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Minister Costello signs Arms Trade Treaty in New York

In addition to signature of the landmark Treaty today, Minister Costello will hold talks with top UN officials, including Mary Robinson

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello TD, today signed the Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of Ireland at the United Nations in New York. The Minister described the Treaty as ‘’historic’’ and “a milestone in global arms control”, and pledged Ireland’s support for its implementation.

The Arms Trade Treaty is the first legally binding instrument to regulate the international trade in conventional weapons. It was agreed in April after over six years of discussions and negotiations. States that sign up to the Treaty are prohibited from exporting arms to countries if they know those weapons will be used to commit gross violations of human rights. Ireland was a strong supporter of efforts to achieve an Arms Trade Treaty from the beginning.

Speaking at the UN, Minister Costello described the Treaty as a “strong, robust and comprehensive instrument” that “will reduce human suffering and save lives” when fully implemented.  The Minister paid tribute to the important role played by civil society in supporting and developing the Treaty, which he described as “a triumph for NGO activists and the indispensable role which they play” as well as an achievement by States.

The Arms Trade Treaty, which also obliges States to take steps to ensure the weapons they export do not fall into the illegal arms market, will enter into force 90 days after 50 States have signed and ratified it.  Ireland will move to ratify the treaty within the next six months.

While in New York, the Minister will participate in a High Level Panel discussion on Women and Peacebuilding in the Great Lakes region, where he will be joined by Mary Robinson in her role as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region. Speaking in advance of Tuesday’s event, he said“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”.

Tuesday’s High Level Panel discussion is being organised by Ireland to focus the attention of the UN community on ways to empower women and to enhance women’s role in building peace in eastern DRC and neighbouring countries, following the signing of a regional peace accord in February.  The event demonstrates the Government’s support for Mary Robinson’s work as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region. It also provides a platform for Robinson’s first address to a UN audience in New York since her appointment in March. The panel will also feature a women’s civil society leader from Uganda, Lina Zedriga Waru Abuku, as well as the Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura.

Minister Costello will also meet with the top UN humanitarian official, Valerie Amos, to discuss the disastrous humanitarian situation in Syria. Ireland has this year provided funding of almost €9 million in response to the Syrian humanitarian crisis. The funds have been provided to key UN agencies, the Red Cross/Red Crescent and humanitarian agencies able to reach vulnerable populations inside Syria and across the region.

They will also discuss the humanitarian and recovery effort in Mali, where Ireland has already provided close to €4.5m this year to support refugees and other civilians affected by the conflict and help communities rebuild their lives in the years ahead.  In addition, members of the Defence Forces are on the ground training Malian security forces as part of the EU mission EUTM. Ireland is also committed to supporting international and domestic efforts to prepare for elections and to monitor human rights, working in close partnership with other donors and civil society.

While in New York, the Minister will update top UN officials on the EU’s approach to the post-2015 agenda, the negotiations on a new international development framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. Agreement on a unified EU position for post-2015, a key priority of Ireland’s Presidency of the Union, was reached at a meeting of Ministers last week in Brussels. A unified position means that the EU, delivering over 50% of global official development assistance to developing countries, will speak with far greater authority in these crucial post-2015 negotiations.