Human Rights Cases

Questions (423)

John Brady

Question:

423. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and the actions that he would be willing to take to assist in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38587/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have asked our Embassy in Ankara, which is accredited to Pakistan, to make enquiries about this matter.

It appears that the individual in question is not an Irish citizen and therefore the Embassy could not provide consular assistance and no such assistance has been requested.

However, the Embassy will make further enquiries in liaison with the EU Delegation in Islamabad. Although the whereabouts of this individual are unknown, Ireland would expect that Pakistan will comply with its international human rights obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Foreign Policy

Question No. 425 answered with Question No. 415.

Questions (424)

John Brady

Question:

424. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and the response to the ongoing vandalism by Israeli forces and settlers against Palestinian-owned olive groves during the olive harvest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38588/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The importance of the olive harvest to the economy in the occupied Palestinian territory is heightened this year due to the impact of Covid-19. I am very concerned by reports over the past few weeks of attacks on olive farmers escalating as the harvesting period takes place.Officials from Ireland’s Representative Office in Ramallah recently visited Palestinian olive farmers in Sinjil-NE Ramallah. Our support is important as farmers face serious challenges during the harvest season, including restrictions on access to lands and settler violence and intimidation.

Ireland's position on settlement expansion is extremely clear. Settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory is clearly illegal under international law. Ireland continues to call on the Israeli Government to reverse this decision and to halt all settlement construction. Our longstanding support for a Two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains an integral aspect of our foreign policy, which I will continue to prioritise.

Question No. 425 answered with Question No. 415.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (426)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

426. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the checks that will apply to trucks transiting the UK post 1 January 2021; if France is availing of flexibilities in the regulations for the movement of products of animal origin; if all French ports will be designated BCPs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38619/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

From the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, the UK will be outside the EU single market and the customs union. This means that new rules and procedures will apply to goods moving to, from or through the UK, excluding Northern Ireland.

New rules and procedures will apply when moving goods across the UK landbridge between Ireland and the EU. Operators will still be able to move goods across the landbridge, but the way they use the landbridge will change. The UK's accession to the Common Transit Convention (CTC) is welcome. It allows EU goods to move under transit through Great Britain without undergoing full import and export formalities on entry and exit. However, to avail of the benefits of the Convention, a number of new administrative steps must be completed in Ireland, Great Britain and at the port of re-entry. Each consignment must also have a financial guarantee during the movement.

In addition, Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625 means certain goods, including animals and products of animal origin, are subject to controls on re-entering the EU and must be pre-notified to the Border Control Post (BCP) of re-entry to the EU ahead of arrival.

The mechanism by which prior notification of a shipment containing animals or products of animal origin is provided to the BCP is at the discretion of each Member State. Flexibility in EU legislation, expected to be adopted shortly, allows Member States to use systems other than TRACES NT (the EU’s official SPS platform) for the provision of this prior notification. France have indicated that, as their IT system relies on data from TRACES NT, they require prior notification of products of animal origin (POAO) through submission of Part I of a CHED on TRACES NT.

Ireland has undertaken substantial engagements at political and official level across the EU to ensure EU goods moving under transit are not subject to additional and unnecessary checks and controls. For the vast majority of consignments transiting the landbridge, documentary checks will be performed electronically in advance of the consignment re-entering the EU and once the correct paperwork is in place, transit goods should be “green-routed” to leave the Port. Identity and physical checks will only be necessary where the authorities suspect non-compliance. It is therefore vital that operators have the correct administration work in place, in particular in relation to prior-notification.

France will list a number of additional Border Control Posts which will be in operation from 1 January 2021. These include Caen-Ouistreham, Calais port, Calais Eurotunnel, Calais Boulogne-sur-Mer, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Roscoff, and Saint-Malo.

We have noted the likelihood of delays in UK ports for some time now, including in our Brexit Readiness Action Plans of 2019 and 2020. Operators should plan accordingly and consider switching to direct route options. No new procedures will apply to goods moving on direct routes to the EU

Brexit Preparations

Questions (427)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

427. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which all options have been catered for in respect of the aftermath of Brexit with particular reference to access to foreign markets for Irish products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38701/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland's overall export performance over the last 10 years has been marked by year-on-year growth with total exports of goods and services reaching further record levels of €374 billion in 2019. While trade with the UK remains important, and is worth more than €1 billion per week, expanding the Irish export footprint in markets beyond the UK is a key priority. In that context, the Government is working together with Irish exporters to support them in becoming more innovative, competitive and market diversified.

The Irish exporting landscape has been strong and companies in Ireland have been succeeding in winning business worldwide for their products and services. Against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, Irish companies continued to grow their exports into key markets in 2019, including in Germany, France, the Netherlands and North America. The opening of new embassies, consulates and enterprise offices as part of the Global Ireland initiative will support our companies in competing and thriving in global markets.

