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Minister Costello's remarks at UN High-Level Panel Discussion on Women and Peacebuilding

I am delighted to be here today and very encouraged to see such a broad range of attendance – from civil society to UN agencies to member states.

Your presence illustrates our shared commitment to work for lasting peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Great Lakes region.

It reflects also a renewed sense of optimism about the potential for peace in the region, following the adoption in February of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agreement. Ireland strongly supports the leadership shown by the United Nations, and in particular the personal diplomatic engagement of the Secretary-General, in this renewed effort to break the cycle of violence in eastern DRC and to address the root causes of conflict in the region.

This of course is no small challenge: as we are all aware, there have been many initiatives aimed at resolving the long-running conflict in eastern DRC. The factors that have caused and perpetuated the conflict are complex and manifold, but at its core has been the abject failure to respect fundamental human rights.  Therefore, respect for and realisation of human rights – and specifically the rights of women – must be at the heart of any renewed peace efforts. And this is why we are here today: to explore how women can play their rightful role in the peace process and in ensuring full implementation of the Framework commitments.

As an Irish Minister, I am very proud that a distinguished Irish woman will play a key role in guiding and overseeing the peacebuilding process in the Great Lakes region.  I would like to reiterate my warm welcome for the decision of the Secretary-General to appoint Mary Robinson as his Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region. I believe that former President Robinson possesses the commitment , imagination and energy to meet the daunting challenges which lie ahead. She has our strongest support in this task, and we in Ireland are very happy to be a part of today’s event and also to support the exciting regional event in Burundi on 9th July. I would like to express my appreciation to Ambassador Anderson and her team at the Irish Mission for their work in preparing today’s event.

It may not be known to all, but there has been a close Irish involvement with the Congo going back many decades.  The Irish patriot, Roger Casement, played an important role in highlighting human rights abuses during the colonial era.  Irish peacekeepers formed a significant part of the UNOC deployment back in 1960, the first UN mission to keep the peace on the continent of Africa.  And today Irish peacekeepers serve with MONUSCO. Ireland provides humanitarian support through national and international humanitarian organisations and we also contribute as part of broader European Union efforts in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The American writer, Barbara Kingsolver, who grew up in the Congo, refers to the country as ‘a poor barefoot bride, whose jewels were stolen by men who promised her the Kingdom’.  The metaphor is all too apt, but it is past time to consign that image to history. 

The Framework Agreement and the appointment of Mary Robinson offer an opportunity for a fresh approach.  I encourage all parties and stakeholders to seize it.  Let us work to ensure that women can play their essential role in building a peaceful future for all of the people of the Great Lakes region.

Thank you.