228. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether it is time for the UN to regroup, reorganise and focus on the major trouble spots globally with a view to meeting the challenges of war, famine, ethnic cleansing, genocide and people trafficking; if steps are being taken to alert the global community with a view to addressing the issue in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18640/17 asked on 12 Apr 2017)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The number and scale of current humanitarian crises is shocking and presents an enormous challenge for the international community. In this respect the United Nations has recently been loudly sounding the alarm call. Its warning last month of its need for assistance in reducing the risk of starvation and famine in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and northeast Nigeria was a stark reminder of the problems confronting civilian populations in many parts of the world. And last week the UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, speaking at the Brussels Conference on supporting Syrians and the region, reminded us that the need for humanitarian aid and the protection of Syrian civilians has never been greater. Mr. Guterres added that the UN is determined to reach everyone in need through all possible means. He has made it clear more generally that conflict prevention and protection of civilians will be his priority during his term of office that started in January.

The UN has a vital role in promoting the resolution of armed conflicts which cause so much of the misery faced by civilian populations. It does this primarily through the UN Security Council which has, under the UN Charter, primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Ireland remains a strong supporter of the rules-based international system, with the UN at its centre. At the same time, we recognise that it must work better for the people whose lives it has been designed to protect and improve. It is clear that the Security Council must work with greater unity. It is also clear, as Ireland has consistently stated, that the Council needs to become more representative, more transparent and more efficient.

In 2015, the former UN Secretary General initiated three major review exercises which were aimed at improving the overall effectiveness of the UN’s response to conflict. The findings from the high level policy reviews on (1) UN Peace Operations, (2) Peacebuilding Architecture and (3) Women, Peace and Security were published and are in the process of being implemented. Each of these reviews offer recommendations on how the UN can improve and reform its functions and structures particularly in relation to the global challenge presented by conflict and war. Ireland engaged fully with all three reviews, calling for the recommendations to be discussed and implemented as part of our broader calls for UN reform.

Other efforts to increase the UN’s effectiveness in meeting its current challenges are ongoing. These include the development of a Global Compact on Refugees, arising from the High-Level Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants which took place at the UN in New York in September 2016, and which was co-facilitated by Ireland. The Global Compact will set out a framework to improve the way in which the international community responds to large movements of refugees and migrants, as well as to protracted refugee situations.

Discussions on improvements to the effectiveness and accountability of UN peacekeeping missions are also taking place at the UN, most recently in a UN Security Council thematic debate on 6 April at which UN Secretary General Guterres set out plans for a review process which will make recommendations on improvements to the UN’s peace and security architecture by June of this year.

Ireland is a consistent and strong contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping operations. It is in our interest for peacekeeping operations to receive clear, realistic and up-to-date mandates from the Security Council. We support the establishment by Mr. Guterres of a small Executive Committee at UNHQ to provide more coordinated planning, control and leadership of the UN’s operations and strategy. Progress in these areas can only help to address the humanitarian crises we currently face.

In addition to participating in the ongoing discussions and reviews, Ireland will continue to advocate for reform of the UN’s structures and systems to ensure that it is equipped to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century and fulfil its critical role in the maintenance of international peace and security.