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Conflict and Resolution: An Irish Perspective Ambassador of Ireland to the US Geraldine Byrne Nason, Picture from Embassy of Ireland, Washington, DC

Conflict and Resolution: An Irish Perspective

UCLA School of Law, Room 1314
385 Charles E Young Drive East
Los Angeles, CA 90095

 

ABOUT THE TALK

Senior Irish diplomat Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason will share her experiences and insights on the negotiation and resolution of global conflicts, including during her time on the UN Security Council.

 

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason assumed her role as Ireland’s 19th Ambassador to the United States in August 2022. Geraldine was Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations in New York (2017- 22). Previously, she served as Ambassador to France (2014-17), Second Secretary General in the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) (2011-14), Ambassador and Ireland’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU (2005-11)), and Director of the National Forum on Europe (2004-05).

During her career, Ambassador Byrne Nason has served in Brussels, New York, Paris, Vienna and Helsinki. As Second Secretary-General in the Department of the Taoiseach from 2011-2014, she was the highest ranking female public servant in Ireland. During that period, she also was Secretary General of Ireland’s Economic Management Council.

On her arrival in New York, Ambassador Byrne Nason led Ireland’s successful campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and led the New York Security Council team for the 2021-2022 term. Geraldine was Chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for 2018 and 2019. She has also co-chaired high-level political negotiations on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and on the ‘Samoa pathway’ for Small Island Developing States.

ABOUT THE MODERATOR

Kal Raustiala holds the Promise Institute Chair in Comparative and International Law at UCLA Law School and is a Professor at the UCLA International Institute, where he teaches in the Program on Global Studies. Since 2007 he has served as Director of the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. From 2012-2015 he was UCLA’s Associate Vice Provost for International Studies and Faculty Director of the International Education Office. Professor Raustiala's research focuses on international law, international relations, and intellectual property.

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Transcript:

All right, good afternoon everyone. Welcome. I'm Kal Raustiala, I teach here at the law school but I'm more present in my capacity as director of the Burkle Center for for International Relations. And it's really a great honor and pleasure to have Ireland's ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Byrne Nason here with us today. So I'm gonna give her a very brief introduction, she is going to make some remarks, we're gonna have a conversation, we're gonna open up to questions, we're going to run about an hour. So by way of introduction, Ambassador Nason is a leading figure in Ireland and around the world in advancing the rights of women. She has served as ambassador to France and Monaco, as the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, which is in ordinary speak the UN ambassador for Ireland. And in that role, she coincided with Ireland's two year turn on the Security Council. And so she played a really key role in that. She was president of the council, at times, at least one time, I believe, maybe twice, one time,

We missed it by one. So we did it once. You can alphabetically end up twice, but I was kind of relieved.

It's a month long thing, and it's a lot of work. So but she had the pleasure of doing that. While on the Security Council, she led negotiations on the peacekeeping transition resolution, the Syria, humanitarian border crossing resolution, and reflecting Irish policy, long standing policy, she has consistently supported aid to Ukraine, and a two state solution in Israel. She chaired the 62nd and 63rd sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. And again, she is currently the ambassador to the United States. So it's a great pleasure to have you here, Ambassador and we look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for joining us.

