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.
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.
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.