Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has said that the veto of permanent members on the UN Security Council, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has undermined the body.
Simon Coveney said despite the “many” negatives, he believes Ireland has had a “sustained and positive impact” during its two-year term on the council.
He also said that Ireland was “in discussion” on the triple-lock mechanism, which has formed part of Ireland’s ramped up debate on defence and neutralit.
Ireland had campaigned and was voted to take up a position on the Security Council – a gathering of 15 countries aimed at preventing and resolving conflicts and wars across the world.
The council has received criticism in recent years for being a toothless debate club and not advancing peace or conflict in a fast or meaningful way.
This criticism was intensified when one of the five permanent members of the council, Russia, invaded Ukraine earlier this year and of the evidence of Russia repeatedly targeting civilians.
Speaking as part of an event organised by the IIEA think tank, Mr Coveney admitted that this was a “fundamental contradiction” of the council that undermined it.
He said: “You can focus on the negatives, and there are many… We have a Security Council member – a military superpower – deliberately targeting civilians on a daily basis and not even trying to disguise that.
“In many ways it’s a very fundamental contradiction that undermines the credibility of the Security Council.”
He said the power of a veto given to the five permanent members – Russia, the USA, China, France and the UK – also “undermines the credibility of the Security Council”.
He added: “I think a lot of that criticism is justified, I have to say. I think the veto fundamentally undermines the credibility of the Security Council, particularly when it’s abused, which it is, far too often.”
He said that Ireland would be supportive of a proposal where the veto would be restricted in cases of breaches of international humanitarian law.
He added: “I have to be honest, trying to get agreement at the moment, even on things you would think are directly related to the provision of peace and security – is difficult because of the tension between the five (permanent) member states.”
“Sometimes that tension extends to the other 10 as well,” he said, adding that removing the veto is “not realistic at the moment”.
On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr Coveney said: “I think this war has undermined the coherence within the Security Council in a fundamental way.”
Most crises that happen around the world involve the interest of the permanent members, he added.
“So today it’s Russia, but in future it could be another of the five states that has an interest in blocking interventions that may be necessary to protect people.”
He said that in the context of increased political uncertainty, Ireland’s triple-lock mechanism needs to be considered.
Under this mechanism, the approval of the Irish Government, the Dail and the UN must be given for Irish troops to serve on peacekeeping missions abroad.
“I think we need to think about the triple lock. I think we still need to have the reassurance in our decision making, that Ireland is thinking independently and is acting in a way that’s consistent with certainly the spirit of the UN mandate or something like that, but that’s something I’d like to explore with the with our foreign affairs committee, because I’d like to get… as close to an all-party agreement as I can.”
Mr Coveney said that despite tensions on the Council, Ireland had made progress on some of the priorities they had set out to achieve.
He said that Ireland worked with Mexico on the impact of conflict on women, with Nigeria on climate security issues, and with Norway on keeping a key aid gateway into northern Syria open.
On Syria, Mr Coveney remarked: “How has the world allowed conflict in Syria to last 14 years? It’s just an extraordinary stain… and when history is written, there’ll be a lot of criticism, rightly so, in terms of how Syria was allowed to float into conflict… I’m not sure anyone comes out of it too well.”
He cited Ireland’s work on a peacekeeping transition resolution passed that ensures certain conditions are in place before peacekeepers leave.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we have had a sustained and positive impact,” he said.
“We were close to the UK on the Security Council, we were very close to France, we were close to the US at times, we worked very closely with African countries, Kenya when they were there, Niger, when they were there.
“We’ve been a very strong voice on Palestine every month, there are some countries in the EU who have a very different taken on that, but I’d like to think we are consistent.”
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