I am delighted to have the opportunity to be involved in this discussion on the common themes for the future development of the Border area. We always welcome the opportunity to report on the progress of our programmes. The impact of the cross-Border EU funding programmes, for which we have responsibility, are PEACE IV and INTERREG VA. Together, the programmes total over €0.5 billion and will run with activity until 2022.
I am sure many committee members are familiar with the programmes, and in line with the topic to be addressed today my comments will be in the context of those EU funding programmes. Through the PEACE and INTERREG programmes we have managed funding for projects which have enhanced cross-Border co-operation in a wide range of sectors over 18 years, including enterprise, health and social care, public sector collaboration, renewable energy, and roads and transport. In the past we also funded programmes in telecommunications, tourism, cultural activity and rural development.
The Special EU Programmes Body, SEUPB, champions peace and reconciliation with an enduring legacy through local action plans, regional development initiatives and the key institutional capacity projects funded in the PEACE programme. There are also projects which have built positive relations. We also had quite a number of infrastructural projects in the area of shared spaces and dealing with the past. The reach of our programmes cannot be underestimated. When we speak about future development, for the next five years until 2022 we will fund many of the sectors mentioned. Funding for these programmes has been Brexit-proved in so far as possible, and we will continue to monitor developments in the negotiations with regard to the impact on our programmes. I have provided a progress report, but I would like to touch briefly on the most relevant aspects of the report relating to our programmes.
INTERREG is one of 61 programmes in Europe designed specifically to address issues relating to living in a border region. As the committee is aware, border areas are economically weaker, have underdeveloped infrastructure and have higher levels of unemployment. However, the people living in these regions are very mobile, crossing borders daily for work and day to day life. Therefore, partnership approaches in border areas are essential to overcome issues of peripherality and changing demographics.
The INTERREG programme, which is worth €283 million, was implemented first, and I am very pleased to report that more than 95% of its funding has been allocated and reserved for projects. The key areas in the programme include €70 million allocated to research and innovation to increase the capacity for cross-Border research in the region, with two specific target areas, namely, health and life sciences and renewable energy. Within this, a further €18 million is allocated to increase the capacity of SMEs in the region to make them more innovative in their research and innovation activity.
The environmental theme in the programme has been allocated €85 million, and we are looking at protecting and restoring biodiversity and common approaches to management of the marine environment. We also have an aspect of the programme, with almost €50 million allocated, dealing with sustainable transport projects. This is about support for greater connectivity between the regions. It will provide greenways and a multimodal transport hub based in the north west. A total of €63 million has been allocated to health and social care, and we expect this to target 50,000 people in Border areas and contribute to more efficient delivery of health services.
The PEACE programme aims to enhance social and economic stability, in particular through actions to promote cohesion between communities and on a cross-Border basis. Sectarianism, intolerance, marginalisation and a lack of community cohesion are long-term underlying problems in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland. Unfortunately, the issues continue to prevail even in the absence of violence. Following extensive public consultation, the PEACE V programme, which is worth €270 million, will invest in future generations, in particular children and young people, with an allocation for shared education, which is about direct and sustained curriculum-based contact between pupils and teachers on a cross-Border basis to promote good relations, and improving the capacity of children and young people to form positive and effective relationships with others from a different background, targeting young people who are most disadvantaged.
With regard to infrastructure projects, we hope to fund at least eight capital projects and we have €53 million for shared spaces and services. This is about increased provision for civic shared spaces, which bring together people from both communities and mainly target derelict areas.
Victims and survivors have been allocated €17 million in recognition of the need and demand of those who have suffered in the trauma of the conflict. We are looking specifically at cross-Border health and well-being services to develop proven expertise in the region and increase the capacity and quality of care in the sector for victims, survivors and their families.
Almost one third of the PEACE programme is being delivered through local councils in every council area in Northern Ireland and the Border region. They have specific allocations and they will look at shared spaces and services, children and young people and building positive relations. The regional development measure is about supporting projects on a regional level, which will result in meaningful, purposeful and sustained contact between persons from different communities.
All of the projects in INTERREG and PEACE will involve co-operation between a wide range of many organisations. Over the coming year in particular, we will see activity from these projects coming to life. We are at the very early stages of project delivery, and I appreciate it may be difficult to get a feel for the programmes and what their outputs are at this time. Over the past two decades, EU programmes have improved cross-Border public sector collaboration, developed cross-Border reconciliation and understanding, and promoted joint approaches to social education, training and human resource development. Some examples are the cross-Border approaches to tackling contaminated water flows, cross-Border GP out of hours service, cross-Border council initiatives, and improved roads and transport links. The programmes have given a structure to building and maintaining a network of relationships between organisations and beneficiaries, which are now becoming second nature to these organisations. More importantly, they have opened mind borders on a cross-community and cross-Border basis. Working together, neighbours have built trust and mutual respect and an understanding of finding joint innovative solutions to alleviate issues in their areas. They have made common decisions about funding and structures and these have made a significant impact on the region, much more than the value of the funding we have spoken about.
Recently, the EU Commission undertook a research project across all European borders to gather evidence on funding for cross-border programmes such as these. It identified 37 common obstacles which seem to hinder growth and development in border regions. The report summarised into four specific areas those obstacles relevant to EU cross-border funding programmes. These include socioeconomic obstacles, physical obstacles and terrain. The obstacles highlighted as the most important to overcome, because they were seen as having the best potential to make a positive impact on economic, social and territorial cohesion, were institutional obstacles such as legal and administrative obstacles, including labour mobility, transport, social security, health care and cultural obstacles. Throughout Europe language is a cultural obstacle. On the island of Ireland, trust and culture were the specific areas identified.
The research also identified areas viewed as potential untapped resources, which would assist growth and development in border areas. These include human and social capital, building trust and education, market integration with employment and competitiveness potential, shared management of national resources and integrated services. The research also provided recommendations on the best way of overcoming these obstacles, which was through investment in competitiveness, product innovation, the development of cultural and industrial activities, and investment in social and human capital through education and training activities. Our programmes, which we will run with activities until 2022, focus on exactly these areas.
Border regions have difficulties and this is well known but those in the Border region here will be greatly exacerbated by any impact of Brexit. No one knows the terms of Brexit or how sectors will be affected, but what we do know is that existing programmes throughout Europe include non-EU countries and, therefore, an opportunity exists to have continued access to EU cross-border programmes. The Irish Government has clearly signalled its intent to engage in seeking these opportunities, and the British Prime Minister has also mentioned retaining access to certain EU funding programmes. The EU Commission knows our programmes very well and use them as examples of good practice.
We will embark on a series of evaluations in each theme as activity gets under way with our projects this year. Part of this work will be to seek early indications of any implications of Brexit on these sectors. These are likely to be significant in the areas about which everyone is concerned, including free movement, the Border, common travel areas, recognition of qualifications and employment rights. We believe we are in a unique position. We are enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement and we have significant experience of working at intergovernmental level with established networks in Government Departments in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland and with the EU Commission.
We work at a regional and sub-regional level with institutions, down to the local community organisations. We have a bird's eye view of the region and experience in encouraging cross-Border co-operation and in developing funding programmes in line with national priorities, regional and local needs. We hope to continue that work.
We have experience of identifying obstacles and finding innovative solutions to those problems. We do not underestimate the impact of Brexit, but if we get an opportunity to implement future cross-Border programmes I believe those programmes could start building a Brexit bridge on this island by finding ways to maintain the relationships that have already been established.