Distinguished Deputies and Senators of the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be visiting Ireland and especially to have this opportunity to come before the representatives of the Irish people.
Let me first thank you for your global citizenship. Ireland's contributions span the international agenda –and have done so for years.
Ireland recently marked half a century of participation in UN peacekeeping. We are grateful for your engagements in Chad, Kosovo and elsewhere. Let me stress again, as I did this morning, that your efforts in missions led by the European Union are fullyin keeping with your commitment to the United Nations.
You were equally early in your support for disarmament, and helped bring the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty into being. More recently, you played an important role in achieving a global ban on cluster munitions.
You are a key back of the Peacebuilding Commission, and of efforts to focus more attention on mediation and conflict prevention.
And Irish nationals continue to serve with distinction throughout the United Nations. Mary Robinson helped raise the profile of the office of the High Commission for Human Rights. Patricia O'Brien is my principal legal adviser today. And John Ging, our humanitarian director for Gaza, was the very face of the United Nations during the hostilities earlier this year. So we are very proud of the work your people are doing.
Let me also stress the importance of your role, too. Parliamentarians occupy an increasingly important position in the international arena.
Through your legislative power, you can give domestic meaning to international standards and agreements.
Through your power of the purse, you can put resources behind global causes.
And through your deliberations, you can set an example of dialogue, democracy and the peaceful resolution of differences.
Moreover, since most of today's major challenges have an international dimension, you can be a vital link between the global and the local. You can bring to your constituents a sense of how global trends and circumstances affect their daily lives. In the same vein, you can bring local concerns into the international arena.
That is why the United Nations has made a pointed effort in recent years to open its doors to parliamentarians.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now say a few words about where we need your help today, and then we can open the floor for discussion.
First, climate change. This is one of the greatest collective challenges we face. Emissions are rising and the clock is ticking.
In December, the world's governments will gather in Copenhagen to negotiate a new global climate agreement. I am concerned that not enough is being done to respond to the scientific urgency of the situation.
All countries need to do more. But developed countries, in particular, have a historical responsibility to lead by example, and to cut their own emissions while helping developing countries with mitigation and adaptation.
I urge you to do all you can to help governments seal the deal in Copenhagen.
Second, the economic crisis. This has affected every part of the world, including Ireland, and the impact could stretch for years. Around the world, millions more families are being pushed into poverty. 50 million jobs could be lost this year alone.
The crisis disproportionately impacts the poorest and most vulnerable. That is why I have underscored the importance of delivering on pledges of aid to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Ireland's long tradition of generous aid and support for development and UN agencies in particular has helped to save and transform lives. You have helped subsistence farmers increase farm productivity. You have funded universal access to primary education and invested in maternal health. You have proved that aid works. And you know that this is not charity, but rather an imperative for global well-being and peace.
I know that aid has contracted recently as a result of the global economic crisis. But I have also been heartened to hear from Irish officials that this is just a temporary decline, and that your commitment to reaching the 0.7 per cent aid target by 2012 –three years ahead of the EU and MDG timetables. I have been urging all Governments around the world to uphold their aid commitments, and I bring that appeal to you, too. We cannot abandon the poor and vulnerable at a time such as this.
Finally, we will continue to need your help in strengthening the United Nations itself. Our times demand a renewed multilateralism. And that requires a revitalized United Nations. This has been my commitment from day one.
The multilateral structures created generations ago must be made more accountable, more representative and more effective.
That is why I have worked hard to maintain budget discipline. I have signed management compacts with senior managers. I've established an ethics office with wide-ranging scope. I am creating a more mobile workforce.
This may sound arcane to some. But it is the kind of nuts and bolts reform we need that will build a better instrument of service.
Ireland has strongly backed these efforts, including our aim to “deliver as one” through joint planning, funding and implementation.
Ambassador Kavanagh in New York has played a critical facilitating role on system-wide coherence that has generated real momentum for change. Pilot programmes supported by Ireland are beginning to yield results. You really are one of our reform's main champions, and I am grateful for backing me on one of my main priorities.
Finally, it is good to know that Ireland continues to place the United Nations at the centre of its foreign policy. Across our agenda, Ireland “punches above its weight”. You are showing that a country does not have to be big and powerful to play an invaluable role at the United Nations. And you are showing the value of global solidarity during these troubled times.
I look forward to deepening our partnership.
A thousand thanks to you all –or, as you might prefer to say it, “Go raibh míle maith agaibh”.