Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (207)

Clare Daly

Question:

207. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of foreign aid that has been paid to Uganda and Syria and if there are any plans to alter these arrangements. [8242/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Over the past 5 years, Ireland has allocated over €196 million in aid to Uganda through our aid programme, including through civil society organisations. This aid is working. Since commencing our work in Uganda in 1994, we have witnessed huge improvements in the quality of life for the Ugandan people. Peace has returned to most of the country after generations of war. There are now 8.3 million pupils in primary schools compared to 2.5 million 15 years ago. The HIV prevalence rate has been reduced dramatically from 18% in the 1990s to just over 6% today. Poverty has more than halved over the last two decades. These are real achievements, which have been made possible with the support of donors such as Ireland. Following the fraud at the Office of the Prime Minister in 2012 which involved the loss of €4 million in Irish Aid funds, the Government suspended all aid provided directly through Ugandan Government systems amounting to €16 million. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government of Uganda has since refunded the €4 million to Ireland. Ireland has made it clear to the Ugandan Authorities that no Irish Aid support will be channelled directly through Government systems until there has been sufficient follow up to the fraud and until we are satisfied with appropriate assurances from the Ugandan Government around its internal financial systems. We will continue to work with other development partners and directly with the Ugandan Government to assess progress in this regard.

An interim development cooperation programme for Uganda in 2013 is under consideration. This will be a smaller programme compared to recent years involving support to programmes managed through non-government partners. Most of these are a continuation of existing programmes and commitments in education, HIV/AIDS, governance and social protection. Consideration is also being given to providing direct support to important oversight institutions such as the Office of the Auditor General. Over the course of this year, options will be considered for a longer term strategic approach to the development cooperation programme in Uganda.

The Syrian conflict is now almost two years old. In excess of 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has seen the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and residential areas, as well as humanitarian and medical actors. With more than 820,000 individuals having fled the desperate situation in the country, the majority of whom are women and children, neighbouring countries have shown great generosity but also endured great strain in hosting those in need. Ireland has responded promptly and generously, both within Syria and in the neighbouring countries most affected by the humanitarian crisis.

As early as March 2012, the Government began providing emergency assistance through partner agencies on the ground, and to date, our total contribution stands at €7.1 million. This includes the recent pledge of €4.7 million made at the High Level Donor Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City on 30 January 2013 attended by Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, T.D. Delivered through key UN partners, trusted NGOs and the International Committee of the Red Cross, this support is helping to address the pressing medical and food needs of those requiring life-saving assistance. Ireland’s contribution also includes supplies of non-food items from our stocks in Dubai through our Rapid Response Initiative. Into the future we will continue to monitor the situation so that we can review the effectiveness of our contribution and assess how, within our means, we may be able to further respond to humanitarian needs within the region.

Holding the Presidency of the European Council, Ireland is striving to build momentum behind international efforts to ease the terrible humanitarian burden faced by the Syrian people, emphasising the need for all parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access and aid delivery to the people in need, to ensure the neutrality of humanitarian aid and to abide by International Humanitarian Law. Ireland is using the EU Presidency to call on all donors to fulfil pledges made, in coordination with the UN and in full respect of humanitarian principles.