Thursday, 29 March 2012

Questions (53, 54)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

47 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues continue to exert pressure to bring about an improvement in the human rights situation in the horn of Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17525/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The need to address effectively and comprehensively the problems in the Horn of Africa remains a high priority for the Government, together with our EU partners, and is the subject of regular discussion by EU Foreign Ministers and Development Ministers and in the United Nations. The challenges faced in the region are immense, given the context of international and ethnic conflict, the issues of terrorism and piracy, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and the plight of an estimated 13 million people in need of emergency assistance. We are particularly focused on the ongoing crisis in southern Somalia, where famine was declared last year in six areas of the country and where access for humanitarian aid agencies remains a major challenge, most especially in areas controlled by the Islamist group, Al-Shabaab.

The overall EU approach to the region is guided by the Strategic Framework on the Horn of Africa, which was adopted in November 2011. This comprehensive commitment to the Horn of Africa recognises the importance of a stable peace and respect for human rights, and the longer term need for economic and social development across the region. The EU and its Member States recognise that instability in the region poses a growing challenge not only to the security of its peoples but also to the rest of the world.

The EU is continuing to play a major role in support of the strengthening of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia, increased regional and international efforts on the political transition process, and the combating of piracy and terrorism. The EU has appointed a Special Representative who, in close consultation with the EU Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan, will help ensure coherence, impact and visibility for the Union's regional approach to the interrelated challenges facing the people of the Horn of Africa. Ireland recognises that a military and security approach can only have limited success in addressing the crisis in Somalia and the wider region, and we are strongly supportive of a comprehensive regional approach by the EU and the wider international community.

Ireland is also continuing to make a direct and practical contribution to the response to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. We have recently announced a further €2 million in funding for humanitarian agencies responding to the situation in Somalia, through the UN Common Humanitarian Fund. Ireland is also contributing personnel to the EU Training Mission working with the Transitional Federal Government for Somalia, including the Mission's Commander, who is an Irish Army Officer.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

48 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which specific attention has been given to the various locations on the continent of Africa that have heretofore been the subject of violations of human rights abuses, genocide and war crimes; the degree to which on-going persuasion continues to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17526/12]

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The Government, along with our EU partners, attach high importance to the development of relations with the countries of Africa. Our national approach is guided by the Africa Strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which I launched in September 2011. It sets out a framework for our policies in the political, development and economic areas in order to ensure that our engagement is as coherent and effective as possible. A fundamental principle of our approach is an emphasis on the promotion of political progress including the resolution of conflict, the strengthening of democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to work with African Governments, African regional organisations, communities in the priority countries for our aid programme, the UN, and humanitarian organisations to address the causes of conflict and instability in Africa. We are also active in responding the consequences of such instability, including the displacement of civilians and the humanitarian needs of affected people.

The EU has recently adopted comprehensive strategies to address the complex problems in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions. The EU and its Member States are also playing a significant role in addressing fragility, post-conflict rehabilitation, support for electoral processes, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, capacity-strengthening in the areas of justice and human rights, humanitarian response, and economic and social development, including through support for civil society, in a wide range of African countries.

Africa is the geographic focus for Ireland's development aid programme, with 80% of the aid budget devoted to the objective of ending extreme poverty and hunger, especially in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Our missions in Africa monitor developments, report to the Government, and manage our political and economic relations and humanitarian and development programmes. Ireland is also contributing personnel to EU and UN missions in Africa including the Training Mission for the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. We also regularly support and contribute personnel for EU Election Observer Missions, including recent missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal.

Ireland also strongly supports international human rights institutions focusing on Africa, including the International Criminal Court, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 28.