Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (221)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

356 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he intends to influence the EU and UN addressing human rights issues on the African continent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25516/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

Africa is a continent beset by often seemingly insurmountable problems including conflict, debt, poverty, HIV-AIDS and the abuse of human rights. The European Commission and member states collectively are the largest global donors of development assistance to Africa and the EU is thus in a position to play an important role in helping Africans address the problems of the continent especially in multilateral fora.

The EU conducts a process of political dialogue with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that are party to the Cotonou Agreement. Human rights are a central theme of political dialogue.

Ireland sought to strengthen political dialogue with African countries and organisations during our recent EU Presidency. To this end, two important meetings took place with the African Union and ECOWAS under Irish chairmanship. The discussions with the African Union troika took place in a very positive and constructive atmosphere and covered peace and security and good governance issues, as well as regional integration and trade and development issues, such as external debt and food security. The discussions with ECOWAS took place in a very positive and open atmosphere, with good discussions on peace and security, conflict prevention, economic integration and trade, institutional matters and political dialogue follow-up as well as the issue of human trafficking.

During the most recent session of the UN Commission on Human Rights the EU was active under the co-ordination of the Irish Presidency in securing a number of initiatives on Africa. These included the establishment of a special EU mechanism on the Sudan, the agreement with the African Union of a resolution on the DRC and the adoption of a resolution regarding assistance on human rights in Somalia. The EU also supported resolutions tabled by the African Union on Chad, Sierra Leone and Burundi.

The EU thematic resolution on the death penalty was adopted with a record margin of victory and a record number of co-sponsors. The resolution on the rights of the child, which we co-tabled with the Latin American-Caribbean grouping, and the resolution on religious intolerance were also adopted. All these resolutions are universal in their application and naturally include Africa.

In addition, at the initiative of the Irish Presidency, the EU, for the first time, delivered a strong statement to the Commission, in which the EU reaffirmed its strong commitment to work for the elimination of all contemporary forms of slavery.

Although the EU was not successful in pursuing a resolution on Zimbabwe, the commitment of the Irish Presidency and its promotion of active engagement with the African Union bore fruit in that there is now a clear African concern about the situation in that country which was expressed in Nigeria's explanation of its vote for the no-action motion which caused the EU resolution to fail.

With regard to the situations in countries such as Sudan, Liberia and DRC, Ireland has been actively involved in their discussion at bilateral, EU and UN levels and continues to attach utmost importance to the issue of human rights in Africa. The European Union intends to table draft resolutions in the current session of the UN General Assembly regarding the human rights situations in Sudan and DRC, and Ireland will continue to play an active role in the discussion of these resolutions.

Question No. 357 answered with QuestionNo. 200.