Address by Minister Cowen to Royal Irish Academy, Friday 16 November 2001 Part 2
The Crisis of 2001 - Values and Interests in the International System
Opening Address by Mr. Brian Cowen T. D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the 2001 Conference of the National Committee for the Study of International Affairs of the Royal Irish Academy Friday 16 November 2001.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Arab-Islamic world finds itself in a most acute situation in the post-11 September world. It is not surprising that on the streets of Cairo and Kuala Lumpur people remark on what they perceive as a dichotomy between the degree of urgency and the level of resources brought to bear on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, while the situation in the Middle East festers and deteriorates. It is ten years since the Gulf War, when similar refrains were heard in the Arab-Islamic world, that massive military resources were being deployed to implement UN resolutions against Iraq, while other Security Council resolutions dealing with the Middle East conflict were unimplemented.
There is a gap in understanding and trust between the West and the Arab-Islamic world. We can and must find ways to bridge that gap if we do not want it to be exploited again in ways that are detrimental to all our peace, security and prosperity.
I am wary of talk of clashes of civilisations. It has the lure of alliteration beloved of sub-editors and speech-writers, but it has a dangerous sub-text of civilisations being superior or inferior to each other and of conflict being inevitable. There is one civilisation. It is the human race. We may have different languages and cultures and societies. We may have had different historical experiences and differing levels of wealth and want, but at its most basic, it is what we have in common, the values and interests that can meet the needs of our own people and the rest of the human family, that are most important.
In the weeks since 11 September the situation in the Middle East has degenerated further. I was on the road to Gaza on 11 September to meet President Arafat as word came through of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. President Arafat , though visibly shaken,
was absolutely clear in his condemnation of the attacks on the United States. He was also clearly concerned that the suffering of his people should not be used as an excuse or justification for what had happened. He has been consistent ever since in holding to this position.
It is clear to all that the Middle East conflict has been a major fault-line in international peace and security for far too long now. Every effort must be made to break the cycle of violence and bring the parties back to negotiations. The Taoiseach underlined this when he met with President Bush in Washington last week, and it was a constant theme running though EU Ministerial meetings I attended this week en marge of the UN General Debate, including with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, and bilateral meetings I had with a number of foreign ministers.
Here in Ireland we have learned a lot from our own voyage towards peace. We have put in place new constitutional and institutional arrangements, which fully recognise and respect the legitimacy of both political traditions on the island of Ireland. We have established the primacy and full relevance of politics in peoples lives in Northern Ireland. We do not pretend, of course, that we have found a solution that has universal application - we know too well how local and individual conflicts can be. But, through our own process of trial and error, we have learned lessons and established principles that may be useful in resolving conflicts in other parts of the world. From our own experience, we would identify the most important elements of any truly sustainable peace process as follows:
• There can be no purely military solution. A lasting settlement must always address the root causes of conflict.
• Compromise is essential. Recognising that extremism breeds in the absence of reason, conflict resolution demands that we rehabilitate the concept of compromise. In the context of effective political dialogue and the peaceful resolution of disputes, peacemakers should not regard compromise as representing appeasement or surrender, victory or defeat. Neither does compromise necessarily require splitting the difference between the parties. A lasting agreement must be comprehensive and address all issues of concern, even if the parties might agree to deal with them in different time frames.
• Those in favour of peace in each community must work together - even in the face of hostility from the enemies of the peace process in their own community. They must stick together in adversity. They must avoid excessive and damaging criticism when mistakes are made, as they inevitably will be. They must be prepared to face down the enemies of peace together.
• The international community must support the peace process in a balanced and objective way.
• A successful process needs a route map, such as those already prepared by Mitchell and Tenet in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also needs a mechanism to arbitrate on who is meeting, and who is not meeting, their commitments under any such agreements.
• Those driving the peace process must rise above the politics of the last atrocity. This is an attitude which, while understandable in terms of domestic opinion, is ultimately bereft of vision and hands control over progress to the enemies of the process. There is a particularly compelling message here for those charged with advancing the peace process in the Middle East.
As I have already said, there is no "one size fits all" solution to conflict. I do believe however that, if these principles were to be applied in certain other conflict situations, they could make a significant contribution to the achievement of peace and political progress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Where stands Ireland in the post-11 September world? What of our values and interests in these uncertain times ?
