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"Ireland can play a leading role on UN Security Council"

"Ireland can play a leading role on UN Security Council"

This Wednesday (June 17), at the United Nations HQ in New York, member states will cast their vote to elect non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Ireland is battling it out with Norway and Canada for a two-year term, and if successful, it would be the fourth time since 1962 Ireland has served on the Council.

Whatever the outcome, for Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason and her team at the UN, the vote will mark the culmination of an extraordinary diplomatic campaign, one that has opened a space for reflection on the values of Ireland and what we as a nation want to see amplified at a global level.

It is a campaign that has taken place in a time of deep crisis for the world, with efforts to undermine and dismantle multilateralism at play. The task ahead for anyone who gains a seat at the table, daunting. 

At the launch of Ireland’s campaign two years ago, former President Mary Robinson reflected on her own experience of working within the UN system, ‘It is a hard, hard labour of love if you really love what the UN stands for and I think Ireland really does.’

In the two years since, the climate breakdown has deepened, humanitarian needs have escalated, hunger levels have risen at alarming levels, and now a global pandemic with the immediate prospect of a prolonged recession. Tough times indeed.

The possibility of positive change

Yet somehow, there may be more hope than before.

There is now a growing belief in the capacity for collective action to affect positive change.

The climate movement has gone mainstream, and ideas that seemed radical only a number of years ago have now become embedded in the public consciousness.

The astounding speed and scale at which the Black Lives Matter movement has brought people together in the wake of George Floyd’s death shows that we have not lost our compassion and belief in the need to seek justice and equality.

It is phenomenal to see such widespread condemnation of racism and solidarity with those who have suffered institutionalised inequality; the challenge now is to sustain and expand our awakened compassion.

Dominic MacSorley

That powerful, collective solidarity must be brought to bear where it is needed most - to ensure the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, the furthest behind, caught up in intractable conflict or crises, are prioritised at the highest levels of power.

With 168 million people in need of humanitarian assistance even before the pandemic, and the majority of this fuelled by conflict, there is a desperate need for leadership from non-aligned states at UN level.

In this respect, the great emphasis on solidarity in Ireland’s campaign is highly relevant, pragmatic and above all, authentic.

Ireland’s history of colonialism, conflict, famine and mass migration are experiences that have helped codify a solidarity with those who are experiencing suffering right now.

Geraldine Byrne-Nason with Dominic MacSorley
Geraldine Byrne-Nason with Dominic MacSorley. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

In its bid for the Security Council, Ireland has placed the values of empathy and independence front and centre in driving the right decisions on matters such as ensuring people caught up in conflict have access to essential services, protecting aid workers in conflict, and humanitarian exemptions to political sanctions.

From the perspective of humanitarian organisations on the ground, Ireland’s work in this area has been vitally important.

A long-time advocate of Security Council reform, particularly on the issue of African under-representation, Ireland has never been naïve enough to wait, instead finding ways to operate within a flawed system by bringing like-minded smaller states together for collective action.

It is grounded pragmatism and idealism that must be at the heart of an ambitious peace-making agenda, which after all was what the United Nations was founded for 75 years ago. In this respect, Ireland can contribute to the UN Security Council with authenticity.

Dominic MacSorley

The reality of conflict, hunger and peace making is what Ireland in 2020 has been built on.

John Hume, our most legendary peacemaker, once said that we must, ‘shape a future of change that will be truly radical and that will offer a focus for real unity of purpose: harnessing new forces of idealism and commitment for the benefit of Ireland and its entire people.’

We have peace in Ireland. We did not do it alone.

We have responsibility to harness the new forces of idealism and shape a global future of change, a peaceful, better world that could be truly transformative. I hope Ireland will play a leading role in that change.

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