Statement by Minister for European Affairs Byrne to UN Security Council on Maintaining Peace
Statement06 January 2021
UN Security Council Open Debate on the
‘Challenges of Maintaining Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts’
6 January 2021
Statement by Minister of State, Thomas Byrne T.D.
Thank you for organising this important and timely debate, and let me congratulate Tunisia on your Presidency of the Security Council.
I also want to thank Secretary General Guterres, Chairperson Faki, and former President Johnson Sirleaf, for their very important contributions.
At the start, I wish to extend my condolences to the people of Niger, following the dreadful attacks on civilians there. My thoughts are with those who have been affected.
This is the first time that I am speaking at the Security Council since Ireland assumed its seat on 1 January.
Ireland takes the responsibility entrusted to us very seriously.
We will be an active member, and will use our efforts to ensure the Council fulfils its vital role in maintaining international peace and security.
Ireland has set three priorities for our term on the Council, which, I believe, go to the heart of today’s debate.
Indeed, our priorities are prerequisites for transforming fragile contexts – they are building peace, strengthening conflict prevention and ensuring accountability.
Let me first look at Building Peace.
In Ireland, we know from our own experience that peace is a process, not a single event.
So to save lives this Council must be proactive at every step of the process of building and maintaining peace. We need to heed early warnings of conflict and understand the underlying dynamics.
To save lives, a united Council must engage with all parties to promote dialogue, mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes. This is putting the UN Charter into practice.
The Council should draw on the resources available to it, not least the Peacebuilding Commission. Working with countries experiencing fragility, we can make a difference on the ground in building and sustaining peace.
We know from our lived experience in promoting peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland how peacebuilding efforts are stronger when they are inclusive.
So the full, equal and meaningful participation from the outset of women and youth – who are disproportionately affected by conflict – and of civil society in peace-making and peacebuilding initiatives, is essential for long-term peace.
United Nations Peacekeeping operations play a vital role in maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts, and creating space for political solutions.
But allow me to take this opportunity to remember those peacekeepers tragically killed in recent weeks, and to acknowledge all who have lost their lives on United Nations service in pursuit of peace.
I would also like to acknowledge the passing of Sir Brian Urquhart, who made an immense contribution to the United Nations, and to United Nations peacekeeping, over many decades.
Ireland brings to the table over sixty years of continuous service in UN peacekeeping and we will draw from our experience in this work.
To be fully effective, the mandates for these operations must be fit for purpose and properly financed, and with clear transition strategies at the end of the mandates.
On our theme of Strengthening Conflict Prevention, we believe that the Council must look beyond the traditional threats to international peace and security, to contemporary drivers of conflict and insecurity. These include climate change, competition for natural resources, violations of human rights, and social and economic inequality.
COVID-19 has shown us how major challenges can arise very quickly, and fundamentally affect lives and livelihoods on a global scale.
Changing weather patterns can contribute to fragility, and they drive conflict. In Somalia, the Sahel, and elsewhere, populations displaced by extreme weather events can be vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups, fuelling conflict.
But conversely, early action to address climate change delivers a peace dividend, building the resilience of communities and fostering social cohesion.
To undertake such action we need to improve coherence across the UN system, from the Security Council to the Peacebuilding Commission, to UN Country Teams, as well as with regional organisations. Ensuring that such linkages work in practice can save lives and improve stability. Preventing conflict, fostering stability and building sustainable peace is, for example, at the very heart of the EU’s engagement in fragile contexts across the world.
The African Union initiative ‘Silencing the Guns’ is a practical example of a strong regional response which, among its measures, addresses key drivers, such as the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
By understanding and addressing the root causes of conflict today, we are much more likely to prevent conflict from occurring tomorrow.
The Council should also be cognisant of how our actions can support the delivery of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
On Strengthening Accountability, our third priority, Secretary General Guterres has recently reiterated how vital accountable, inclusive and responsive governance is to building and sustaining peace.
Communities must have access to responsive and effective security and justice services, and inclusive and victim-centric transitional justice processes. We must redouble our efforts to end impunity for conflict-related sexual violence, and ensure holistic and survivor-centred approaches in addressing it.
Human rights violations are a root cause of conflict and insecurity, while a commitment to, and respect for, human rights is critical to ensuring peaceful, equitable and just societies.
There is power in prevention and, when crises occur, we must take early action to protect individuals and communities, as well as to protect and promote human rights law and international human rights.
Where violations occur, accountability is key to ensure there is no impunity for those responsible. It follows that it is necessary that this Council uphold the international rules-based system, upon which we all depend for our security and wellbeing, and that the Council’s own decisions are respected and implemented.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and my fellow countryman, John Hume, once reflected that, although ‘difference is the very essence of humanity,’ our shared humanity transcends our differences.
This is the solemn responsibility which we, around this virtual table, face: to recognise and value difference, but not to let it lead to division in our pursuit of international peace and security.
As we look to the next two years, Ireland will work with all partners on the Council, and with the wider UN membership, in an open and constructive spirit, to uphold the responsibility vested in this Council and to advance its vital agenda.
Thank you very much.