Global Ireland: Ireland’s Strategy for Africa to 2025 Speech by Tánaiste
Speech28 November 2019
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Friends from around the world,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Dublin Castle this evening.
Ninety-eight years ago, on 22 January 1922, this building witnessed one of the most significant events in Irish history.
On that day, after a long struggle for independence, the British State handed over this Castle, which had been a symbol of British rule in Ireland for centuries, to the Provisional Irish Government.
This was a turning point - not only in Irish history, but in the drive for self-determination that would shape the map of the world in the following decades as colonial empires were dismantled.
Ireland has changed beyond recognition, and come a very long way in the intervening years.
What has not changed since then is Ireland’s independent spirit, the courage in forging our own path, and our international outlook. Ireland has the unusual distinction of having had a foreign policy, and a diplomatic service, before there was an internationally recognised independent Irish state. This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our first Irish envoys.
At the heart of Ireland assuming its place among the nations of the world was our support for the development of a rules-based international order.
Ireland is guided by a deep conviction that effective, and meaningful, cooperation with our international partners is required to address common challenges that go beyond national boundaries.
We have always sought to serve the wider good. Within months of the Irish Free State coming into being, we had applied to join the League of Nations, the leading multilateral institution at the time engaged on international peace and security.
We played a strong part in its evolution, chairing the Assembly during the Abyssinia crisis: indeed, its last Secretary-General, Seán Lester, was a distinguished Irish diplomat, who guided the League through to its transition into the United Nations.
Ireland today continues to play an active and constructive role as a member of the international community. We are therefore particularly privileged to host 32 Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Dublin Castle this evening.
Your Excellencies, Friends, you are very welcome to Ireland.
As we approach the centenary of the historic events in this Castle, and Ireland finding its place among the nations of the world, the Government has set out an ambitious vision for Ireland’s place in the 21st century world.
‘Global Ireland 2025’ represents the most ambitious expansion of Ireland’s international presence ever undertaken, with a commitment to double the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint.
It recognises that the challenges facing us demand comprehensive multilateral responses, and commits Ireland to deepening our relationship with key multilateral institutions, especially the United Nations.
An enormous amount of work has already gone into implementing this vision, with 10 new missions already opened on every continent in the past two years, and more to follow.
This year, the Government has published a new Strategy for the United States and Canada, a new International Development Policy, and a Strategy for Partnership with Small Island Developing States.
New Strategies for the Asia-Pacific region, and for Latin America and the Caribbean, will be published soon.
At the same time, we are deepening our engagement with the 70 million strong global Irish diaspora; boosting the promotion of Irish arts, heritage and culture; and strengthening our trade and investment promotion and diversification work around the world.
As part of ‘Global Ireland 2025’, we are also looking afresh at our relations with Africa, and this is what brings us here this evening.
Our relations with Africa have long formed a core strand of Ireland’s foreign policy. Next year, we will mark the sixtieth anniversary of Ireland’s diplomatic presence on the continent, with the opening of a Consulate in Nigeria in 1960, followed a year later by a full Embassy.
1960 also marked the first deployment of Irish Defence Forces as UN Peacekeepers in Africa, with over 6,000 Irish troops serving in the Congo in the following years.
In the decades that followed, the experience of our own struggle for independence drove Ireland’s support for newly independent states in Africa. We acted bilaterally, through the provision of technical and financial assistance. And in multilateral fora like the United Nations, Ireland vigorously supported the principle of self-determination from the outset of our membership in 1955.
Irish peacekeepers served with distinction across the continent, including in Namibia, Somalia, Liberia and Chad.
We are proud of the enormous contribution that Ireland’s development cooperation programme has made to the sustainable development of Africa over the last 50 years, from Sudan to Somalia, Liberia to Lesotho, from Cairo to Cape Town.
Today, our commitment to Africa is stronger than it has ever been. Our presence on the continent has expanded to twelve Embassies from Cairo to Pretoria.
It is worth noting that our Embassy in Pretoria only opened when the Apartheid regime ended, in a demonstration of our solidarity with the people of South Africa that continues to define our relationship with the continent today.
Irish Defence Forces are currently deployed in six UN and EU crisis management and peace support operations in Africa. And State enterprise agencies have expanded their footprint in Africa in recent years to facilitate growing trade and investment opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ireland believes in the potential of Africa. We understand that Africa will have a decisive role in shaping the world we inhabit in the coming decades.
We recognise that African countries are major contributors to global peace and stability – almost 50% of the 100,000 UN Peacekeepers come from Africa.
With the youngest population in the EU, we know how powerful a young, dynamic population can be in creating and harnessing change for everyone’s benefit.