Ministerial-led Trade Missions have supported the Government's major drive towards market diversification. The majority of trade missions in recent years have taken place to the Eurozone, North America and Asia Pacific, which are considered to represent the strongest growth opportunities for Irish companies. These Trade Missions focused on promoting the innovative capabilities and competitive offerings of Irish companies to international buyers in sectors including internationally traded services, fintech, high-tech construction, engineering, ICT, lifesciences and in the agri-food sector. Trade Missions will resume as soon as is practicable. In the meantime, promotion of our companies abroad will continue through the work of our embassies, consulates and state agencies on the ground internationally.

In addition to these global efforts, key to our success has been our commitment to trade liberalisation in order to open new markets for our indigenous sectors. The EU has successfully concluded a number of important trade agreements with trading partners and is in the process of negotiating or upgrading its agreements with many more. The existing suite of EU Free Trade Agreements and new trade deals will continue to be very important for Ireland. With a small domestic market, further expansion in other markets is essential to our continued economic growth and, in this regard, Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new Free Trade Agreements, opening new markets for Irish companies and increasing export and investment opportunities.

Preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period is a whole of Government endeavour and continues to be a key priority across Government. The Government remains committed to doing everything we can to assist businesses and citizens in preparing for the end of the transition period, including by assisting Irish traders to diversify to access additional new markets outside of the UK.

Brexit Issues

Questions (428)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

428. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which specific Irish produce might be impeded en route to foreign destinations in the context of the post-Brexit situation; if specific guarantees have been given in respect of any or all such access; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38702/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

From the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, the UK will be outside the EU single market and the customs union. This means that new rules and procedures will apply to goods moving to, from or through the UK, excluding Northern Ireland.

From 1 January, businesses that trade with the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, will be subject to a range of new customs formalities and paperwork, along with other regulatory requirements, including Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks, both in Ireland and in the UK. The Government has conducted substantial outreach to businesses and provided dedicated supports to assist them in preparing for these changes. Further information is available in the Government's Brexit Readiness Action Plan and on GOV.IE/Brexit.

New rules and procedures will also apply when moving goods across the UK landbridge between Ireland and the EU.

Post transition, operators will still be able to move goods across the UK Landbridge but the way they use the landbridge will change.The UK's accession to the Common Transit Convention (CTC) is welcome. It allows EU goods to move under transit through Great Britain without undergoing full import and export formalities on entry and exit. However, to avail of the benefits of the Convention, a number of new administrative steps must be completed in Ireland, Great Britain and at the port of re-entry. Details of all these new steps can be found at GOV.IE/Brexit. Furthermore, each consignment must also have a financial guarantee during the movement. Under Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625, a range of goods, including animals and products of animal origin (POAO), are subject to controls on re-entering the Union and must be prior-notified to the Border Control Post (BCP) of re-entry to the EU ahead of arrival. Ireland has undertaken substantial engagements at political and official level across the EU to ensure EU goods moving under transit are not subject to additional and unnecessary checks and controls. In particular, we have worked with our French, Belgian and Dutch counterparts to understand each other’s BCP operations.For the vast majority of consignments transiting the landbridge documentary checks will be performed electronically in advance of the consignment re-entering the EU and once the correct paperwork is in place, transit goods should be “green-routed” to leave the Port. Identity and physical checks will only be necessary where the authorities suspect non-compliance. It is therefore vital that operators have the correct administration work in place.We have regularly noted the likelihood of delays in UK ports for some time now and operators should plan accordingly. Operators may wish to look at direct route options. The process for moving goods directly between Ireland and other EU Member States will not change nor be subject to the new procedures set out on our website.

The Government's 2020 Brexit Readiness Action Plan provide a broad range of information for traders and operators on the new systems in place and steps that should be mitigate the challenges arisng after the transition period ends.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (429)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

429. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which he and his Department have engaged with bodies other than his Department with a view to providing travel for the Christmas period while keeping in mind best practice in terms of social distancing, sanitising, rapid-testing and mask wearing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38703/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department publishes Travel Advice for over 200 countries to provide an objective assessment of the risks individuals could face if travelling overseas, with a view to helping them to make informed decisions for themselves. It is based on consultation with our Embassies and Consulates on the ground, the relevant local authorities in each country and our international partners, together with our domestic partners where appropriate. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the priority of protecting public health, we have worked particularly closely with the Department of Health and the HSE.

The EU Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was adopted by Europe Ministers on 13 October. The Government decided to implement this 'traffic lights' approach in Ireland. The implementation of the approach, which applies to countries in the EU / EEA (+ UK), involves a number of Government Departments, including the Department of Health and the Department of Transport.

Requirements including public health guidelines for those travelling into the State are of course a matter for other Departments. Any decisions around advice on international travel over the Christmas period are for decision by the Government.

Overseas Development Aid

Questions (430)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

430. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the total amount of overseas development aid offered to various bodies globally in each of the past five years to date; the extent to which such funds reach their desired destination; if there were any exceptions to such rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38704/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The total amount of Ireland’s overseas development aid increased from €647.51 million in 2015 to €869.87 million in 2019. Information on the recipients of this ODA, and the channels through which ODA is delivered, can be found in the annual reports from Irish Aid. A link to the report can be found at: https://www.irishaid.ie/news-publications/news/newsarchive/2020/november/irelands-official-development-assistance-annual-report-2019.html

In 2018, 45% of Ireland’s funding to multilateral organisations went to European Union institutions, 39% went to UN Agencies, Funds or Commissions, 6% went to the World Bank Group, with other multilateral organisations such as regional development banks and the WTO comprising the remaining spend. Detailed annexes to the 2019 Annual Report will be published in the coming weeks containing the equivalent information for last year.