Thank you very much indeed. Good afternoon, everyone. Pleasure to be here, I actually mean that sincerely. I was asked to come and say a few words about conflict and resolution. And I thought, well, you know, coming to speak about a topic like that at a time like this is probably not the most uplifting thought that you can have. But what really inspired me, and thanks to you, Professor Raustiala. And to Alexandra Lieben who's in the room with us for hosting us. The work that you're doing here at the Burkle Center actually makes the makes the point of the exercise to me, the idea that you come from different perspectives for debate, exchanging views, is so critical. I'll just start off by saying I think we'd have a lot less need for resolution and have a lot less conflict, if we did a lot more listening and debate. And I think for the future of our democracies, and I say this with four decades of diplomacy behind me, t's all about being in the same room with people and understanding each other's views. So I'll talk a little bit to some of the issues you raised. But I'm delighted to do it in a context where I know this is the ethos of the Burkle Center as well. I, you know, Ireland is a it's an ancient place, an ancient land but it's a young country. In 2022, we celebrated just 100 years of independence. And in 2023, we celebrated, so one year after independence, we marked the moment that we stepped out onto the global stage. The first time we became, what we talk about as an active member of the international community, promoting as we saw democracy, peace and security. I mean, those who had fought for Ireland's independence, and this went on for 700 years, you have to remember, it was a long and hard fight. But those who at the end won our independence actually believed from the beginning, that Ireland could play a role in the international context. We immediately joined the league of nations within a year of our independence. That was the first important signal I think of our intention, and certainly of what is a very fundamental belief that remains until today in collective security, that notion of playing a role, interdependent a collective security with other countries on the global stage. You know, we we decided to do that in 2023. And you can think how courageous I thought that was for those who had just been through the rebellion in 1916. And who had come you know, come through very challenging both security and economic times. We did it despite our size or I would put it you know, the the international instinct was born, where we decided our size and our lack of resources would not be a constraint in terms of the role that we would play on the international stage. And we at the League of Nations began to carve out that role, upholding in particular international law and order, and preserving peace, they were the source of the tenets of the early shape of Irish foreign policy. And we actually then went on in 1937, when we wrote our own constitution, we embedded the notion of the ideal of peace and cooperation with other nations in our Constitution. And that remains till today. So just to underline that small and without resources, having come through a revolution, we had high aspirations for Ireland on the global stage from the get go. Also, very early on Ireland adopted a position of military neutrality. And at this stage, maybe in the q&a, we can come back to this, but I just want to underline that that has never been political neutrality. We always set out to engage with the world champion peace, protection of sovereignty important for us, important for many countries on the global stage today, independence, democracy and human rights. We actually had trouble getting into the UN but once we got there in 1955, we again, you know, sort of stepped beyond what was expected of us as a small, newly arrived, if you like, country on the global stage, one of our first acts at the UN was to bring forward a resolution to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. And that resolution is now widely seen as the beginning of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the NPT of which we still, of course, subscribe to today. Within six years of joining the UN, the Irish Ambassador, one of my predecessors of mine, called Freddy Boland was elected to chair the General Assembly. That's a once in a lifetime, for any nation. There are 193 countries in the UN. So you can imagine it'll take 193 years to get through them. And this, this man stepped up already within four or five years. So we were, as I say, courageous and determined in our foreign policy, we found our voice in the UN, I like to think we grew up in foreign policy terms within the UN framework, the essence of which is that collective effort; the sharing of sovereignty, and the sharing of a sense of political and security objectives. And they are deeply inform our perspective on conflict and resolution. I'm always quick to point out, though, that it's not rhetorical. And it's not theoretical. Although both of them as diplomats are, you know, I'm a diplomat, they're very important to be both rhetorical, and theoretical, but Ireland's commitment to conflict resolution was very practical from very early on, and went far beyond the territory. So once in the UN, we, in 1958, so that was just three years after we joined, we had the Ireland's first deployment to a UN peacekeeping mission. And to this day, we have the longest unbroken continuous record of peacekeeping in the UN as a whole. We also today have the highest per capita contribution of peacekeepers in Western Europe. We're in four UN-led peacekeeping missions, 10 civilian military crisis missions, one NATO led mission. So it's become a sort of a signature of Irish foreign policy that we put our people in harm's way to preserve peace and to ensure security for others. We see that directly linked not just to keeping people from shooting across the border or across the conflict zone, but directly linked to protecting human rights, fundamental freedoms. And it's one of the conditions as we see it now for promoting sustainable development. So it's a very big collective security concept that was always at the heart of our getting involved in peacekeeping missions. We also have a commitment to beyond the peacekeeping so a commitment to looking at peacebuilding. We look at the root causes, we tried to see what are the underlying causes of conflict, but also, what are the accelerators of conflict? We look at gender equality in that context, humanitarian need impacts of climate change, human rights, and of course, the international law, good governance framework that has to underwrite all of that, where we see that being chipped away, where we see gaps we are– we know that there's an insecurity account that can lead to conflict. So we readied ourselves in that way. Our angle of entry to where as I could put it, maybe in that way, on conflict and resolution has always been informed also, by our own experiences on the island of Ireland. You know, over 30 years, we have what we euphemistically referred to as the troubles in in Ireland and Northern Ireland, we lost three and a half thousand people, over 45,000 people injured, countless lives, communities disrupted. I believe that the the island and the people on the island have been scarred by that experience, maybe forever by that violence. Last year, we were happy to mark 25 years of peace on the island; 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed. And we are deeply, deeply grateful for the role the United States played in that; something that we, every day, are grateful for, but also hope to continue because it was the support of the United States from the outside. I often say that was an agreement for people in Northern Ireland, in Ireland, Made in America, that made a critical difference. And we've seen that across the globe where your third party intervenes and supports peace agreement, it has a much more likely chance of being sustained. But what we have learned from that experience is first that this is complex, and that it's not a moment, it's absolutely a process. And it doesn't follow a linear path. And we find that to our cost. It certainly requires ongoing nurturing and investment at every level. And patience. It requires patience, and in our case, respect for all traditions on the island of Ireland. And that opens up then a pathway for the next stage in conflict resolution, which is reconciliation. And I'm the first to say that that's a job that we still have more work to do on the island of Ireland. It's one of the reasons that we've developed what we call the shared islands initiative, which essentially is focused on ensuring cooperation, enhancing rather than ensuring, cooperation, north and south on the island; builds connections, we deliver mutual understanding, but we also deliver roads and bridges and cooperation in in all Island economy initiatives. So we are showing in what is already a very integrated economy on the island of Ireland, that this is actually a shared future that we have ahead. And that these are some of the building blocks that we're investing in right now. You know, the future also will take time, I find myself saying that to a lot of people here in the United States. I think that we need to move ahead in a way that recognizes not just the complexity of our history, but also the complexity of the future we want to build together, we have multiple narratives, multiple identities on the island of Ireland, and we need to invest in ensuring that the diversity and the inclusivity that will underwrite our future is actually mature enough to move into that next phase for all of us. I think we're well on the way to making that investment. And the the government of Ireland actually, in hard monetary terms, has a billion dollars a billion euros rather more than a billion dollars invested now in those projects that I spoke to as a shared Island. We believe that we can only do that collectively. And that's something that that I often have conversations with other representatives about