Statement by Minister Coveney at UNSC Open Debate on Regional and Subregional Organisations
Statement19 April 2021
I would like to thank Viet Nam for organising today’s debate, highlighting the critical need to co-operate in support of conflict prevention and resolution.
Like others, I also offer my solidary to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
I would also like to thank Secretary General Guterres, and former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who have spoken eloquently about the unique partnerships between the UN and regional organisations.
I welcome the adoption of a Presidential Statement on this important issue.
In Ireland, we do not have to look far beyond our shores to see the impact of regional organisations in building and sustaining peace.
From the ashes of the Second World War, the European regional experiment became a reality.
Across the European neighbourhood, the contribution of regional co-operation to coherence, stability and growth is felt on a daily basis.
Referring to the architects of today’s European Union, the Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland, John Hume, said they “…spilt their sweat, and not their blood, and by doing so broke down the barriers of distrust of centuries…”
This experience also informed the journey towards peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.
Partnerships built at local, regional and international levels led to and continue to underpin the success of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.
Drawing on this experience, and learning from the EU and other regional organisations, I would like to make three points today.
The first is that regional organisations can bring a unique understanding to ensuring that confidence-building measures are inclusive and context-specific.
Regional organisations, through their work in promoting cooperation and engagement among their members, are themselves powerful examples of confidence building.
The European Union put building bridges between people at the centre of its approach to supporting peace on the island of Ireland. They literally built and funded a bridge in one of the conflict areas.
The aptly named EU PEACE cross-border funding programme, for example, focused on the creation of constructive human relationships across all layers of society including survivors, young people, and women’s groups.
Looking across the world, we see examples of regional organisations successfully applying contextual knowledge to address challenges to peace and security.
Recently, this Council’s Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security heard about the important work of UNOWAS and ECOWAS on climate-related risk assessments in West Africa.
I underline Ireland’s strong support for the OSCE continuing efforts in Ukraine. The commitment of all sides to the principles of the OSCE must be upheld.
By enhancing engagement with regional organisations, this Council can draw from country and thematic experience, built on local understanding and expertise.
This brings me to my second point – that regional organisations can and must work together in support of the UN, and that regional approaches to confidence-building measures and dialogue require sustained investment over time.
The EU-UN partnership in the area of peace operations and crisis management is a good example.
Just as we are committed to UN peacekeeping missions across the globe, Ireland is proud to have members of our Defence Forces participating in EU Common Security and Defence Policy operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mali and the Mediterranean.
All these Missions operate in support of UN Security Council resolutions.
Irish experts are also currently serving in EU civilian CSDP missions in eight countries.
Trilateral co-operation has also proved effective in a number of areas.
The EU, through Operation Althea, mandated by this Council, works closely with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to promote stability in the European neighbourhood.
Similarly, through Operation Atalanta in Somalia, the EU cooperates with the UN and African Union to leverage local and international skills and experience.
These strategic partnerships allow each organisation to engage more effectively and to ensure real and targeted impact on the ground; which is what really matters
The recent establishment of the European Peace Facility will enable the EU to contribute to the financing of military peace support operations and assistance measures globally.
The EPF will, for example, support the increasing role in peacekeeping played by the African Union and sub-regional organisations to prevent, mediate and settle conflicts on the African continent.
I also commend the African Union’s efforts to increase the effectiveness of the African Peace and Security Architecture.
ASEAN, meanwhile, continues to play a key role in its region. I welcome the recent progression to a strategic partnership between the EU and ASEAN.
This demonstrates the shared commitment between our two organisations to a rules based international order and effective multilateralism.
ASEAN can and should play an important role in an issue that concerns all of us - ensuring the protection of human rights, and facilitating dialogue and a peaceful solution to the current crisis in Myanmar.
We look towards the upcoming ASEAN Summit and are hopeful of a tangible outcome. This would be a positive manifestation of the potential of regional organisations the likes of which we are discussing here today.
There is scope here for the strengths of the UN and ASEAN to align.
My final point is that peace is made by people.
By courageous individuals like Monica McWilliams and Pearl Sagar, who worked on a cross-community basis to ensure women’s representation in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
We have learnt that to be sustainable, peace must be inclusive.
Regional organisations have a vital role to play in giving space to grassroots and community actors, and in elevating the voices of civil society.
We see the invaluable role of regional women’s mediator and peacebuilding networks, particularly in conflict-affected contexts. Groups such as FemWise Africa and the Arab Women Mediators Network are showing the way for all of us.
There is more that we can do – on this Council, within UN-led peace processes, and through the work of regional organisations to ensure that women are both in the room and at the table when decisions are made.
We must also ensure that the voices of young people, too often marginalised, are both heard and heeded.
Primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security rests with this Council.
Strengthening cooperation between the UN and regional organisations enhances our ability to prevent and resolve conflict, and to advance the broader goals and objectives of the UN Charter.
We are, as we know, already doing much together.
Let us commit to realising the full potential these unique partnerships have to offer.
Thank you very much.