Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, T.D at the Presentation of the Tipperary Peace Prize to the Cluster Munition Coalition
Thank you, Martin, and the Members of the Committee for the Tipperary Peace Prize for inviting me to address this 25th anniversary award ceremony, an important event of the 2009 Tipperary International Peace Convention. I am honoured to do so in such distinguished company – Ambassadors, Minister Mansergh, members of the Oireachtas, senior members of the Defence Forces, Garda Commissioner, past Peace Prize recipients and representatives of so many important non-governmental and voluntary organisations. Above all, I recognise the representatives of the Cluster Munition Coalition, led here today by our dear friend Branislav.
Since 1984, the Tipperary Peace Award has recognised those who promote the ideals of peace and peaceful co-operation and has celebrated courage in the face of adversity, perseverance in the face of despair as well as vision and foresight. It has served as a reminder of what individuals are capable of achieving and it has inspired us to work to do more to make the world a better place. I can imagine no more worthy recipient for 2009 than the Cluster Munition Coalition and I am extremely proud to see the CMC recognised in this way.
This time last year, we were on the brink of reaching agreement on a momentous enhancement of international humanitarian law. The adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Croke Park on 30 May 2008 under Irish chairmanship was the culmination of the Oslo Process, initiated early in 2007 by Norway, Ireland and a number of other committed States, who were determined to address the humanitarian consequences of the use of cluster munitions. We could not have done it without the CMC.
For almost a decade, Ireland and a number of other small countries had expressed concerns about this ghastly weapon, which causes indiscriminate harm at the time of deployment and leaves a legacy of death and injury for years after conflict has ended. In our 2007 Programme for Government, we committed to campaign for a complete ban on the use of cluster munitions.
Ireland has a longstanding reputation as a champion of disarmament. We are proud of that reputation and will maintain it. I am hopeful in the current changed international environment that we may see broad progress on the agenda.
Our national perspective and approach in the process which led to the Convention was significantly informed by the experience abroad of our Defence Forces on peace-keeping missions and of Irish development agencies, who saw at first hand the devastating effects of these weapons. I would like to pay tribute here today to their work in helping mitigate the impact of these weapons on civilian populations and to their major contribution throughout this process.
As the Irish proverb has it, Ní neart go cur le chéile, meaning there is strength only when forces are joined. What ultimately made that arduous journey from Oslo to Dublin successful in a short fifteen months was the spirit of collaboration, present from the outset, between the core group of States, the affected States themselves, several international organisations from the UN family of agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the movement we are gathered here today to honour, the Cluster Munition Coalition This umbrella body, representing around 300 civil society organisations from more than 80 countries, and including organisations working on disarmament, peace and security, human rights, victim assistance and clearance, has offered us a model and a master class in how to run an effective campaign. Time and again, we have seen them combine passion for a just cause with the technical expertise and communications skills to rebut the stalling and alarmist arguments put forward by those reluctant to face up to realities.
For negotiators accustomed to being cocooned in conference halls, isolated from the real world, it was a wake-up call to be confronted by Ban Advocates, individual survivors who have overcome terrible injuries to bear witness to the devastating impact of cluster munitions. Their indomitable spirit has inspired us all and given us a standard and ever higher level of ambition in this process. Through you, Branislav, we thank all of the Ban Advocates for their contribution. The approach and leadership provided by the Co-Chairs and full-time coordinator of the CMC – and I salute Thomas Nash, who is here with us today - were always professional and persistent, diligent and dedicated, in pursuit of our noble objective.
Friends and colleagues,
There are lessons to be learnt from this process. For me, it presages a new way of doing business. Sovereign States will always have their specific responsibilities. Only they can conclude international treaties. However, the political reality is that a State does not operate in a vacuum, independent of its people. Wars are not fought in the abstract. Real people, men, women and children, combatants and civilians, are killed and maimed in conflict and long afterwards.
Those on the receiving end of force cannot be ignored. The CMC campaign for civil society to be heard led to a comprehensive ban, which will surely reduce the number of future victims, and to state-of-the-art and unprecedented provisions on victim assistance in the new Convention. Their committed and effective involvement ensured that this was truly a humanitarian process, where States and civil society pulled together, rather than a traditional disarmament negotiation, where parties tend to confront each other in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and zero sum outcomes.
We are entitled to take pride in the Convention and the prospect of its early entry-into-force, particularly when the stockpilers of 90% of cluster munitions in the world have hitherto failed to live up to their responsibility to urgently address this pressing humanitarian problem. However, we cannot afford to relax and the second phase of our common endeavour lies ahead.
I see three immediate challenges. Although 107 States adopted the treaty last May, and almost 100 States signed it in Oslo in December, it will only enter into force six months after the thirtieth ratification. So this is our first challenge – getting to thirty.
Becoming party to an international legal instrument is a significant undertaking. I am proud that Ireland was able to sign and ratify the CCM on the day it opened for signature, as we did ten years previously for the Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The fact that there was cross-party support for early action on this issue considerably facilitated our task.
I am confident that a number of States are at an advanced stage in their parliamentary procedures and will ratify soon. Some may require assistance of a technical nature. For others, the obstacle is more political. There may be regional tensions, where one State will not move unless another does. There is scope here for further collaboration between States and the CMC in supporting States and mobilising political pressure for ratification.
The second challenge on which we can work together is effective implementation of the Convention once it enters into force. Already, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has offered to host the first Meeting of States Parties, which must be held within one year of entry into force. This is entirely fitting, as Lao PDR is the country most affected by cluster munitions. Organising such a major event is a serious challenge for any country, but all the more so for one which continues to face its own developmental issues. Again, the CMC is to the fore, in working to achieve the necessary support for Lao in this endeavour. Ireland looks forward to playing its own role in this process.
The third challenge relates to those States which, to put it mildly, hesitate to join the Convention. From the outset, it has been clear that not every State will wish to join, whether we regard their reasons as well-founded or not. Our aim has therefore also been to establish a new international norm, where it will become unthinkable for any State to use cluster munitions. Recent events in Georgia demonstrate the scale of the challenge. I am convinced that, as the pace of ratification of the Convention gathers momentum, its international recognition and influence will extend not only to those States formally party to it, but also to those brought before the court of public opinion. I am heartened by the almost universal respect for the Ottawa Convention and look forward to a similar status for the CCM.
Dear Friends, Dear Branislav,
We would not be here today without the Cluster Munition Coalition. We will not get to where we want to be without the Cluster Munition Coalition. The Tipperary Peace Prize is a fitting acknowledgement of what has been achieved and what we can do together. Let’s do it!Top