Africa is a continent beset by often seemingly insurmountable problems such as conflict, debt, poverty, HIV/AIDS and the abuse of human rights. However, the African Union represents an important strategic partner for the European Union and one with whom ever closer relations are being forged in the interests of promoting peace, security, democracy and development on the African continent.
The aims of the African Union include the promotion of peace, security, stability, democratic principles and good governance on the continent and also the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and other relevant human rights instruments. Ireland and the EU are working closely with the AU to further these aims since the organisation was established in 2002.
During the 2004 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the EU, under the co-ordination of the Irish Presidency, successfully undertook a number of initiatives on Africa. These included the appointment of an independent expert to monitor the human rights situation in Sudan, agreement with the African Union of a resolution on the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, and the adoption of a resolution on providing assistance for the promotion of human rights in Somalia. The EU also supported resolutions tabled by the African Union on Chad, Sierra Leone and Burundi.
The EU tabled a resolution on Zimbabwe which was, regrettably, not adopted. However, the commitment of the Irish Presidency and its promotion of active engagement with the African Union bore fruit, in that clear African concern about the situation in that country was expressed in Nigeria's explanation of its vote for the no-action motion which caused the EU's resolution to fail. At the most recent session of the United Nations General Assembly last autumn, an EU sponsored resolution on the situation in the DRC was passed, while no-action motions unfortunately prevented resolutions on Sudan and Zimbabwe from succeeding.
Ireland closely monitors developments in the human rights situation of African countries and promotes appropriate action at bilateral, EU and UN levels. The European Union is currently discussing which resolutions it will table at the next session of the UN Commission on Human Rights which will commence in Geneva on 14 March. Ireland will continue to play an active role in this process.