how that could look at the global level. So we are looked into, I wouldn't ever risk saying as a model in Ireland, but certainly as a country that has moved from conflict to security. But with work that still still underway. And we were able to share those kinds of lessons of peace even on an ongoing basis, recently with countries from East Timor to Cyprus, to of course, Colombia, Liberia, we have partnered with many of them in their peace efforts. And I think that they've benefited from that. You were kind enough to mention my time on the the UN Security Council, I was lucky to lead the team, the Irish team in New York at the Security Council for the two years of our tenure, a privilege if a very frustrating experience at time. So I'm going to just address a couple of the areas where, during our time on the Security Council, we we felt we contributed and made a difference. And the first one is on gender, gender and conflict. Ironically, I can deal with this in the q&a if you like. It's one of the most toxic areas of work on the Security Council. Ireland alongside Mexico, we chaired the work on women peace and security on the Security Council. It was firmly and resolutely resisted, particularly by China and Russia, but other countries had issues with it as well. It didn't daunt us, we sought to make sure that the facts that are basically, when you have women involved in the peace process, the chances of that being a sustainable peace go up exponentially. So we wanted to include in all the levels of discussion around peace and security, women at I consistently say Myrcella knows this. Women in the room and at the table, Syrian women, for example, brilliant constitutional lawyers, we were told were on the Advisory Council. Why weren't they in the room in the negotiation? So we worked very hard. The special representatives of the Secretary General told me afterwards, they hated coming when we were in the chair, because we insisted that the work they were doing on the ground reflected their efforts to include women in the work on peaceful conflict resolution in the in the field. And we insist on detailed reports back to the Security Council. And we also brought the voices during that presidency that we had in September of 2021. We brought 16 Female civil society briefers to the console. That was actually a record number, believe it or not, for the Security Council. And the record that still stands today, I have to say that I'm saying that is both remarkable and deeply sad for me that it has to be an observation that it's a record to get women in the room and at the table in the Security Council. The second area I want to touch on was peacekeeping proper that I mentioned earlier as one of our signatures on the council, we actually broke new ground. And in fact, we stretched or added to the architecture of peacekeeping within the UN, we noticed. We weren't the only ones I admit, but we were very conscious that when peacekeeping operations end, and people move in to build the next phase in a society, we saw it, for example, pretty well done in Liberia, and we call it the transition period. But desperately badly done in Haiti, for example, where there's a cliff, the peacekeepers leave, there's no inclusivity on the ground, communities and tensions revert, and a lot of the investment in the peacekeeping effort then falls off. So we decided to introduce the first time ever a resolution on peacekeeping transitions. It was one of the most supported resolutions ever by members of the General Assembly. And it looked at how you invest, how you have resources and capacity on the ground before you end your peacekeeping mission and bring in your peace builders. So that was a, you know, resolution that we were very proud of. Third area was the work that we did in specific crisis areas. We touched on many of them during our time there, from Ethiopia to Yemen, but I'll mention in particular, Syria, which unfortunately has really regressed, I think, in terms of security since we have left the Security Council but the work we did there, as what's called on the Security Council pen holders with Norway, to assure at humanitarian aid could be delivered across one border crossing, which I can never forget Bab al Hawa. We did that twice during our tenure on the Security Council. That sounds small, but it saved 4 million people from starvation and no medical humanitarian assistance at across the border. Why Norway and Ireland were the pen holders. And that was frankly, because there was just about no other countries who could do that job. Initially, both Russia and the United States –this was pre Ukraine– were still in some form of dialogue around the issues in Syria and around the relative power brokering that went on. But they themselves could not deliver a resolution of the council like that none of the other permanent members could politically enter that space. So we assumed what was an extremely complex role and extremely sensitive, successful two years at two outings in a row for to renew they, their resolution, which unfortunately since has collapsed. And that humanitarian space, I think has now shrunk significantly. Again, maybe in the q&a, we can go back to that but that was a very important thing to do on the council, our Syria humanitarian resolution. We've also taken a rather lonely path in our efforts as a country to deliver on peace and security. I guess it's a kind of a spoiler alert in a way that if you protect, prioritize the protection of civilians, in conflict, ensure humanitarian access to those in need of assistance, and fight against impunity, you actually find it's a very costly business for you both politically and in terms of a country's own positioning on the wider frame, we could come back to that. It has not daunted Ireland's capacity or our commitment to doing that. But we have a recognizable voice. But we have, particularly while we were on the Security Council, been aware of the political cost of taking independent, and I would argue, courageous stances. I see I am going on for quite a long time. I'll just touched on two other issues. One is Ukraine, and the illegal invasion by Russia, I was sitting there at the Council on the night that Ukraine was illegally invaded. You know, Ireland has played her role from the get go, and first of all decrying and this was the UN Charter, international law, all that we believed in, thrown out the window overnight, in that invasion by Putin. We have collectively worked with our EU partners, over 88 billion in financial humanitarian, emergency budgetary and military support to the Ukrainians. The key point I want to make here is that we are now at such a dangerous moment in in the international order because of what's happening in Ukraine. And because of what's not happening in Washington right now. There is a hold on financial aid to Ukraine. We've just seen the fall of one particularly important strategic hold of the Ukrainians on the ground. President Zelenski believes it's because he hasn't got the equipment and the resources. The implications for what Putin can do if the US and the European Union in particular can't hold together and provide Ukraine with the money and the the munitions to defend itself are horrendous. I can happily speak to that. We're concerned about the preservation of security and peace in on the European continent. And we want, we will continue to invest in that. The principles that we believe there sovereignty, independence, humanitarian access, and basic order and human rights as they apply. And as accountability will apply, we hope after in Ukraine, we apply that also to the Middle East. Those same principles led us to absolutely see the depravity and call out the depravity of the Hamas attack. And now, the disproportionate response where we have civilians dying, in extraordinary numbers in Gaza, is something that we believe immediately needs to be addressed. We want to see a humanitarian ceasefire, we want to see the release of hostages, and we want to see humanitarian access restored immediately. We are very outspoken on this, again, reflecting that Irish angle. I think in terms of our humanitarian and our principled approach, I'd be happy to speak more to that. You know, they're at the core of Ireland's foreign policy commitments. I regret very much the Security Council is no longer in a position to deliver on the whole peace in the Middle East challenge. The veto the situation after the invasion of Ukraine responsible in many ways from that. We believe strongly in a two state solution. I believe that that's the best security for Israel, as well as the entitlement and the long sought sovereignty of the Palestinian people that we would want to see realized. And we need to get moving on a political horizon here because stopgap measures, whether they're ceasefires or improving humanitarian access, and I will make a parenthesis here by saying we continue to support UNRWA 100% on the ground and regret the move by the United States in that regard. But we also absolutely need to see a political solution. So I'll conclude with a sort of my own reflection that probably not a surprise, from what you've heard that conflict is is apparent. It's costly, and it's complex, but resolving it in the current international environment demands more courage and innovation than ever. I think we've seen that ending conflict always, always, always brings enemies to the table for compromise, often with a little help from their friends, as I mentioned with the United States, in Ireland's case, and what we've learned from our own history, and our own deep, deep belief, and our commitment to peace, is that there is no alternative to taking collective approach to this endeavor. We believe that international cooperation, the role of international law, and governance, absolutely is more needed than ever in the international context. So you will find us forever, you see an effort at bringing people together in the interests of peace. We're a feisty little island. But we are deeply committed to fairness and justice for all. Thank you very much.

