Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Questions (43)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

43. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the current position in Southern Sudan; the extent to which the international community has found it possible to engage with the various parties with a view to dealing with human rights abuses, war, famine and starvation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28719/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

South Sudan is one of the poorest states in Africa. Years of conflict and underdevelopment, accentuated by the violence that erupted in December 2013 have resulted in the current humanitarian crisis. In early June 2014, the number of people reported to be displaced by the current crisis in South Sudan was over 1.4 million, including 1,038,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). The security and humanitarian situations in South Sudan are a serious concern for the international community. The European Union, through the efforts of its Special Representative for the Horn of Africa Alexander Rondos as well as its Embassies in the region, is actively engaged with international efforts to resolve the conflict in South Sudan. The EU has supported mediation efforts by the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The conflict and ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan has been discussed by the European Union Foreign Affairs Council on a number of occasions since the outbreak of violence there in December 2013, with an in-depth discussion held most recently on 17 March 2014.

On 15 May 2014 the African Union and the EU jointly welcomed an agreement to resolve the crisis in South Sudan signed by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar on 9 May 2014. The EU and the African Union also urged the two sides to fully implement all agreements that have been signed to date, including the 23 January Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. EU Development Ministers further discussed the crisis with High Representative Catherine Ashton on 19 May.

Moreover, we have been working with the United Nations to protect civilians and provide humanitarian relief wherever possible. The UN Security Council unanimously agreed on 27 May 2014 to reorient the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to focus on the protection of civilians. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) co-hosted the Humanitarian Pledging Conference for South Sudan in Oslo from 19 to 20 May, at which donors pledged more than $600 million. Ireland pledged €2 million at the Oslo conference, to support life saving work of UN and NGO partners in the country, and this pledge has been fulfilled. In total, Irish Aid funding for the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan amounts to almost €5 million to date in 2014. Our support has saved and continues to save many lives.

Five members of the Irish Permanent Defence Force are currently deployed for service with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) at UNMISS and my Department has also deployed a number of civilian experts to the UNMAS mission through the Rapid Response Initiative.

Ireland will continue to advocate at all relevant international fora for increased support to the humanitarian relief effort both within South Sudan and for South Sudanese refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide assistance, within our means and as the situation evolves.