Dublin, Ireland

07 July 2009

Secretary-General's address on UN peacekeeping

Dr. Brendan Halligan, Chairman, I.I.E.A.

Ambassador Noel Dorr

Professor Patrick Keatinge, Chair, I.I.E.A.

Ms. Jill Donoghue, D.G., I.I.E.A.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your warm welcome. It is a privilege to join you in this magnificent setting.

What an appropriate place for us to gather.

This castle has served as a stronghold for centuries.

Today I want to speak about fortifications of a different kind –the foundations we need to build for global peace and well-being.

This castle has seen so much history –successive generations asserting their claim, ruling for a while, then giving way.

Today I want to talk about a different kind of history –not of conquest, but rather the shared narrative we must write in an era of global interdependence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Every United Nations Member State has a moving story to tell. Ireland's is as moving as any other.

You have faced privation the likes of which few others have suffered.

You have experienced political upheaval and unrest.

You have given us literature of lasting universal resonance.

We have enriched ourselves with the wisdom of George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce and your latter day philanthropist, Bono!

Your sons and daughters were once more likely than not to leave in large numbers to seek their fortunes elsewhere. They created a far-flung Diaspora.

In recent years, they are staying or returning as Ireland, with grit and savvy and sound investments in itself, has moved to the forefront of global achievement.

For a relatively small country, Ireland occupies a large profile in the world's awareness.

Your quality of life is the envy of many.

Your global engagement inspires admiration and respect.

And as I have seen first-hand, you are a dynamic presence at the United Nations, across our agenda.

Global solidarity is part of Ireland's identity.

Your history has enabled you to forge close ties with the developing world. When the decolonization movement swelled the ranks of new states, you were among the most active in welcoming them to UN membership.

You have been a bridge-builder ever since.

The world's poorest and most vulnerable countries have long been able to count on your generosity. So have a wide range of UN agencies.

You have been on the frontlines of disaster response. As a country that has known profound hunger, you have helped millions of people to avoid that fate.

Last year's cluster munitions conference here in Dublin, at which these inhuman weapons were banned, was just one example of your leadership on disarmament and non-proliferation.

Irish personnel continue to serve with distinction throughout the Organization.

My friend Mary Robinson, during her years as High Commissioner, elevated human rights to new levels of global awareness. My close advisor Patricia O'Brien brings an expert eye to many complex issues as my legal counsel.

You are a strong proponent of UN reform, helping us to become a more efficient effective and coherent instrument of service.

And in achieving the great prize of peace in Northern Ireland, you have given the world an inspiring example.

Over many years, Irish governments took risks for peace that today are paying rich dividends. You showed that, for a peace process to succeed, the main actors must assume responsibility in addressing the root causes.

You know, as we know at the United Nations, that addressing the underlying causes takes enormous resolve.

The successful Irish push for peace is a cause for celebration. It is also a cause for emulation.

So it is no wonder that the Government and people of Ireland work so closely with the United Nations at every stage of our efforts to save people from the scourge of war. This is one of our most sacred responsibilities.

You share our wish to prevent conflict from erupting in the first place, through mediation and brokering lasting solutions.

You are also doing your part, as a leading supporter of the Peacebuilding Commission, to keep societies from lapsing back into conflict as they emerge from it.

And of course, Ireland is famous throughout the world for its contributions to UN peacekeeping.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Every day for more than half a century, an Irish soldier has been walking point for peace under the UN's blue flag.

Today, nearly 500 Irish men and women are stationed in the Middle East and across Africa in support of UN-mandated missions. Your contingent in Lebanon was justifiably renowned for its contribution to stability in that country.

Ninety of your citizens have made the ultimate sacrifice while rendering this vital service. I pay tribute to your fallen personnel.

And I express my deepest appreciation to Ireland for its long-standing commitment to these operations, and to those being led by the European Union.

I know that EU operations are of great interest to you. And indeed I have much to say on the subject. But let me first say a few words about the broader context of peacekeeping in the 21st century.

The United Nations remains at the forefront of international efforts to address international conflict. Demand for the Organization's services is at its highest ever.

We now have 16 peacekeeping operations and 27 special political missions deployed around the globe, supported by 78,000 military personnel, more than 11,000 police and more than 23,000 civilian staff.

It has been said that I command more deployed forces than anyone in the world except for President Obama. Let me assure you that I do not seek such status. Nothing would please me more than to bring everyone home, safe and sound. But that is not the world we live in, try as we might to get there. To borrow the words of your famous compatriot, William Butler Yeats, “peace comes dropping slowly” in many of the places where the UN is called to serve. However, despite this, we must rightly show patience and determination in our quest to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people.

UN peacekeeping mandates are more complex and multidimensional than ever before.

We are also the only organization that can deploy comprehensive peace operations integrating military, police and civilian components.

As you know, peacekeeping has experienced serious setbacks. Today we face mounting difficulties in getting enough troops, the right equipment and adequate logistical support. Supply has not kept pace with demand.