Ambassador, that was a great set of remarks. I wish American political leaders spoke that way. We just had Super Tuesday, and maybe you could consider running next time around. But

My colleague Nikki did try that, right.

But it was a really, really terrific set of remarks. And there's so many things to ask, I want to make sure we have time for for questions from everyone. But maybe just to start off just to elaborate a little bit, you know, you opened in this unusual way, talking about Ireland, joining the League of Nations and the UN and commitment to peace. And you ended with that as well. How do you sort of you sort of said this, but just can you say more about why do you think a small country like Ireland on the kind of fringe of Europe has such a commitment to peace? How do you sort of explain that? You do play an outsized role diplomatically, It's not just rhetorical. Ireland is, I think, a state that's consistently engaged in the way you describe. So it's, it's real. What are the roots of that?

Well, I mean, I think the most sort of entry point, the most direct entry point to that is that, you know, the effort that we had in securing peace on the island ourselves, both initially in winning our independence. But then, once the troubles took hold in Ireland, there was a, you know, a real sense that the the values and the principles that we had fought for, during our independence, and later, saw disappear in the context of the troubles in Northern Ireland, respect for human rights, respect for dignity, and equality and fairness. were, you know, the only if you like the only instruments, we had to restore stability in our own small space. But we saw it as absolutely the case on the international stage. We early on, took a decision, the Irish government to be neutral in the Second World War, and that that's often criticized, it was very much a decision by the government not to take sides, to preserve our own sovereignty and our independence that had been difficult enough to achieve. We have, over time, become a very active player at the, on the EU stage for we have found that our voice both as a militarily neutral country, but as a country that is absolutely primed as an advocate for human rights and the international law has a real weight that other countries are sometimes find it much bigger countries, much more powerful countries find their voice, not as clarion as ours. I think that the you know, the the way in which we have approached, positioning ourselves through, as I said, in relation to peacekeeping at the UN, putting our own people in harm's way, has given us a credibility because it's not just that we shoot from right, that's a very bad metaphor that we sit, sit from the sidelines and opine, we actually get down on the ground and and do the work.

And if I may just add on that point, people may not realize, you know, when peacekeeping was initiated in the UN in the early years, there were many participants from, let's say, European countries. These days, it's highly unusual. So what Ireland is doing is really striking in that regard.

