Membership of the United Nations has been central to Ireland’s foreign policy since we became a member in 1955. The principles and values enshrined in the UN Charter are those we have always sought to promote and protect, including during our term as a member of the UN Security Council for 2021-2022.
The UN has a key role in addressing the challenges of today: climate change; global poverty; defending human rights; eliminating the threat posed by nuclear weapons; providing peacekeeping in conflict zones; promoting gender equality; and responding to humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters or conflicts. For more information on Ireland’s wider work across the UN please see our pages on our work on Peace and Security, Peacekeeping, International Development, and Human Rights.
Ireland on the UN Security Council
Ireland has been an elected member of the UN Security Council for 2021-2022. We were entrusted with a significant responsibility to help maintain and promote international peace and security. This has been Ireland’s fourth term on the Council, having previously served in 1961, 1981-1982, and 2001-2002.
Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has the responsibility to determine the existence of a threat to peace or an act of aggression. It works to resolve disputes peacefully by investigating, mediating and appointing envoys. The Council can also impose economic sanctions or establish a peacekeeping operation to maintain or restore international peace and security. UN member states must comply with the resolutions of the Security Council.
The number of issues on the Council agenda has roughly tripled since Ireland last served on the UN Security Council.
A large proportion of the Council’s agenda is focused on Africa and the Middle East. These are longstanding priority areas for Ireland’s foreign policy. We have engaged actively on these and all country situations during our term.
Ireland has demonstrated leadership in our work on the Council, particularly in relation to the preservation of the humanitarian space, in the context of sanctions; the humanitarian situation in Syria; the Women, Peace and Security agenda; the Climate and Security agenda; and the Conflict and Hunger agenda; as well as the crisis in Ethiopia; human rights and humanitarian needs in Afghanistan; Iran; and a range of other areas.
Ireland’s Leadership Roles
Elected Council members take on a number of leadership roles during their terms, including chairing Sanctions Committees and thematic Working Groups, and acting as primary drafters (Penholders) of some Security Council Resolutions.
Ireland has held a number of important leadership roles aligned to our foreign policy priorities and strengths:
- Facilitator for UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (JCPOA – Iran Nuclear Agreement)
- Co-penholder for the Syria humanitarian access file
- Co-chair of the Security Council Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security
- Co-chair of the Security Council Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security (2021)
- Chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee
- Co-penholder on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel
- Informal focal point on Hunger and Conflict
Ireland’s Security Council priorities
Ireland has brought a principled, consistent and open approach to the work of the Council. We have played a constructive role, seeking to find solutions and to overcome divisions on the Council where possible.
Ireland’s tenure on the Council has been guided by three principles:
- Building Peace;
- Strengthening Prevention; and
- Ensuring Accountability.
These principles are at the heart of the Security Council’s mandate to maintain international peace and security.
Ireland has promoted sustainable, durable solutions to conflict, a key aspect of which is peacekeeping.
As a country with a longstanding and proud record of over 60 years continuous service on UN peacekeeping operations, Ireland has focused on helping shape the mandates under which UN peacekeepers serve.
On 9 September 2021, during Ireland’s Presidency, the Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 2594 on peacekeeping transitions. Ireland led negotiations on this Resolution which seeks to ensure that, as a UN peace operation draws down, it does so in a way that supports peacebuilding, putting in place the right resources and planning to preserve peace and protect civilians at a time when they may be most vulnerable.
Resolution 2594 provides an important framework that seeks to ensure that the hard-won gains made during the lifetime of a peacekeeping operation are not lost. It will have a lasting impact on the UN’s peacekeeping architecture.
Elsewhere, Ireland acted as penholder on the EUFOR Althea Resolution during October 2022. Launched in 2004, EUFOR Operation Althea is a European Union military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with the primary focus of supporting the authorities in maintaining a safe and secure environment in the country in line with the Dayton Agreement, which brought about the end of the war in BiH in 1998. Unanimous agreement was obtained on renewing this important authorisation. Ireland knows from experience that conflict resolution is a long and complex process, which requires consistent and determined commitment. At each stage, we sought to ensure that peace processes must include the voices of women, young people and civil society.
During our Council tenure, we insisted that women need to be central to building sustainable and inclusive peace. In partnership with Mexico, we championed the full, meaningful and equal participation of women, through chairing the Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security, and also ensured that Council members heard detailed reporting and analysis on the situation on the ground for women and girls. Ireland brought the voices of 16 female civil society briefers to the Council table during our Presidency in September 2021 – a record number for any Council Presidency to date.
Strengthening Conflict Prevention
Ireland has worked to strengthen the UN’s conflict prevention activities, including preventative diplomacy, mediation, non-proliferation, and disarmament.
Conflict prevention must address the underlying drivers of conflict including insecurity, climate change, food insecurity, violations of human rights, poor governance, and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
With this in mind, Ireland and Niger worked together and tabled a draft Security Council resolution in December 2021 on Climate and Security. This would have been the first ever horizontal Resolution on this issue.
Although one country ultimately vetoed that Resolution, the text was co-sponsored by 113 UN Member States. We hope that our work has provided the building blocks for other Council members to advance this crucial issue in the years ahead.
One of the most important files has been preserving the agreement on humanitarian access into Syria. This was key to ensuring the continued flow of humanitarian assistance to over 4 million people in North West Syria, delivered by a cross-border UN humanitarian operation from southern Turkey.
In July 2021 and again in July 2022, with Ireland and Norway acting as penholders, the Security Council collectively agreed to extend the mandate for the cross border operation through the Bab-al-Hawa border crossing.
Ireland strongly has promoted the rule of law and the upholding of human rights, in particular international humanitarian and human rights law. This has included prioritising the protection of civilians in conflict, ensuring humanitarian access to those in need of assistance, and fighting against impunity.
We have been consistent and strong in our condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and in calling for accountability for gross violations of humanitarian law.
Since the Taliban takeover of Kabul, we have pushed for accountability for the actions of the Taliban.
Ireland has been a firm supporter of the International Criminal Court, which has a unique and vital mission to ensure that those responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern cannot act with impunity.
Accountability also extends to ensuring respect for the Resolutions of the Security Council.
The Security Council itself has a responsibility to prevent mass atrocity crimes. Ireland strongly supports the ACT Code of Conduct, which pledges Council members to act to prevent such crimes.
The protection of the humanitarian space has been a priority for Ireland throughout our term on the Security Council. Working with the US, we led negotiations to introduce an exemption for humanitarian activities from all UN sanctions regimes. Resolution 2664, which was adopted in December 2022, helps to ensure that humanitarians can work in some of the most complex environments, without fear of inadvertently falling foul of UN sanctions regimes.
UN General Assembly
Every September, world leaders gather in New York to discuss international priorities. Read Ireland’s national statement to the UN General Assembly