Address on UN Peacekeeping
Author: Ban Ki-moon
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 07/07/2009
Dr. Brendan Halligan, Chairman, I.I.E.A.
Ambassador Noel Dorr
Professor Patrick Keatinge, Chair, I.I.E.A.
Ms. Jill Donoghue, D.G., I.I.E.A.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your warm welcome. It is a privilege to
join you in this magnificent setting.
What an appropriate place for us to gather.
This castle has served as a stronghold for centuries.
Today I want to speak about fortifications of a different
kind – the foundations we need to build for global peace and well-being.
This castle has seen so much history – successive
generations asserting their claim, ruling for a while, then giving way.
Today I want to talk about a different kind of history –
not of conquest, but rather the shared narrative we must write in an era of
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Every United Nations Member State has a moving story to
tell. Ireland’s is as moving as any other.
You have faced privation the likes of which few others
You have experienced political upheaval and unrest.
You have given us literature of lasting universal
We have enriched ourselves with the wisdom of George
Bernard Shaw, James Joyce and your latter day philanthropist, Bono!
Your sons and daughters were once more likely than not to
leave in large numbers to seek their fortunes elsewhere. They created a far-flung
In recent years, they are staying or returning as
Ireland, with grit and savvy and sound investments in itself, has moved to the
forefront of global achievement.
For a relatively small country, Ireland occupies a large
profile in the world’s awareness.
Your quality of life is the envy of many.
Your global engagement inspires admiration and respect.
And as I have seen first-hand, you are a dynamic presence
at the United Nations, across our agenda.
Global solidarity is part of Ireland’s identity.
Your history has enabled you to forge close ties with the
developing world. When the decolonization movement swelled the ranks of new
states, you were among the most active in welcoming them to UN membership.
You have been a bridge-builder ever since.
The world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries have
long been able to count on your generosity. So have a wide range of UN
You have been on the frontlines of disaster response. As
a country that has known profound hunger, you have helped millions of people to
avoid that fate.
Last year’s cluster munitions conference here in Dublin,
at which these inhuman weapons were banned, was just one example of your
leadership on disarmament and non-proliferation.
Irish personnel continue to serve with distinction
throughout the Organization.
My friend Mary Robinson, during her years as High
Commissioner, elevated human rights to new levels of global awareness. My close
advisor Patricia O’Brien brings an expert eye to many complex issues as my
You are a strong proponent of UN reform, helping us to
become a more efficient effective and coherent instrument of service.
And in achieving the great prize of peace in Northern
Ireland, you have given the world an inspiring example.
Over many years, Irish governments took risks for peace
that today are paying rich dividends. You showed that, for a peace process to
succeed, the main actors must assume responsibility in addressing the root
You know, as we know at the United Nations, that
addressing the underlying causes takes enormous resolve.
The successful Irish push for peace is a cause for
celebration. It is also a cause for emulation.
So it is no wonder that the Government and people of Ireland
work so closely with the United Nations at every stage of our efforts to save
people from the scourge of war. This is one of our most sacred
You share our wish to prevent conflict from erupting in
the first place, through mediation and brokering lasting solutions.
You are also doing your part, as a leading supporter of
the Peacebuilding Commission, to keep societies from lapsing back into conflict
as they emerge from it.
And of course, Ireland is famous throughout the world for
its contributions to UN peacekeeping.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Every day for more than half a century, an Irish soldier
has been walking point for peace under the UN’s blue flag.
Today, nearly 500 Irish men and women are stationed in
the Middle East and across Africa in support of UN-mandated missions. Your
contingent in Lebanon was justifiably renowned for its contribution to
stability in that country.
Ninety of your citizens have made the ultimate sacrifice
while rendering this vital service. I pay tribute to your fallen personnel.
And I express my deepest appreciation to Ireland for its
long-standing commitment to these operations, and to those being led by the
I know that EU operations are of great interest to you.
And indeed I have much to say on the subject. But let me first say a few words
about the broader context of peacekeeping in the 21st century.
The United Nations remains at the forefront of
international efforts to address international conflict. Demand for the
Organization’s services is at its highest ever.
We now have 16 peacekeeping operations and 27 special
political missions deployed around the globe, supported by 78,000 military
personnel, more than 11,000 police and more than 23,000 civilian staff.
It has been said that I command more deployed forces than
anyone in the world except for President Obama. Let me assure you that I do not
seek such status. Nothing would please me more than to bring everyone home,
safe and sound. But that is not the world we live in, try as we might to get
there. To borrow the words of your famous compatriot, William Butler Yeats,
“peace comes dropping slowly” in many of the places where the UN is called to
serve. However, despite this, we must rightly show patience and determination
in our quest to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people.
UN peacekeeping mandates are more complex and
multidimensional than ever before.
We are also the only organization that can deploy
comprehensive peace operations integrating military, police and civilian
As you know, peacekeeping has experienced serious
setbacks. Today we face mounting difficulties in getting enough troops, the
right equipment and adequate logistical support. Supply has not kept pace with
The global economic crisis could further limit our
ability to respond effectively.