It certainly is. And I mean, the UN, writ large has trouble raising troops for peacekeeping. And there's you because most of the peacekeeping troops these days are in Africa. So we're looking to try and grow capacity and we do a lot of that, but they, to go back to the original point of our why, why the Ireland would emerge in this way as so committed to peace. I'll finish on this point, it's the only way we could have survived. If Ireland had not taken a decision early on, to have a very independent and strident commitment to an international order, we had no resources without international order not to exist or where it to break down. We don't Ireland's defense forces are about 10,000 people, so we depend not just in security terms, but also economic terms on the international order being stable. And the minute that stops being the case, Ireland's own survival and our future economically and politically are at risk. So there's a self interest in that commitment, as well as I like to think an embedded altruism, reflected as many countries used to remind me at the UN, in Ireland's early even pre Independence Days, in sending missionaries to Africa, who came and developed institutions like schools and hospitals, religious institutions, but who were a peace builders by another name, then, in a very independent way, and who are not recruitable on the ground in many volatile African contexts. And that was a sort of an early reflection of that stage. A sense of our own dependence. Yeah.

Great, thank you. So you talked a little bit about women and the role of women in conflict. And obviously, that was a theme in your work. And in your remarks, you mentioned that having women at the table actually, in an active way, really made a huge difference. So this is a kind of debated point about why I think a lot of people agree with that. But the question, the interesting question, in some ways is why? So I'm just curious where you come down on that what what is the distinctive contribution?

Well, I mean, the first contribution is that we're 50% of the problem. So we should be 50% of the solution. So I mean, but that's a very facile answer to your question. I mean, that's not wrong. One thing that we certainly found, you know, was that just the facts, wherever women were involved before, you will try to work out the why the fact where wherever women were involved in peace agreements, they were inevitably sustained longer. And the women in Northern Ireland are the prime example of that. What the Northern Ireland women's Coalition, a group of women cross community, so Roman Catholic and Protestant, who saw this, you know, emerging prospect for peace in Northern Ireland back in 1998. And suddenly, it dawned on them, they're still these women are still active internationally, they, they've said to me, it dawned on us literally, that we were going to be outside the door. And they were brought, they they basically, first of all, had no access. They had no political platform, they created their own platform, got themselves elected, and just got in the door to have two people in the room during the negotiations. But what they brought, and this is an answer to why, what they brought to the Good Friday Agreement, so emblematic of why we cannot have women outside the room. Male politicians have I've tested this with people who are in that room, I've said, this is absolutely true, that in the design of the Good Friday Agreement, the concentration was very much on bringing the communities together on the big institutional architecture between the the people, the two communities in Northern Ireland, between the North and the South, concerned about how London and Dublin would operate. And the women at the table said that none of that would be worth anything, if you didn't look at the integration and education because you weren't going to grow people into a community that could sustain that big, new, and shiny architecture, that you needed to invest in cross community services so that people in both communities got used to seeing each other in health services in in the legal system in this so the security system, so they brought that and they very importantly, are generally recognized as having put that piece I touched on earlier reconciliation on the table. I've spoke to women peacebuilders in Palestinian women, I've spoke to women in Sudan, I met women in Mali. Several of them came back to say that they, at a community level, see that is so obvious, but find it so hard to translate that into the political aspects of peace agreements. The only place that worked well so far has been Columbia. And it's interesting that at Notre Dame, we have a joint project between Ireland and Columbia, looking at the role of preserving and underwriting the peace agreement in Colombia, which needs investment ongoing, and we were doing that, but also at the role of women who continue at a community level. And maybe the last point I'll make on gender, something that Mary Robinson, the first woman, president of Ireland, somebody for whom I have extraordinary reverence and respect. She spoke to me about how women are very often the women who will, let's say, in Africa will know when conflict is underway, where the safe spaces are, where the river crossings are, that will ensure that their teenage sons can get home safely at night, or who know where the, the resources are being held to keep the community safe in in a conflict environment. If you don't include women who are managing their families and their communities through conflict in the part that's a peace agreement, you have very little chance of making sure that that won't work over time. And also, then the, you know, the role that women have played in the education system, internationally, and ensuring that the next generation and we in Ireland are dealing with this, the peace dividend generation are primed, that they're capable and ready to assume the dividends of peace. It's a challenge in Ireland, we've seen it as a huge challenge in other conflict areas, but women bring a particular capacity in terms of their knowledge of their society, and the roles they play. But I will go back to my Syrian constitutional lawyer women, you know, the idea that you exclude half of your community, the Chinese have a saying about that women hold half the sky up, and that you exclude women like that, from the creativity you need for a long term peace agreement is clearly makes no sense. And, you know, I regret that internationally, there are very clear instances from Afghanistan to Iran, even pockets in your grace, United States, where women's roles are being retracted rather than advanced. And that would be bad for international peace and security for the reasons I would use.

Agreed. Agreed. So let me ask one more question, then I'll open it up. So you spent a lot of time yourself on the United Nations Security Council. And as the as the ambassador, you talked about the UN. We talked about Ukraine, Gaza, etc. So many people see the UN right now in a as a troubled place, a place that's challenged by these by these conflicts, seemingly less effective. That's a maybe contested point. But this, I know, I'm often asked by reporters, this question, you see more and more essays about is the UN failing, what is the UN's future? So just given your experience and your vantage point, how do you see those issues?

