Ireland's programme of development assistance is primarily focused on the African continent. This programme addresses issues related to poverty, including conflict and food security. This assistance is delivered through a number of channels, directly through our embassies in a number of African countries and indirectly using NGOs, UN agencies and other international organisations.
As well as directly assisting many of the poorest countries in Africa, Ireland is a strong advocate for the developing world and for international peace and security through our membership of the EU and the UN. During the Irish Presidency of the EU, we were deeply involved in major conferences, including to consider post-conflict reconstruction in Liberia and to highlight the appalling situation in Darfur, Sudan.
Conflict has many causes and many manifestations in Africa and is exacerbated by poverty, inequality and exclusion. It is no coincidence that the majority of wars occur in the poorest countries. Conflicts affect the poorest and most vulnerable people, particularly women and children. Food security is undermined by conflict and populations with diminished coping strategies are forced to turn to international aid for survival.
The Government responds in two ways to the issues of conflict and poverty in Africa. In the short term, we focus on saving lives in the most effective way possible, through direct assistance via the UN system, international agencies and NGOs. Our current programme of assistance to the Darfur region of Sudan is a good example of this approach.
In the longer term, Ireland's development programme tries to tackle the structural causes underlying extreme poverty, including through our strong development partnerships with six countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Through these partnerships, Ireland fully engages with the governments, communities, donors, EU and UN agencies on the basis of poverty reduction strategy plans, PRSPs. The valuable development work of our civil society partners, including NGOs and missionaries, is also supported on an ongoing basis.
Ireland, therefore, adopts a comprehensive and inclusive approach to the challenges of conflict and poverty. This approach, embracing all stakeholders, stands the best chance of reversing the negative trend of economic and social indicators in sub-Saharan Africa and facilitating real and positive change in the lives of millions of people.