The global economic crisis could further limit our ability to respond effectively.

And a number of missions struggle to operate amidst stalled peace processes and ongoing violence.

These gaps and constraints should concern all of us.

They have led us at the United Nations to undertake what we are calling a “new horizon” process for peacekeeping. We want our efforts to be more cohesive. And we want a renewed consensus on the direction peacekeeping should take.

We are talking to all stakeholders -- the states that authorize and mandate the missions, those that provide personnel, and other key actors, Ireland included.

Many of you will be familiar with the Brahimi report that was crucial in strengthening peacekeeping a decade ago.

With the new horizon effort, we want to build on those advances, and go further still.

Already, we have improved our responses and partnerships. But we want to do even more. Ireland is well positioned to help.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are many ingredients for successful peace operations.

Clear mandates. Political, material and financial support.

Institutions that uphold the rule of law.

An active civil society. A rejection of violence in favour of negotiation and compromise.

The list is longer still.

But a critical factor for success is the capacity of our global Organization to work effectively with regional organizations.

Without their unique contributions, UN operations would not achieve their goals and could fail entirely.

When the UN and regional organizations work together, we can achieve much more than we might independently. There is real strength in burden-sharing.

That is why we are doing so much to build up the capacity of the African Union, including its AMISOM mission in Somalia. We are also partners in Sudan.

The EU offers critical donor support for peacebuilding and early recovery. It has well-developed capacities for crisis management, humanitarian relief and rapid response. And of course, the EU can deploy well-equipped missions as part of, or alongside, UN peacekeeping operations.

The recent deployment of the EU's bridging operation in Chad, known as EUFOR, under Irish leadership, followed by its transition to MINURCAT, was a clear example of good cooperation under very demanding circumstances. The beneficiaries have been tens of thousands of displaced persons, who have received vital protection.

The United Nations is grateful to EU Member States, including Ireland, for the re-hatting of their EUFOR troops to MINURCAT. This step was vital for a smooth transition.

In Kosovo, cooperation between UNMIK and the European Union has been exemplary. The reconfiguration of UNMIK allowed the European Union, through EULEX, to play a more enhanced role. I am pleased to say that the situation in Kosovo remains stable, although we must maintain a careful watch on developments in the north.

Of course, there will always be challenges in the course of demanding peacekeeping operations. This has proved to be the case in Chad and Kosovo, as elsewhere. Both the United Nations and the European Union are committed to meeting them.

We are also working together in Somalia, where the EU will be providing protective escorts for UN vessels delivering a significant support package to AMISOM.

We are partners in Afghanistan in this critical year for that country. UNAMA, the UN operation, will be expanding its presence based on security conditions. We welcome the EU's commitment to strengthen its police. Elections will be the next big test, and we are also grateful to the EU for its intention to provide electoral observers.

The United Nations and the European Union are present together in many other situations where UN peacekeeping might not be the prescription, but where the international community has an on-the-ground role in the maintenance of peace and security.

Our experiences have encompassed activities in Bosnia, Georgia, Indonesia (East Timor) and elsewhere. And we are ever vigilant for future problems that might require our involvement.

These joint activities and engagements serve the cause of peace and uphold the principles of the United Nations. They make it more likely that we will achieve our common goals.

I know how carefully Ireland considers its overseas military deployments. I know as well that a UN mandate is one of the requirements not just as a matter of policy, but as a matter of law.

Let me assure you that Ireland's participation in EU military and civilian missions is fully compatible with its traditional support of the United Nations.

This is not a zero-sum game in which more support for one institution means less for the other. We are in this together.

There is no competition between the two. We share values and objectives and are on a welcome path of ever closer cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

That kind of solidarity is more important than ever today. These are times of trial. We are living through an era like no other.

There are multiple crises: Food. Fuel. Flu. Financial.

Each is a crisis that we have not seen for many years, even generations. But this time, they are hitting the world all at once.

And they are being compounded by the deeper challenges that predate these crises. Climate change. Weapons proliferation and security. The plight of the bottom billion of our fellow global citizens living in extreme poverty.

Ireland's engagement will be critical as we move ahead.

You have been hit hard by the economic crisis. But I am certain, on the basis of all that I have heard, that Ireland will not turn its back on globalization.

Your society and your economy have underlying and sustainable assets which remain the envy of many. You are taking steps to allow you to be well prepared to join and, indeed, to contribute to a global upturn when it materializes.

You have had to limit this year your overseas aid. But this has come after a decade of very strong growth. This has placed Ireland in the front rank of donor countries.

I am gratified that you remain committed to reaching the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP. I am confident that it will not be long before you resume your impressive levels of expansion.

And as your country continues to evolve internally, I am confident you will continue to keep the United Nations at the centre of your foreign policy.

You are an integral part of our mission to build a better world for all. Ireland's Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney captured that mission well when he wrote that we are striving for the day when, quote, “the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme”.

Thank you for everything you do to help reach that goal. I look forward to deepening our strong ties.

Thank you.