Well, look, again, I go I go from the simple to the more complex, if we did not have the UN we would have to invent the UN. You know, there is no other Parliament's of man and woman in the world. So the only forum where people come together. And I think it's always important to say at the beginning, the UN is not the Security Council. The Security Council is not the UN. There is a huge body of work that is done in the UN that goes unsong unnoticed the extraordinary Sustainable Development Goals, troubled as they are but work going on as still in that area. The work that the United Nations Development Program does the work the the United Nations Environment Program does the body of the UN internationally, the role that UN representatives play on the ground, in countries in you know, in graduating in the development sphere, exceptional work. My time at the UN, of course, was very focused on getting Ireland on to the Security Council. We have no God given right to be there. Unlike the United States. The five permanent members, the least democratic decision ever taken. They sit there for peculiar reasons. Maybe it's something to do with nuclear weapons. I don't know, war spoils. But countries with more legitimacy to sit there are elected and Ireland was one of those. And we were thrilled to be elected for a two year term. When I was there. We were very frustrated by the dynamic on the Security Council and by the architecture of the Security Council. It's an anachronistic body and it is an unjust body in terms of representation. There's absolutely no reason that the great continent of Africa should not have a permanent voice at that, in my view. And we argued this publicly, absolutely no reason, small island developing states existentially challenged by climate, they should have a voice on the Security Council. What we found to be the most egregious instrument of all, of course, is the veto. And the veto has made vulnerable people across the globe, from Gaza to Ukraine to Mali, more vulnerable by just being there. The use of the veto, prevents the Security Council from doing its job. I think the international community has woken up a bit to that since the invasion of Ukraine, but we saw it used as a threat consistently during our time in the Security Council. So we worked very closely with this exceptional small country, Liechtenstein, which stands out for international law and order to make sure that anyone any country that uses the veto, must stand in front of all the peers in the General Assembly, and explain themselves now, you know, is that cold comfort to, you know, the use of a veto? It's a step forward. And until the veto is gone, we don't believe that expanding the Counsil, for example, reforming it in any way, should increase the number of vetoes at that table; that would, from our perspective, make the dysfunctionality, and I'll use that term, even worse. Having said all that, did we feel that the UN and do we feel today the UN serves a vital purpose? Absolutely. Did we feel sitting at that security council table, that we made a difference? Absolutely. Every day I walked through that door, the hairs stood on the back of my neck. This is It's an iconic horseshoe table. But it is where the fate of the global order sits every day. And the idea that we are now in a situation where, unfortunately, the United States has used its veto on the Middle East many times and we have fundamentally disagreed with that. We cannot now make progress on Gaza. And I will say that we little vignette of an example of where we tried to do something many of you may have been aware of the murder of Shirine Abu Akleh, the Palestinian journalist which happened while Ireland was on the Security Council. We woke up that day and said, this comes to the security concept. This is an abrogation of international law, and innocent journalists protection of journalists. But we were prevented from bringing that to the table of the Security Council because both ironically, the US and the Russians told us they would veto us if we tried to do that. So we we brought that to an informal meeting of the Security Council, we heard from journalists who've been in Afghanistan, in Ukraine, in the in Gaza, what it means to try and tell the truth in a conflict zone. But it was a small example of where we had to, again, take our courage. We brought journalists into that informal meeting of the Security Council. And to put it mildly, we were highly criticized for doing that, but deeply proud of what we did, right.

Lord Khairuddin said there was nothing wrong with the United Nations except the members.

Well, that's a very interesting point, because the Secretary General of the UN consistently says the UN does not exist without its members. It's not a building. It's not a an institutional structure. It's the members and you're 100%. Right.

Okay, well, floor's open for questions. So please just raise your hand. I'll call on you. We have about 15 minutes. In the back, go ahead.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. I was just wondering, what a day in the life of an Ambassador is like and how often you were in contact with your home country?