And a number of missions struggle to operate amidst
stalled peace processes and ongoing violence.
These gaps and constraints should concern all of us.
They have led us at the United Nations to undertake what
we are calling a “new horizon” process for peacekeeping. We want our efforts to
be more cohesive. And we want a renewed consensus on the direction peacekeeping
We are talking to all stakeholders — the states that
authorize and mandate the missions, those that provide personnel, and other key
actors, Ireland included.
Many of you will be familiar with the Brahimi report that
was crucial in strengthening peacekeeping a decade ago.
With the new horizon effort, we want to build on those
advances, and go further still.
Already, we have improved our responses and partnerships.
But we want to do even more. Ireland is well positioned to help.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are many ingredients for successful peace
Clear mandates. Political, material and financial
Institutions that uphold the rule of law.
An active civil society. A rejection of violence in
favour of negotiation and compromise.
The list is longer still.
But a critical factor for success is the capacity of our
global Organization to work effectively with regional organizations.
Without their unique contributions, UN operations would
not achieve their goals and could fail entirely.
When the UN and regional organizations work together, we
can achieve much more than we might independently. There is real strength in
That is why we are doing so much to build up the capacity
of the African Union, including its AMISOM mission in Somalia. We are also
partners in Sudan.
The EU offers critical donor support for peacebuilding
and early recovery. It has well-developed capacities for crisis management,
humanitarian relief and rapid response. And of course, the EU can deploy
well-equipped missions as part of, or alongside, UN peacekeeping operations.
The recent deployment of the EU’s bridging operation in
Chad, known as EUFOR, under Irish leadership, followed by its transition to
MINURCAT, was a clear example of good cooperation under very demanding
circumstances. The beneficiaries have been tens of thousands of displaced
persons, who have received vital protection.
The United Nations is grateful to EU Member States,
including Ireland, for the re-hatting of their EUFOR troops to MINURCAT. This
step was vital for a smooth transition.
In Kosovo, cooperation between UNMIK and the European
Union has been exemplary. The reconfiguration of UNMIK allowed the European
Union, through EULEX, to play a more enhanced role. I am pleased to say that
the situation in Kosovo remains stable, although we must maintain a careful
watch on developments in the north.
Of course, there will always be challenges in the course
of demanding peacekeeping operations. This has proved to be the case in Chad
and Kosovo, as elsewhere. Both the United Nations and the European Union are
committed to meeting them.
We are also working together in Somalia, where the EU
will be providing protective escorts for UN vessels delivering a significant
support package to AMISOM.
We are partners in Afghanistan in this critical year for
that country. UNAMA, the UN operation, will be expanding its presence based on
security conditions. We welcome the EU’s commitment to strengthen its police.
Elections will be the next big test, and we are also grateful to the EU for its
intention to provide electoral observers.
The United Nations and the European Union are present
together in many other situations where UN peacekeeping might not be the
prescription, but where the international community has an on-the-ground role
in the maintenance of peace and security.
Our experiences have encompassed activities in Bosnia, Georgia,
Indonesia and elsewhere. And we are ever vigilant for future problems that
might require our involvement.
These joint activities and engagements serve the cause of
peace and uphold the principles of the United Nations. They make it more likely
that we will achieve our common goals.
I know how carefully Ireland considers its overseas
military deployments. I know as well that a UN mandate is one of the
requirements not just as a matter of policy, but as a matter of law.
Let me assure you that Ireland’s participation in EU
military and civilian missions is fully compatible with its traditional support
of the United Nations.
This is not a zero-sum game in which more support for one
institution means less for the other. We are in this together.
There is no competition between the two. We share values
and objectives and are on a welcome path of ever closer cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
That kind of solidarity is more important than ever
today. These are times of trial. We are living through an era like no other.
There are multiple crises: Food. Fuel. Flu. Financial.
Each is a crisis that we have not seen for many years,
even generations. But this time, they are hitting the world all at once.
And they are being compounded by the deeper challenges
that predate these crises. Climate change. Weapons proliferation and security.
The plight of the bottom billion of our fellow global citizens living in
Ireland’s engagement will be critical as we move ahead.
You have been hit hard by the economic crisis. But I am
certain, on the basis of all that I have heard, that Ireland will not turn its
back on globalization.
Your society and your economy have underlying and
sustainable assets which remain the envy of many. You are taking steps to allow
you to be well prepared to join and, indeed, to contribute to a global upturn
when it materializes.
You have had to limit this year your overseas aid. But
this has come after a decade of very strong growth. This has placed Ireland in
the front rank of donor countries.
I am gratified that you remain committed to reaching the
UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP. I am confident that it will not be long
before you resume your impressive levels of expansion.
And as your country continues to evolve internally, I am
confident you will continue to keep the United Nations at the centre of your
You are an integral part of our mission to build a better
world for all. Ireland’s Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney captured that mission
well when he wrote that we are striving for the day when, quote, “the longed
for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme”.
Thank you for everything you do to help reach that goal.
I look forward to deepening our strong ties.
Bio: Ban Ki-moon is Secretary General of the United Nations.