Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video remarks to the Global Ireland Conference, in New York today:
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to address the Global Ireland Conference.
Ireland is a small country, but it has always punched above its weight on the world stage. It is a key member of the United Nations and is among the staunchest supporters of multilateralism. From the days of empire and famine to more recent experiences of conflict and Brexit, the people of Ireland understand the value of global cooperation and a fair international order.
Ireland’s election to the Security Council is testament to this fact. The theme of Ireland’s Security Council campaign, “Empathy, Partnership and Independence”, highlighted what is sorely lacking but so badly needed in the world today. Ireland not only talks the talk. You walk the walk.
We deeply appreciate your country’s uninterrupted commitment to United Nations peacekeeping. You may be one of Europe’s smaller countries, but you are one of its largest troop and police contributors. You are helping to demonstrate that, together, we can make a much-needed difference for the people we serve around the world.
Mediation and peacemaking are also among the key issues at the heart of the United Nations mandate, and at the heart of recent Irish history. I thank Ireland for being an active member of the Group of Friends for Mediation. I was saddened by the recent passing of my friend John Hume, who was such a towering figure in the peace process in Northern Ireland and an inspiration for mediators and peace talks everywhere.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the role that women have played in your own peace process, Ireland is also a trusted and long-standing global champion of women, peace and security, which is an issue at the top of our Organization’s agenda. Ireland was one of the first to adopt a national action plan and one of the very few to already be implementing it. Your country is also a strong advocate of increasing the number of women in peacekeeping operations. I am grateful that Ireland intends to champion the voice of women and their rights from its seat in the Security Council.
The Irish national experience and Ireland’s critically constructive eye have been invaluable in making the 2020 review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture a success. One of your own Ambassadors — Anne Anderson — played a key role in an earlier review, and this year’s review will benefit from her wisdom.
Ireland also has a proud tradition of supporting humanitarian aid globally. In 2019, Ireland was among the top 20 donors to United Nations-coordinated humanitarian responses.
You have an even longer history as one of the leading voices in the world on disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons. Indeed, the 1961 resolution leading to the creation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is still known as the “Irish Resolution”. More recently, Ireland has led the world in realizing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in 2017. Ireland has also spearheaded prohibitions on landmines and cluster munitions and has been at the forefront of efforts to address the devastating harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Defending human rights is also a hallmark of Ireland’s international engagement. I hardly need to remind you that your first woman president also went on to become the first female High Commissioner of Human Rights. Mary Robinson remains a key voice on the world stage today, fighting for climate justice. As a member of the Human Rights Council between 2013 and 2015, Ireland played a critical role in defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and human rights advocates across the world.
Also, in 2015, with the eyes of the world upon you, you became the first country to legislate same-sex marriage – by popular vote. I was moved to see the young people of Ireland embrace this cause. And to see the waves of Irish emigrants who came home to vote. What a great reminder of people power.
Let me close with another cause where we see the power and the voices of people bringing change. I am referring of course to the climate emergency. We will soon be past the point of no return on climate change. We must do more. I welcome Ireland’s leadership on mobilizing youth for last year’s Climate Action Summit and beyond, and your emphasis on the real and immediate challenges that climate disruption poses to peace and security.
I know you will use your time on the Security Council to advance this agenda. The world took note recently when your own highest court said that your national climate effort needs to be more ambitious. The same is true of so many countries, and the world will look to see what happens here.
Dear friends, I can think of no better words to conclude these remarks than those penned by Seamus Heaney:
I quote: “There’s a whole economy of kindness possible in the world; befriend a friend and the chance of it is increased and multiplied.” That is how I see the contribution of the Irish people to the global community. You have practised the economy of kindness. And that spirit of generosity and solidarity has multiplied, enriching our world.
I count on Ireland to use its tenure on the Security Council to find opportunities to continue its long tradition as a small but powerful leader on the world stage.