Ireland's position has been steadfast and clear: we stand with the United States and with the rest of the international community in asserting that the barbarism of 11 September cannot be allowed to succeed; that the threat posed by international terrorism must be permanently ended; that there must be a total commitment by all Governments to this task, with all the energy and resources at our disposal.
My Government hopes that the military campaign now underway will achieve its objectives in as short a time-frame as possible. Every effort must continue to be made to spare civilian casualties. And it is crucial that the military campaign be accompanied by a visible and effective humanitarian strategy. The long suffering people of Afghanistan deserve no less. There must also be a concerted international effort, coordinated by the United Nations, to assist the people of Afghanistan in establishing a broad-based government, representative of all the ethnic groups which make up the country. This must be accompanied by a comprehensive and generous programme of support for the post-military rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. The international community must stay engaged once a representative government is established there.
Action against terrorism must be pursued, resolutely, across a wide front and over a sustained period.
The peace and security which we crave for ourselves and for future generations will not be secured unless we simultaneously tackle the root causes of conflict; injustice, poverty and the abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms. In undertaking this necessary endeavour we must be honest and realistic. With retributive justice must come distributive justice.
Heads of State and Government have already agreed a comprehensive plan to this end. Last year's UN Millennium Declaration confirmed the public commitment of the world's leadership to resolving also the root causes of conflict. The United Nations was created out of the determination to tackle conflict and its causes. As the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out last week, “none of the issues that faced us on September 10th has become less urgent”.
We must act more resolutely through the United Nations, with sustained commitment and sustained determination, to address this equally urgent agenda. We must implement with determination all UN Security Council resolutions.
We must act much more effectively to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
We must improve the working of the United Nations by making it more efficient, adaptable and joined up. In the words of the Secretary-General this week, let us ensure that when the UN acts, “only the best is good enough”. Only in this way will the United Nations and its member States succeed in overcoming the massive challenges which now confront us.
In addressing this comprehensive agenda, we must not relax our efforts on human rights. We must always assert the centrality of human rights, the dignity and worth of the human person, and the equal rights of men and women. We must not equivocate on any of these principles. And in pursuit of this, Ireland looks forward to the imminent establishment of the International Criminal Court, and appeals for its universal recognition.
Violent conflict and internal strife are the reality of daily life in many regions and countries across the world today - the Middle East, the Great Lakes region of Africa and many other places, such as Sudan, where people are being killed and maimed. Ireland has worked hard since joining the Security Council last January to focus on the need to address these and other conflicts. We have given particular attention to Africa and to the efforts, frequently African-led, to solve the many conflicts there. We have consistently sought to highlight the humanitarian aspects of the various situations coming before the Council. We were particularly gratified during our Presidency of the Security Council last month to have presided over substantial discussions on Somalia, and on the UN's support for post-independence East Timor.
We must equally give priority to achieving sustainable development and meeting the humanitarian challenges that confront us. The UN's State of the World Population 2001 report, published last week, reminds us that half the world's 6.1 billion people still exists on less than $2 per day and forecasts that the world's population will rise by 50% to 9.3 billion by 2050. Is it acceptable that over 3 billion people are today living in total and abject poverty, while the developed world is struggling to come to terms the problems of over consumption and environmental pollution? Are we prepared to accept that there will be over 6 billion people living in poverty by 2050?
We want to see every Government set out its commitment to reach the target of 0.7% of GNP for development assistance within the next five years. Ireland has already made it clear that it will deliver on its commitment in this regard and will increase our ODA budget by over $100 million next year to keep on track towards this target.
We must reassess the sustainable debt levels and provide additional relief to the heavily indebted poor countries of sub Saharan Africa who will suffer hardest in the present economic downturn.
We must redouble our efforts to overcome a HIV/AIDS pandemic which is killing over 6,500 people per day in Africa and which has already orphaned over 9 million children on the continent. The Declaration of Commitments agreed at the UN General Assembly Special Session in June has established the framework and the targets. It now has to be financed and implemented.
We must work harder together to prevent climate change devastating poor and vulnerable countries.
These are our values and our interests. In today's world of globalisation and technological advance, we have the wherewithal and the resources to implement this agenda, and we know that the alternative is not acceptable. The crisis of 2001 can, and should be a wake-up call that leads us into an improved era of international relations to the benefit of all.