Strengthening the UN: Cowen Commits Ireland to the Fight for Peace and Development

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., has pledged that Ireland will work with other States to strengthen the United Nations and ensure more effective methods for pursuing the fight for peace and development. Speaking at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, he said that Ireland will bring its experience of peace building and development to the Security Council if it is elected to the Council next month.

In a wide-ranging address to the 55th UN General Assembly, the Minister reminded Foreign Ministers from around the globe of Ireland's proud record of peace-keeping in many areas of the world and urged them to give the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and his staff the means to carry on the job. "If the UN is to save lives, it must be capable of deploying into conflict areas rapidly. This", he said, "requires rapid decision making".

Last May Ireland and the 6 other members of the New Agenda Coalition secured a commitment to the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals by the five nuclear weapons States. In a reference to that achievement the Minister said tonight that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) represents a clear obligation to make nuclear disarmament a reality. "Let us not be lulled into complacency because we have reached agreement on a programme of action", he said. "Progress is primarily dependent on action by the five nuclear weapons States. For our part, Ireland and our partners in the New Agenda Coalition are determined to work vigorously for the achievement of this goal."

Minister Cowen said that the Taoiseach's announcement last week that Ireland will increase its development aid four-fold over the next seven years and meet the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2007 will be both a test and a reflection of the Government's commitment to the values and principles agreed by the world's leaders at the Millennium summit. "This will greatly increase our ability to make a real impact on the lives of some of the poorest people on earth", he said. The Minister also stressed the need for speed in delivering results from the Enhanced Debt Initiative. Stating that one of the greatest challenges to development is the spread of HIV/AIDS, he said that the fight against HIV/AIDS is now an integral part of all Irish development activities.

The Minister stressed that respect for human rights is central to the maintenance of peace and the promotion of development but acknowledged that racism, racial tension, xenophobia and intolerance persist in all societies. He said that the solemn declaration , "Tolerance and Diversity - A Vision for the 21st Century", of which Ireland was one of the first signatories, will have very positive impact on next year's World Conference Against Racism.

On Northern Ireland, the Minister gave a lengthy report to the Assembly on progress over the last twelve months in the peace process and in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Policing", he said, "is a vital part of the new dispensation we are striving to create in Northern Ireland. All sides of the community want to see an effective, accountable policing service to which they can give allegiance and which young people, whatever their background, can join. The Agreement promised a new beginning in this area and the Patten Report set out how it can be achieved. It is now crucially important that the legislative proposals, currently before Parliament at Westminster, secure that outcome."

He also said that "we need to see continued progress towards security and justice arrangements appropriate to a society in which peace will become the norm, and to see the question of arms resolved for all time. To this end, we have made great strides forward in recent months".

"Our task in the peace process has always been more than the putting in place of a new set of institutions and arrangements", he said and called for "patience, persistence and perseverance" in overcoming the divisions of the past and building a better future for all of the people of Ireland.

"On both sides, there are still small groups of dissidents prepared to use violence to bring down the Agreement and to frustrate the democratically expressed wishes of the people. They have nothing to offer and they will not be allowed to succeed."

Mr. Cowen is expected to re-affirm Ireland's commitment to peace-keeping when he meets the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, next Monday and by the end of his visit to New York he will have lobbied up to 70 Foreign Ministers as part of Ireland's campaign to secure a seat on the UN Security Council.


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