We appreciate more than anybody the extraordinary dividends of economic integration – in our case through the European Union – and the opportunities that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement can unleash for the African continent.
At the same time, we understand from our direct experience on the ground across Africa that there are daunting and complex challenges to be overcome.
Nowhere are the effects of climate change more evident than in Africa.
A young, growing population requires education, skills and economic opportunities.
Intra-African trade requires investment in infrastructure.
Africa is home to some of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises and protracted conflicts.
Millions of Africans are still experiencing chronic hunger and undernutrition.
Intensifying inequality, and weak governance, exacerbate existing fragilities.
Ireland remains committed to supporting African countries in their efforts to overcome these challenges.
As we approach the centenary of Ireland’s independence, and as we expand our impact as a global actor, we are now at a time and a place to significantly step up our partnership with Africa.
‘Global Ireland: Ireland’s Strategy for Africa to 2025’ sets out how we will build on our existing vibrant relationship with Africa to enhance political, economic and cultural ties.
It places partnership at the heart of Ireland’s engagement with the continent.
Having worked for fifty years through our bilateral programmes, through civil society partners, through the EU and through international organisations, to support the sustainable development of Africa, development cooperation will remain central to Ireland’s engagement on the continent.
The Strategy includes a significant commitment to expand our presence on the continent by opening three new Embassies.
An Embassy in Morocco will open in 2020, and in two other countries in West Africa by 2025.
This major ramping up of Ireland’s presence in francophone West and North Africa will complement our existing footprint there, which includes the deployment of Irish Defence Forces and civilian personnel to UN and EU peace support operations in the Sahel.
As a committed member of the European Union, Ireland wants to make a contribution to the security and stability of this neighbouring region.
West Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and we also want to increase trade with, and investment in, the region.
This new Strategy brings a renewed impetus to increasing trade and investment, and to supporting inclusive economic growth on the continent.
An economically successful and prosperous Africa is very much in Ireland’s interest, and in Europe’s interest.
Ireland will increase support for innovation in Irish-African private sector collaboration. We will double the number of Fellowships available to Africans to study in Ireland. And we will become a member of the African Development Bank.
We will bolster Irish-African partnerships - to learn from each other how we can harness the potential of the blue economy, an area of enormous opportunity.
We will do this at a time when the EU – already Africa’s largest trade, investment and development cooperation partner – is working to put in place a more effective political partnership with Africa.
The prosperity and security of our two continents are closely intertwined, and Ireland’s membership of the EU will be of increasing importance to how we engage with Africa.
As Foreign Minister I have been struck by the absence to date of an adequate architecture for EU-Africa political relations. It is an issue in which I have a deep personal interest, and which I have prioritised in my discussions with my EU colleagues. I have committed Ireland to working more closely, with EU and African partners, to build a much more ambitious political infrastructure to underpin a strengthened EU-Africa partnership.
As Ireland will soon be the largest English-speaking country in the EU, we see new opportunities for engagement with our African and EU partners on African issues.
This includes working in Brussels to ensure the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, and the implementation of the incoming Commission President’s Agenda for Europe, reflect the interests and concerns of African countries.
Through Global Ireland, we have re-committed to supporting and safeguarding the multilateral system that has enhanced Ireland’s security, our independence and our international voice.
It is therefore no coincidence that the cover page of this Strategy features the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, which Ireland’s Prime Minister, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, visited earlier this year.
Ireland understands that African solutions are required for African problems, and we will support our African partners in achieving this.
We also want to see African voices better represented in the multilateral system, including the United Nations. We will work with our African partners to advocate for more inclusive multilateral institutions and processes, including the composition of the UN Security Council.
Our commitment to a just and rules-based international order is at the heart of Ireland’s decision to campaign for an Irish seat on the UN Security Council.
If elected, we will work closely with the A3 African members of the Council, and other African countries, to advance shared values and to ensure priority for African issues at the United Nations.
There are many examples of what we can achieve when we work together, not least the joint work by Ireland and Kenya in brokering the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ireland’s joint efforts with African partners to achieve the SDGs is a theme that cuts across this new Strategy.
Ireland’s relationship with Africa has been one of consistent, respectful and whole-hearted support for the sustainable development of African countries, and their place as equal partners at the global table.
Over six decades we have built deep partnerships, and we have a strong track record in responding to injustice and human suffering.
There is much more we can do together. This weekend we will start new conversations on our shared experiences of peacekeeping and peacebuilding, an area that will remain central to our engagement with Africa and will drive ever deeper political relationships across the continent.
Ireland looks forward to celebrating the centenaries of independence of our African partners in the decades ahead.
As you look back on the history of your countries’ first hundred years of independence, I am confident that you will see a consistent, reliable and steadfast partner in Ireland.