Irish leaders head to UN summit to push poverty eradication, social justice goals

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will address the New York general assembly on Tuesday on sustainable development goals

Ireland will play a key role over the coming days in seeking to secure international momentum at the United Nations on achieving international development goals such as the elimination of poverty and implementing social justice.

All UN member states agreed in 2015 to work towards implementing 17 sustainable development goals with nearly 170 targets by 2030.

At the half way point of this process, however, the achievement of these goals – which include the elimination of poverty, ending hunger, securing gender equality and ensuring education is available to all – are way off course with only about 12 per cent on track.

A summit on the sustainable development goals will form the centrepiece of the UN general assembly in New York.


Ireland, along with Qatar, has been asked to secure a political declaration among UN members to build momentum towards achieving the goals by the end of the decade.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is scheduled to address the summit on sustainable development goals on Monday.

On a visit to the UN in July, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said Ireland was making significant progress in meeting many of its international goals for ending poverty and implementing social and ecological justice.

He said, however, it was disappointing that objectives were not being reached in areas such as municipal waste, while challenges remained in relation toclean water and sanitation.

Mr Ryan will also be in New York at the UN this week, alongside Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Mr Martin said on Sunday that Ireland believed that transformation of food systems must be at the heart of work to reinvigorate the sustainable development goals. He announced Ireland would this year provide at least €284 million in support for food, agriculture and nutrition programmes around the world.

“Hunger is again increasing globally. We are in a global food and nutrition crisis, one that is characterised by more frequent shocks. Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine has added an additional dimension of uncertainty and volatility,” he said.

“Building resilience must become an urgent core strategy. This is easy to say but much harder to do. But we need to step up and build capacity across food, health, education, economic and governance systems,” he said.

As part of the funding, Ireland will provide €2 million towards the “grain from Ukraine” initiative announced recently by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to counter the impact of the Russian invasion on exports of vital supplies to countries affected by food insecurity.

Ireland is again expected at the UN this week to strongly condemn the Russian war in Ukraine and to call for accountability for its action. Ireland is working with 37 other countries to establish a special tribunal to try those responsible for the aggression.

Mr Zelenskiy is expected to attend the UN general assembly in New York, as will United States president Joe Biden. British and Chinese leaders will not be present.

Mr Varadkar is scheduled to make Ireland’s statement to the UN on Friday. It is not expected the Taoiseach will have bilateral meetings with Mr Biden or Mr Zelenskiy, although they may meet on the margins of some events. The US president will host a reception for world leaders on Tuesday.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the president was “eager to use the trip (to the UN in New York) to advance US interests and values on a range of issues, from mobilising financial resources for the global south for development and infrastructure needs, to galvanising co-operation to tackle the climate crisis, to strengthening global support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal invasion.”

Over the coming days in New York, Ireland will also be engaging in debates on climate, conflict, global health and other global challenges. Mr Donnelly is expected to speak on preparations for dealing with future pandemics.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent