Republic pushes to be voice for small states on UN Security Council
President ‘a beacon’ in long Irish campaign for position allocated in June 17th vote
To secure a seat on the UN Security Council which has five permanent and 10 temporary members, Ireland needs 129 votes from the 193 members in the secret ballot. File photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
Ireland, Norway and Canada are competing for two seats on the council from 2021-2023 and the world’s ambassadors to the UN will give their countries’ votes in person at UN headquarters in New York on June 17th.
To secure a seat on the council which has five permanent and 10 temporary members, Ireland needs 129 votes from the 193 members in the secret ballot.
The final push is under way in a campaign that officially began in 2005 when Ireland declared an interest and it has intensified in the past two years. All efforts have now moved online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Part of the campaign has been on focused on small states and on history.
“Many member states realise that we were never a colonial power, we were colonised,” according to senior diplomatic sources. “We’ve had the experience of famine and hunger and many of the member states are in the developing world and we bring this voice.
“We’ve transitioned out of being a poorer country into a much wealthier country but we brought that voice, that experience with us.”
Contemporary issues in the Republic’s campaign include the State’s overseas aid programme. The decision to quadruple Ireland’s contribution to the World Health Organisation when the US announced it was withholding funding also did not go unnoticed.
The State’s role in UN peacekeeping missions is also a focus with the Defence Forces having served continuously since 1958.
Canada’s media has been engaged in a debate over the country’s stop-start role in UN missions and the country’s late entry to the race in 2016, which may favour Ireland.
The State is also flagging the UN sustainable development goals which were negotiated by the Republic and Kenya and will look at climate change as a security issue as well as a development issue because of conflict resulting from people being driven off the land.
It has highlighted the UN Commission on the Status of Women which was chaired by Irish ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne-Nason. If elected Ireland also wants to focus on the importance of humanitarian access for NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in conflict situations.
The Republic’s last actual campaign event was cultural, a performance in New York on to mark the 25th anniversary of Riverdance, part of the St Patrick’s week festivities in March, and attended by 120 UN ambassadors.
At a political level Tánaiste Simon Coveney has intensified engagement with international colleagues and held extensive discussions with different countries.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also been involved with calls to his counterparts and Ministers of State Helen McEntee and Ciarán Cannon have been engaged in the process of securing votes.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone “did quite a bit before the lockdown in relation to children’s rights issues” according to senior sources and President Michael D Higgins “has been a beacon”. The President “has an enormous international profile”.
Opposition political party leaders have also been involved in spreading the “Team Ireland” message along with rock star Bono who attended a number of campaign events and invited all UN ambassadors to a U2 concert. Former president Mary Robinson has also attended a number of events.
The Republic is campaigning as a “bridge-builder”, according to diplomatic sources. “We speak for smaller states, we speak for the multilateral system which simply means we should work together and try and find multilateral solutions to very difficult problems.”