Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (437)

Bernard Durkan


437. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which international efforts are being made to protect women and children in the various worldwide warzones at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38711/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

We know from many examples that rates of violence against women and girls rise significantly during conflict and crisis. Ireland has stayed the course and continued funding protection in protracted crises. Some of these have seen women and children trapped in limbo in camps for decades, as in the case of Somali refugee camps in northern Kenya. Protection is more important than ever before. However, flagrant disregard of International Humanitarian Law means that the safety of affected populations and even aid workers is not assured in many areas. The need for material assistance is equalled and often surpassed by the need for safety and security. Syria is one such example.

Ireland's approach to protect women and children is to coordinate between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to prioritise and deliberately allocate resources to protection, in particular against gender based violence in crises and emergency contexts. We choose the best placed actors to assist in each situation. We target resources to the agencies and NGOs on the ground which can provide the right supports needed for the context, including for example, providing safe spaces for women and girls who have experienced sexual and gender based violence. A package of €4.5 million from Irish Aid currently funds this crucial work in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia through to the end of 2021.

Gender equality and women's empowerment is a central priority for Ireland's foreign and development policy. Protection is one of four pillars in Ireland's third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security from 2019 - 2024. Priorities under this pillar include women's and girls' protection in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. This includes support to provide or facilitate access to medical, legal, psychosocial and livelihood services, without discrimination.

Ireland has a Rapid Response Corps, a roster of skilled and experienced volunteers with specialized skills including gender and child protection who make themselves available to deploy at short notice to work in humanitarian emergencies. Since 2019, nine volunteers have been deployed to work with our UN partners on gender and protection support for vulnerable women and children.

Through our Humanitarian Programme Plan grants, Irish Aid works with our NGO partners who use the grants to fund programmes to improve the wellbeing of people, in particular women and children affected by violence and gender-based violence. For example, a grant to Concern in Lebanon focuses on Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities to reduce the risk of child labour, protect children's rights to an education, and prevent child marriage and domestic violence.

Ireland also works with a key partner, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC responds quickly and efficiently to help people affected by armed conflict. Ireland has provided the ICRC with €10 million in core funding in 2020, to assist its work in responding to emergencies. In addition, Ireland has responded to the ICRC special appeals in Syria, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mozambique in 2020. In 2019, Ireland responded to a special appeal on sexual violence, providing €500,000 for that effort to protect women and children.