Statement at the UNSC Open Debate on Reformed Multilateralism
Statement15 December 2022
Thank you your Excellency and I thank the Indian Presidency for organising this very important Open Debate. I also thank the Secretary General and President of the General Assembly for their briefings today and for their participation.
Just last week, we marked the 100th anniversary of and independent Irish state.
One of its first acts was to seek membership of the League of Nations. Ever since, Ireland has remained steadfast in its commitment to multilateralism and believes it remains essential to address the global challenges of today.
To sit at this table with the mandate of election by the General Assembly is both a great honour and a great privilege. And those of us lucky enough to do so should be frank enough, honest enough to admit that today multilateralism is struggling.
Here in this Chamber, charged with the critical mandate to maintain international peace and security, too often we are unable to rise to that challenge. During the last two years of our term we have seen:
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in clear violation of the UN Charter
a vetoed climate and security resolution
continued resistance to the Women, Peace and Security agenda
and no progress on realising a two State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite monthly discussions on this issue.
There is, therefore, much room for improvement.
Madam President, I would like to make three points. My first is that multilateral institutions, and the rules and norms that underpin them, must evolve to face the realities of today. Reform is never easy, but where there is political will, we have seen that it is achievable.
In April, we were pleased to be part of the core group of States, led by Liechtenstein, which brought the ‘veto initiative’ to the General Assembly. The adoption of that resolution was a significant step towards increased scrutiny of veto use, and indeed of this Council.
Last month in Dublin, the Political Declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas – known as EWIPA – was adopted by 83 states.
The Declaration is an important instrument that will help to protect civilians from explosive weapons.
And just last week, the Security Council adopted resolution 2664, which will help to ensure that humanitarians can continue their vital work without fear of inadvertently falling foul of UN sanctions regimes.
There are many other examples, but the lesson for this Council is clear — when we cooperate, when act in good faith, progress is possible, reform is possible, and new norms can be established.
Secondly, the Security Council itself is long overdue reform. This Council, as other speakers have said, simply does not reflect the world of today.
Ireland has worked in close partnership with our African colleagues and African partners on the Security Council. The historic and unjust underrepresentation of Africa on the Council must be addressed. Those that are most often the subject of Security Council discussions must have a meaningful representative say at this table.
But a more representative Council will not be enough. We must also change how the Council takes decisions.
Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is an affront to the principles on which this organisation was built. It is a violation of international law and the UN Charter, the very foundations of multilateralism.
But, as in so many other cases, the Security Council has been unable to respond to this outrage, due to the use or threat of the veto. This cannot continue. The veto is an anachronism. It prevents the Security Council from implementing its mandate. It allows aggressors to evade accountability.
The urgent calls for Security Council reform grow ever louder. They must not go unanswered. History will not judge us kindly if we allow this moment to pass. At a very minimum, all members of this Council, elected and permanent, should agree to refrain from blocking any draft resolution intended to prevent or stop mass atrocities.
Finally, Madam President, the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda offers a path forward.
Ireland will play an active role in its implementation. We look forward to working with partners on the New Agenda for Peace. And we also look forward to supporting efforts to get back on track towards sustainable development, notably by co-facilitating negotiations for the outcome of the SDG Summit next year in September.
Ultimately, however, reforms alone will not make multilateralism work. The responsibility rests with us, the Member States.
Ireland will finish its term on the Security Council at the end of this month. Over the past two years, we have seen how an absence of trust has prevented the Council from effectively implementing its mandate.
If Council members, and the permanent members in particular, deeply distrust each other, this body cannot hope to meet the immense challenges it faces. Member States will continue to have differing perspectives on many of the issues on the Council agenda.
But all the Council Members, permanent and elected, must find a way to work in genuine partnership, and good faith, so that the Council can act with the ambition and determination that are required of it today and the world calls on it to act today. Too often, we have seen narrow self-interest take precedence in this Council.
We have seen Council members block crucial decisions to protect themselves or their allies. Council members, whether permanent or elected, have reached this table in different ways.
But once we are here in this Chamber, we have a shared and collective responsibility to defend international peace and security. We must live up to that responsibility, not abdicate it.