332. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he plans to meet the new UN Secretary General, Mr. António Guterres; the proposals he will raise with the Secretary General on the urgent reform and strengthening of the UN; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2881/17 asked on 24 Jan 2017)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I have written to Secretary General Guterres congratulating him on his appointment, and I look forward to meeting with him. I believe that his considerable national and international political experience and his familiarity with the work of the UN leave him well placed to address the challenges that face the organisation. Ireland welcomes the more transparent and open selection process which led to Mr Guterres’ appointment, and looks forward to working with him on our shared goals, including on UN reform.

In the seven decades since its foundation, the UN has been at the heart of significant global progress on a range of issues of importance to Ireland, including sustainable development, human rights, disarmament and conflict resolution. Ireland is convinced that the principle of multilateralism upon which the UN is founded, offers the best approach to tackle the complex and interconnected issues facing the world. However, we recognise that in addition to the UN’s many successes and achievements, there have also been failures. The ongoing crises in the Middle East and Africa illustrate clearly the urgent need for the UN to develop the capacity to respond more effectively to conflict.

Ireland welcomes Mr. Guterres’ identification of conflict prevention and the pursuit of sustainable peace as a core priority for his term in office. In our statement to the Security Council on 10 January, Ireland underlined our support for this approach. I believe there is a responsibility for the UN to focus more directly on the reason for its foundation – to prevent war, rather than to react to it once it has been waged. I look forward to discussing this subject with Mr. Guterres.

This prioritisation reflects the urgent need to respond to the causes of conflict which are at the root of the migration and humanitarian crises facing the world today, and is in line with Ireland’s approach to peace and security in our own foreign policy. We agree that the implementation of the recommendations of the three high-level reviews of the UN’s response to situations of conflict will serve as a useful first step in this regard. Ireland engaged fully with the reviews on (1) UN Peace Operations, (2) Peacebuilding Architecture and (3) Women, Peace and Security, and has called for the implementation of their recommendations as part of our advocacy for UN reform.

Ireland will also continue to advocate for reform of the UN Security Council. We believe that the UN Security Council must become more representative, more transparent and more efficient to ensure that the UN can respond appropriately to situations of conflict and mass atrocity. The blockages and inaction of the Council in recent years have greatly damaged its credibility and have resulted in disastrous consequences for people living in conflict zones. As a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group of states, Ireland advocates for reforms to the membership and working methods of the Security Council, including the use of the veto. We will continue to use this and other available fora to call for reform.

Ireland also welcomes Mr. Guterres’ commitment to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopted in 2015, these ambitious goals have the potential to transform our world by 2030. Their comprehensive and interconnected nature mean that the UN institutions and Member States will need to work in a more coordinated and collaborative manner than ever before in order to achieve success. Reform of UN structures and ways of working will be required.

The nature of much of the UN’s working environment, often in places of crises, armed conflict and underdevelopment, means that it faces challenges which most organisations do not have to face. In order to ensure that the UN addresses these challenges, the UN needs to be in a position to plan and respond as effectively as possible. In this respect, effective management of its financial and human resources is crucial. Ireland will support the new Secretary-General in his efforts to improve delivery and accountability both at UN Headquarters and in the field, including in peacekeeping operations.