Straightforward answer. It's crazy, completely crazy. I could take my various roles, but maybe the easy one to take as the current one. How often I am am I in touch at my home country all the time, every day, every every day of the week. So 24/7 particular challenge we have as Irish is that of course for five hours in Washington. I'm five hours behind the day in Dublin. So there's a jumpstart in Dublin. So I often start my days very early, in order to keep pace with whatever's happening back there and so they can talk to us. While we were on the Security Council, we had a daily 7am meeting with Dublin. So it's it's a job where, despite the publicity of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and lots of champagne, it's it's tough work. My average day in Washington is a mix of a number, I'll give you an example of three things that happen just about every day for me in Washington. We're a team of about 20, at the embassy, tiny actually, relative to some of the bigger embassies, like the UK, who I think have 300 people, the Germans have 150, big embassies out there. We're small. I spend part of my day on Capitol Hill. We have a wonderful friends of Ireland caucus there, a group of bipartisan politicians who keep an eye on Irish interest, I frequently will meet with one of those. I literally pound the pavements on Capitol Hill, meeting with senators on Ukraine, for example. I've had several meetings in recent weeks with congressmen, women and senators on the Middle East. I will invariably do some kind of a media contact while I'm either up there, or you know, during the day that will reflect the discussions I've had politically and we will, in the normal course, there'll be a younger diplomat with me, who will have noted that meeting, and there'd be report back to Dublin. So we're building up I won't call it intelligence but we're building up a picture of what the US political positioning is like, on any one day on those issues. The other thing that I will inevitably do during the day is have an engagement with some economic actors. Ireland enjoys an extraordinary economic relationship with the United States. So we're, we have the luxury of having the United States as our number one source of foreign direct investment. Couple of 100,000 jobs in Ireland depend on US investment. We have all of the big multinationals, you can think of from Microsoft, to Google, to Verizon to they're all in Dublin, huge engagements in Dublin, and then on from Dublin by those economic actors into Europe. We're a gateway into Europe. But a little known fact, and this influences my day, every day is that Ireland, small island, that we are 7 million people in the whole island, we are the ninth source of foreign direct investment into the United States. So if you take away the G7, if you just think of that, we're pretty high up there in terms of big investment. So I have Irish investors, talking to me, every day, I have US companies take any one of them out, you know, you just pick one of them out of the hat, I'll pick Microsoft out of a hat coming in to say to me, you know, we're investing further in our operation, or Apple Inc, for example. We're doing this in corporate, we're moving, and we want to just update you on what we're doing. So I have a lot of conversations, both inward and outward investors, and they're often interested in the regulatory regime in Brussels. So I very often find myself thinking and talking about my my knowledge of what's happening on the ground in Brussels, making the links for them. And then the other part, which is always the part that I look forward to is that we have 70 million people in this country who identify as Irish, and it's– sorry, not in this country, across the globe. 32 million of them are here in the United States. So the 32 million Irish diaspora, they're not every evening in my house, but there's a lot of them, a lot of them arrive. So we have an exceptional engagement. You know, whether that's culturally I just had an evening at the house last before I left with a young North South orchestra called Camerata who have extraordinary musical talent. And they are expressing in a way the political developments in on the island. That's a shorthand way. I, I often will have groups of politicians and members of the Irish diaspora in for political debate over dinner. So my day is a complete mix of many many things. And I'm also a wife and a mother. So when I'm when I'm not doing that, the life of the ambassador gets gets a little a little square bracket so I can look after real life as well.

I just have to ask being the ambassador from Ireland what you said about 32 million Americans I'm gonna guess I've never seen a poll but probably the favourability ratings of Ireland in the United states are very high, and maybe maybe at the very top, that must be a huge advantage. As an ambassador, can you say a little more? I know you talked about even the President has Irish roots. How does that play out in your work? How does that advantage you in your work?

It's important. I mean, when I arrived from New York, where, you know, we've talked about some of this, the challenge of dealing with, frankly, saving life saving human lives in very dark contexts and heavy, heavy, heavy work. When I arrived in Washington, somebody said to me, everyone wants to be the Irish Ambassador in Washington. So it's, you know, again, you know, a little bit of half joking, holding earnest, Capitol Hill, you know, the number of representatives up there who are Murphy's, or Brian's, Kelly's who, who actually want not, it's not just an affinity, but they want to help. And it was critical to building our peace process that that sort of affinity was alive. And we went through, we didn't touch on it today. But we went through a difficult time and after 2016, with Brexit, and we deeply regretted the EU, the UK, leaving the EU, we were very close partners there. And it was in the frame of the EU, our peace was born. So, you know, the, the idea that, you know, we may have to make our own way, in expressing ourselves now as as Irish is also sometimes seen as a challenge. But post Brexit, we got that economic support, built right back in, we didn't think we were going to be the most affected by Brexit. The Irish economy has wanted been one of the fastest growing in the Eurozone, post Brexit, so we are in good shape. Does being Irish make our job easier? I think it certainly helps people to listen, there's a certain sense that Irish people don't come with a an agenda. You know, someone said to me one day, and I think it's true, you know, Irish people, wherever they've gone on the globe, have tended to help out. We're not we have never put aggressive troops on the ground anywhere. We have never declared war on anyone. And we have been that goodwill player on the international stage. And so doors open, when you bring that disposition to the table. There are some, I would say dated views as to what we are as Irish people. Sometimes, you know, the sort of the images of Irish people falling out of bars is, you know, we we all enjoy a good glass from time to time, but they're very dated. And we have one of the youngest, most talented educated workforces in Ireland. And in fact, one of the interesting things about Ireland for all those images of Irish people, propping up bars is that we have the highest productivity rates in Europe. So it you know, our modern 21st century Ireland is belied by some of the little bit anachronistic views as to what we are. We deeply, deeply respect the sacrifices, people who left the island had to make, they had no choice. People left because they were hungry, because they couldn't provide for their family. And they came to this wonderful United States and made their way and in their way contributed to your great country. So we never forget that. But we're not the Ireland that we were then. And the country I represent now today, it's not even the country I grew up. And you know, one in seven people on the island of Ireland was not born there we're hugely diverse. 120 languages are spoken in Dublin, that makes us an economic dynamo when it comes to your multinational investors. And we're also you know, we're high tech digital economy, hugely, hugely experts in services and pharma. They are not profiled for a lot of people imagine, we tend to think of Ireland as a rural agricultural economy. Actually not true.

