Dáil debates

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Priority Questions.

Official Engagements.

3:00 pm

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his recent attendance at the UN World Summit in New York; if he will further report on the failure to reach agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27215/05]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach and I, along with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Conor Lenihan, represented Ireland at the UN World Summit 2005 in New York from 14 September to 16 September. I was honoured to act on behalf of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, as one of five envoys helping to do the groundwork for a summit outcome that would reinforce the multilateral system and enhance the capacity of the United Nations to address the threats and challenges of the 21st century.

The Secretary General's recommendations for a decision at the summit were based on the premises that without development there can be no security, without security there can be no development and without respect for human rights there can be neither. While the summit outcome did not contain everything we would have wished, it nonetheless contains important commitments and agreements on critical issues in these areas. It also sets out a programme of reform of the United Nations, and its secretariat, to better equip it to meet today's challenges and help enhance political and public confidence in the organisation.

The outcome unequivocally commits states to the millennium development goals. Donor countries agreed to step up efforts on official development assistance, financing for development, and debt. Developing countries are committed to ensuring the effective use of assistance through sound development policies, good governance and the rule of law. The imperative to meet the special needs of Africa and to combat HIV-AIDS and other communicable diseases was acknowledged.

As Deputies will be aware, the Taoiseach in his address to the summit committed Ireland to reaching the UN official development assistance target of 0.7% of GNI by 2012, which is three years ahead of the EU target, and to reaching an interim target of 0.5% by 2007.

The summit reached important decisions in the area of security. It reaffirmed the authority and primary responsibility of the Security Council to mandate coercive action. It supported the efforts of the European Union and other regional bodies to develop peace support capacities. The significant decision to establish a peace-building commission by the end of this year will help countries emerging from conflict to avoid a return to strife.

The General Assembly has been mandated to complete and adopt a counter-terrorism strategy on the lines proposed by the Secretary General and to conclude without delay the negotiation of a comprehensive international convention on terrorism.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

Leaders reaffirmed universal human rights and agreed on the need to strengthen the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. The collective acknowledgment of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity is an important concrete achievement of the summit. Leaders decided to double the budget of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to enable it better to assist states to implement their obligations to their citizens. The summit decided in principle to establish a human rights council to replace the Commission on Human Rights and to complete negotiations on its establishment as soon as possible. A key concern for Ireland is that the positive aspects of the Commission on Human Rights, particularly the involvement of civil society, should be preserved. The summit also supported the Secretary General in his efforts to strengthen the UN's secretariat and management, and invited him to make further proposals in this regard.

In light of these valuable and far-sighted commitments and decisions, it is deeply disappointing that the outcome is silent on disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and on the need to strengthen the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT. The UN Secretary General has described this failure as "inexcusable". The Taoiseach made it clear at the summit that he agreed with him, as did I at the General Assembly. Efforts to strengthen and ensure respect for all the provisions of the NPT, which remains the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, must remain our highest priority as we pursue the twin and mutually reinforcing aims of disarmament and non-proliferation.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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There was not a mention of the issue I raised in my question, namely, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the failure to reach agreement thereon. I offer my sympathy to the Minister because of the fact the summit was such a disappointment, despite his best efforts as a special envoy for Kofi Annan. The opportunity of a generation has been squandered because there was no agreement on reform of the Security Council, the five members of which can still veto any reform. There was no agreement on debt crisis management, except an acknowledgement that the issue has not been resolved. There was no agreement on trade reform, which has been left for the conference in Hong Kong.

One of the most serious failures is that there was no agreement at all on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Does the Minister agree that the failure in this area is most serious in that it is almost inevitable that nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of elements that owe nothing to democracy or the democratic system? Does he agree that, at some future date, the failure to reach agreement will mean that democratic states will be open to blackmail or threats? Does he agree there is a double standard to the effect that some countries regard themselves as the pillars of democracy while they continue to develop nuclear programmes? These countries are making open and threatening noises towards certain countries about whose nuclear programmes I have reservations but which have the right to develop nuclear energy in a peaceful way.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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If I had time to complete my reply, I would have dealt with the issue of non-proliferation. Both the Taoiseach and I referred in our separate addresses to the fact we were very disappointed about the lack of an outcome in respect of the NPT. At a previous review conference on the NPT some months ago, I addressed the General Assembly on behalf of Ireland and referred to the fact that the original treaty was called the Irish treaty. Ireland was the first country asked to sign it. The treaty was, in effect, the brainchild of a predecessor of mine, the former Fianna Fáil Minister Frank Aiken. I said at the UN General Assembly and privately to Kofi Annan that Ireland is ready, willing and able to assist in the continuing efforts to achieve an outcome regarding this issue. As the Deputy may know, there will be a discussion in the General Assembly on all these issues, particularly at the first committee which refers to disarmament and non-proliferation.

I do not accept what the Deputy said on the lack of achievement and my involvement in this matter. I was asked specifically to get the European Union to back the proposals so other blocs and countries might follow a similar path. The European Union was the leader in these reforms in respect of the entire remit of the proposals. It is true that there was disagreement at EU level regarding the Security Council, just as there was in every other bloc and area. This is ultimately a matter for the nation states. Members may question the Irish position regarding the Security Council but the decision we took was vindicated. If I had come down on one side or the other, particularly while wearing my hat as UN envoy, it would have placed me in a somewhat invidious position in view of the fact that Kofi Annan had said, time and again, that neither he nor his envoys should involve themselves in the discussion on the Security Council given that the decision thereon was entirely a matter for member states. If we had concentrated on the Security Council, as some states did, it would have been to the detriment of the other topics, which were far more important to ordinary human beings.

I do not accept that there were no achievements. There was a very dramatic achievement regarding the peace-building commission. Ireland was a great supporter of this from day one. A complete commitment was made regarding the millennium development goals, which surprised some people. A further dramatic achievement included the commitment to abolish the Commission on Human Rights in favour of a human rights council, which I believe will happen over time. Further progress was made regarding the responsibility to protect principle, which in effect means the types of incidents we saw in Rwanda and Srebrenica will not happen again. I therefore do not accept what Deputy Allen stated. There was a good outcome. As the new President of the General Assembly, a Swede called Jan Eliasson, stated, the achievement of the outcome is a bridgehead for further development regarding all these issues.