Governments lead but they must also listen - Andrews
Speaking today at the Hague Appeal for Peace the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr David Andrews TD, said that Government's must listen to the voices of those who represent the conscience of mankind.
The conference was called to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the 1899 Hague Peace Conference hosted by the Russian Tsar and the Queen of the Netherlands, and is being attended by over 8000 people from 100 countries. NGO's are particularly well represented at the meeting.
Minister Andrews said that "there are fundamental principles that are applicable to all peace processes. Genuine dialogue is essential, and the process must be inclusive. There must be commitment to peace and democracy; there must also be patience, for divisions take time to heal the legacy of decades of division and mistrust cannot be overcome overnight. There must be a willingness to compromise, but also there must be mutual respect for diverse traditions and cultures. There must be protection and promotion of human rights and equality."
He continued, "Working for a lasting peace in Northern Ireland is an overriding priority for me. In Northern Ireland, as in many other conflict or potential conflict situations, two communities with differing backgrounds, traditions, allegiances and aspirations must work out a way to accept each other and live together in harmony. A similar challenge confronts the communities in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in South Africa, in the Middle East, in Rwanda - to name only a few."
Noting that advances in technology have contributed to humanity's ability to kill and maim Minister Andrews also spoke about Ireland's contribution to disarmament and particularly about the New Agenda initiative which he launched last year with other like minded countries. The Minister noted Ireland's commitment to banning anti personnel mines through the Ottawa process.
In the course of the Conference Minister Andrews chaired a round table discussion which included the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Jose Ramos Horta.
In concluding his speech the Minister said "I would emphasise that whatever we seek to achieve, to be effective, must be within the framework of a properly functioning international system. Ireland is committed to reform of the United Nations, which remains the overriding framework for all of our effort. I believe firmly that small countries can make a difference, and I assure you that we will continue to do so."