Statement by Amb Byrne Nason at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Reconciliation
Speech19 November 2019
Open Debate on Reconciliation
19 November 2020
Statement by Ireland
Thank you Mr President.
Reconciliation is a critical issue for this Security Council to address. As we have said before in this Chamber, peace is a process, not an event. Silencing the guns is fundamental, but does not, of itself, bring societies together. Almost always, there follows a long process of acknowledging past wrongs, rebuilding trust, and preparing for a shared future.
Ireland’s understanding of reconciliation is shaped most profoundly by our own Peace Process, founded on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which brought to an end some 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland, and where the work of protecting the peace and furthering reconciliation continues today.
The Irish and UK Governments work in partnership within the framework of the Agreement, which commits all parties to “the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust, and to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all.”
True reconciliation is surely at the heart of all successful Peace Processes.
There can be little doubt that reconciliation in itself is not an easy process. We have also learned that to be successful it must be inclusive.
One of the key women involved in building peace in Northern Ireland, Avila Kilumurray, spoke recently of the importance of the work of local women’s community groups. Groups like the Foyle Women’s Information Network and the Training for Women Network in Northern Ireland. Their brave efforts in their own communities to build shared understanding has been key to building trust in the ongoing road to reconciliation.
It is precisely because we know the value of local community efforts to build reconciliation that the Irish Government set up the Reconciliation Fund in 1982. Last year this fund supported 153 non-governmental organisations, community groups, and voluntary organisations to promote reconciliation and to create better understanding between people and traditions, both on the island of Ireland, and between Ireland and Britain.
The International Fund for Ireland was established in 1986 by the UK and Irish Governments, as an independent body to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation across the island of Ireland. The IFI continues its essential work as part of our peace-building framework to this day. It has benefitted from support from international partners including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union.
As with achieving a peace agreement, the deeper subsequent task of reconciliation can be significantly assisted through the support, perspective and cross-learning of committed international partners.
While progress has been made on so many fronts in our own Peace Process, the reality is that challenges and obstacles still remain.
While no two conflict situations are the same, it can be useful to share experiences of reconciliation, from local processes and dialogues, to national truth commissions. The United Nations should work to capture and share these experiences across contexts and across continents. Ireland supports principled and locally-sensitive approaches to accountability and reconciliation, which work to maximise peace and justice and guarantee victims’ rights and also incorporate a critical analysis of the context in which the conflict occurred.
Too often reconciliation is left as the last issue once the immediate violence has stopped and when the attention of the international community has turned elsewhere.
In particular, we see that in transitions from UN peacekeeping operations, it is important to systematically ensure we have a focus on supporting continued reconciliation efforts at all levels. We believe this can be done through strengthened support for UN Country Teams, through engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission, and through support for the UN Peacebuilding Fund.
This Council too can and must do more. As the Sustaining Peace resolutions pointed out, investment in peace requires a cross pillar approach. For that, reconciliation is a critical element. Putting resources behind that work is a necessary and worthwhile investment. We urge the Council to play its role.
As an aspiring member of this Council for 2021-2022, we look forward to having a chance to play our part in this work.