Thank you. Okay. Other questions? So many? Let's go right here.

Thank you, Madam Ambassador for gracing our institution and your talk. I noticed that you mentioned about these countries like Libya, Morocco, Syria, and by culture they are very patrilineal. So it is very illuminating to know that women coordination can work over there. My question is that in the armed conflict right now, between Israel and Gaza, it is more deeply rooted in the fact that it is inter religious. So whereas the Ukraine that you point out, it is kind of more on the political scenario. So how would you kind of turn it off, you know, have that kind of coordination with this inter religious conflict, and also the fact that being from India, I also want to ask you, if you have any kind of indication about between India and Pakistan, because that conflict has been going on for the last 75 years, they have seen women kind of leaders over there who are probably more authoritive that way. And one thing I can say that why this is so, just because I know by culture, women are better listeners, this is a known fact. And they empathize. And that would be one of the key things that can come into a, you know, coordinating with these power points.

Well, thank you. To your last point. Importantly, first, I fully agree that women are better listeners. I mean, anybody who, anybody who's in this room, you know, I'll say, I'll say it openly. I know I'm being live streamed, but you know, women in a room, in a negotiation room in Brussels, or in New York, where we see men putting their hands up as they walk into the room to take the floor before they even know what's being said. That is that fact that no, I'm sure you haven't. That is, yeah, I mean, of course, I'm joking. But that is true. That happens. You're right about the; India sat actually with Ireland on the Security Council, we were elected at the same time. It's pretty remarkable. There you go, that a country the size of India is an elected member also goes to my point about the anachronistic nature of of the Security Council. I know India believes it should be a permanent member. Do I have insights into the the India Pakistan situation? What I am very conscious of at the moment is the instability in Pakistan. Um, they've just been through their elections. But I'm not sure how how, you know, the new government and its, its challenges will pan out, we all remember authorative women, Benazir Bhutto, famously and in Pakistan who played an important role, and of course, Indira Ghandi, and and other women in in India, we we, in particular, are concerned about the whole nuclear issue that arises in the tensions between India and Pakistan. And we're also very concerned around the role that China plays in that relationship. The United States has, on several occasions intervened, as we know, in that region, and we hope to see that there will be some stability, it's not something that we that was ever an issue, for example, on the Security Council, but it's a critical international regional source of instability that could become extremely dangerous regionally. You know, by the time you know, you look around that region, and we come to Iran, we've seen what happened in Afghanistan, it's a very volatile region, potentially. And if the India Pakistan border becomes challenged again, in any live way, I think we would see major major, another major regional weakness. I would maybe take issue with what you said about Israel, and Gaza as being religious. So people often also say to me, Northern Ireland was a religious war of sorts. That was certainly not the case. In Northern Ireland, there were much it's much more complex, you know, religion, and in Northern Ireland and community identity, sense of nationalism, sense of loyalism were very compounded. And there's a new demographic emerging in Northern Ireland, I should have said at some point, that we're at a moment of hope in Northern Ireland that we have now restored the institutions and those religious tags really are no longer in the modern political narrative. I think what's happening on the ground in Israel and and Palestine is much more about the, the ongoing desire of the Palestinian people for sovereignty and independence. I'm not sure it's whether you're a Muslim or or not that you're committed to Palestinian independence. I think that you know, we have seen that many, many very revered international commentators would hold that if you can solve the, the Palestinian question, if you can see an independent two state solution between Palestine and Israel, you will solve many of the instability issues in the broader region in the Middle East. So I think it's much wider than a religious difference, I think it's deeply political, and it's deeply driven by what we believe is an entitlement to sovereignty and independence for countries. As I say, there's a big reflection in Irish history that comes to the table with that, but absolutely for Israel, Ireland, both, first of all, believes it's in Israel's own interest and its own security will, will really only be assured by having a two state solution. But Ireland was also one of the great promoters defenders and supporters of the whole, if we can say the idea of Israel, that are people who had had no homeland, found their homeland, and became such an exceptional example of a modern democracy, of an exceptional economy, and now we see that such a troubled space. So we all want to see this horrendous conflict end and to go back to the original point, to see the humanitarian catastrophe that's happening in Gaza be brought to an end and Israeli citizens unconditionally released. Those are our hostages. We had a couple of Irish citizens involved. A young Irish Israeli lost her life on the seventh of February in the attack, and then– seventh of October, sorry, seventh of October. And also a small, little six year old girl was taken hostage for 50 days, Emily Hand, an Irish Israeli citizen– she was released. But we know there are hundreds of Israeli citizens still held in a barbaric, depraved way in Gaza. And we want to see that end.

Ambassador unfortunately, we're at the end of our hour a little bit over. So thank you so much for joining us, and I hope we can have you back.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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Sponsor(s): Burkle Center for International Relations, Center for European and Russian Studies, International & Comparative Law Program (ICLP) at UCLA School of Law, The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law

6 Mar 24
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