stability.

The Millennium Summit Declaration confirmed the commitment of the world's leadership to tackling the root causes of conflict. The Secretary-General has since called for the UN to move from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention. Ireland fully supports the implementation of the Secretary-General's Report on Conflict Prevention.

The UN must be equipped with the necessary tools to develop coherent conflict prevention policies. Let us commit ourselves to supporting the Secretary-General in his ongoing reform initiatives. We must revitalise the General Assembly so that it can play its proper role. Let us re-engage on reform of the Security Council so that it reflects modern geo-political realities. We need a Security Council which is as representative as possible of the international community, while being in a position to function efficiently. And we must provide the UN with sufficient resources to meet its responsibilities.

Sustainable development focussed on poverty eradication is the most powerful instrument which the international community has to address the long-term root causes of conflict and to promote peace.

Let us also remind ourselves of the international community's long standing commitment to meeting the UN target of spending 0.7 % of GNP on Overseas Development Assistance. My Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, has confirmed at the Johannesburg Summit Ireland's commitment to meet this target by 2007.

Let us restate our commitment to providing universal access to basic healthcare. We must be relentless in the campaign to eliminate diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB. The spread of these diseases threatens to undermine our development programmes. We must step up our efforts to eradicate them. We must aim for the targets set out in the Declaration of Commitment against HIV/AIDS, adopted by the General Assembly in June 2001. We must ensure that the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB is adequately resourced.

The Johannesburg Summit agreed a global comprehensive action plan for sustainable development which will help guide our policies and programmes in the coming years. The Summit's Commitment on Sustainable Development has the potential to make an important contribution to conflict prevention, particularly in Africa.

Mr. President,

Effective conflict prevention is also about putting in place necessary structures. The Brahimi Report on UN Peace Operations acknowledged the pressing need to establish both long and short term conflict prevention strategies. I would like to reiterate Ireland's support for the Secretary-General's initiatives and for the role which UN Peacekeeping has to play in an integrated conflict prevention strategy.

Peacekeeping is at the heart of Ireland's contribution to the United Nations. We are immensely proud of the contribution which Irish personnel have made to UN peacekeeping. We reserve a special place in our hearts for those who have given their lives in the service of the United Nations. This was demonstrated once again in a moving ceremony which was held to mark the standing down of the Irish battalion from UNIFIL after 24 years of service.

As a member of the European Union, Ireland welcomes the deepening cooperation between the EU and the UN on conflict prevention and peacekeeping. This will be given further concrete expression when the EU takes over the UN police operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina next January.

Mr. President,

Respect for human rights is a core dimension in conflict prevention. This is the very foundation on which peace and security surely depends. Human rights must be integrated into all of the UN's activities. The entry into force of the Rome Statute establishing the International Court sends a clear signal of determination to bring to justice those who perpetrate genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

I would urge those who have not ratified the Rome Statute to do so. The international community is at its strongest when it stands unified, bound together by the strength of the rule of law.

I would like to take the opportunity, presented by this address to the General Assembly, to pay tribute to Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, who has just completed her term as UN Commissioner for Human Rights. We are deeply proud of her achievements. We know that she will continue to be a fearless champion of the universality of human rights.

Mr. President,

Turning to the situation in Northern Ireland, we have seen substantial progress across the key areas of implementation of the Good Friday Agreement since I last addressed this Assembly. The political institutions of the Agreement are operating on a positive and inclusive basis, bringing tangible benefits across the board.

An Independent International Commission has overseen two acts of arms decommissioning by the IRA. The Patten Report's vision of a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland is being progressively realised. I call on all to fully play their part in bedding down and strengthening the new policing arrangements. Welcome progress has also been made in normalising security arrangements on the ground. However, more needs to be done, and we need to see further early progress, especially in the South Armagh area.

The considerable record of achievement, however, has not made us complacent about the difficulties and challenges that remain. The levels of street violence in the interface areas of Belfast, and the sectarian attacks on vulnerable households, for instance, have given us all cause for serious concern. These have had a corrosive effect on community confidence. They need to be addressed urgently in all their dimensions, including through effective policing measures leading to convictions.

The Irish and British Governments remain absolutely committed to the Good Friday Agreement, and to its implementation in full. Its core principles - constitutional stability based on consent, partnership politics, inclusive political institutions and structured North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland - represent the only viable basis for a workable political accommodation. In short, the Agreement, which has been much praised and admired by member States of this Assembly, continues to be the only template for political progress in Northern Ireland.

Mr. President,

Before concluding, I would like to refer briefly to Ireland's membership of the Security Council which comes to an end on 31 December next. Ireland's experience as a member of the Council has strongly reinforced our belief in the system of collective global security.

The central role of the Security Council in the aftermath of 11 September underlined the importance of its role as guardian of international peace and security. It must now build on this achievement.

Ireland has, I believe, made a substantive contribution to the work of the Council. We will seek to do so in the remaining months of our term.

Mr. President,

Our mission in the United Nations is to continually strive for a world that is fair and just. This can best be done through our system of collective security; through international economic and social development; and through respect for human rights and international law. If we can commit ourselves to respect the decisions of the Security Council, and all our international obligations, then innocent lives can be saved and seemingly interminable conflicts resolved.

We have the methods and the means to peaceably resolve the dangers that threaten us. It should not be beyond our talent and resources to achieve this. But to do so, we need to assert the core values of multilateralism in particular, and its capacity to achieve, for all our people, a better and safer world.