The allocation of Ireland’s ODA is guided by our international development policy, A Better World. This policy has as its overarching objective the commitment to reach the furthest behind first. Peer Reviews of Ireland’s development programme, undertaken through the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), have consistently found Ireland's development cooperation to be of the highest quality, commending our poverty focus and commitment to Least Developed Countries.

The DAC Peer Review conducted this year also noted Ireland’s strong focus on addressing fragility and reducing humanitarian need, and stated that Ireland’s “allocations follow intentions”.

Overseas Development Aid

Questions (431)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

431. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his Department have monitored countries in Europe or otherwise currently offering aid for trade to African countries or other economically challenged locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38705/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland’s development co-operation programme recognises that international trade can play a major role in the promotion of economic development and the alleviation of poverty. The World Trade Organisation-led Aid for Trade initiative seeks to mobilise resources to address the trade-related constraints identified by developing and least developed countries.

Aid for Trade programmes are designed to help developing countries to improve their competitiveness, expand and diversify their trade, attract foreign direct investment, create employment, and ensure women, youth and small and medium-size enterprises have opportunities to engage in trade. There is evidence that every €1 invested in aid for trade creates €8 in extra trade for all developing countries, and €20 for least developed countries. This is particularly important in the current context, as developing countries struggle to cope with and recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

My Department continues to monitor the engagement by the EU and others on aid for trade. The biennial joint OECD-WTO ‘Aid for Trade at a Glance’ publication, last published in 2019, provides a comprehensive analysis of current trends and developments.

Ireland was represented at the 7th Global Review of Aid for Trade which was held in July 2019 in Geneva. This Review demonstrated a continued need for and commitment to the WTO’s Aid for Trade initiative at a time of growing global trade tensions and uncertainty. The theme ‘Supporting Economic Diversification and Empowerment’ led to special consideration of the digital divide, sustainable approaches and women’s and youth economic empowerment.

The EU adopted an updated EU Aid for Trade Strategy, Achieving Prosperity through Trade and Investment, in December 2017 and Ireland participates in the ongoing implementation and monitoring of this. The third EU Aid for Trade Progress Report was published earlier this year.

I am pleased that since 2000, Ireland has provided support for a number of international organisations involved in Aid for Trade initiatives. These include technical assistance programmes of the WTO; the International Trade Centre (ITC); the Advisory Centre for WTO Law; and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Port Management Programme. Our funding to these organisations amounted to €1.8m in 2020. In addition, support is provided for a number of private sector initiatives across the countries that we engage in through our development cooperation programme, for example the African Agri-Food Development Programme.

Overseas Development Aid

Questions (432)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

432. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which Irish aid is being distributed annually under the multilateral aid programme and separately under bilateral aid agreements; the degree to which continued support is offered to achieve value for money for such donations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38706/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In 2019, Ireland provided a total of €869.87 million in official overseas development assistance. Of this, €512.44 million (or 58.9%) was bilateral aid, and €357.44 million (or 41.1%) was multilateral aid.

Both bilateral and multilateral channels play important and complementary roles in ensuring that Ireland’s ODA is directed to where it is needed most and in the most appropriate and effective way: this approached enabled a respected think tank, ODI, to find Ireland to be the most principled donor in its 2020 index, the second successive year in which Ireland scored highest.

The OECD DAC Peer Review of Ireland’s ODA programme, published this year, noted that “Ireland’s long-standing commitment to engaging in partnerships is the trademark of [Ireland’s] development programme”. These partnerships, with Governments, CSOs, UN agencies and others extend beyond funding. The continued support and engagement Ireland offers in these partnerships is central to ensuring that Ireland’s ODA is used effectively and achieves value for money, against the backdrop of risk management processes the OECD found to be 'clear' and controls to be 'effective'.

Human Rights

Questions (433)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

433. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU colleagues continue to monitor worldwide locations of concern in which war, starvation, ethnic cleansing, genocide and human rights abuse against men, women and children are obvious; if specific action is ongoing to address these issues; the success of the international efforts to date in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38707/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland works with our EU partners to provide needs-based humanitarian assistance to the people affected by man-made and natural disasters, with particular attention to the most vulnerable victims. Aid is channelled impartially to the affected populations, regardless of their race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.

The European Commission’s Directorate for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations has worked with a humanitarian operations budget of €1.95 billion in 2020. The EU – its Member States and EU institutions collectively – is among the leading donors of humanitarian aid in the world. In addition, Ireland has separately provided approximately €180 million in humanitarian aid in each of the past three years to address many global crisis situations.

Protecting and promoting human rights is a priority of Ireland’s foreign policy. With our EU partners, Ireland closely monitors the human rights situations in many countries, where increased human rights violations are often a first step on a trajectory towards conflict. Ireland supports the use of multilateral human rights fora in responding to human rights violations including in the EU, UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe.

Through the EU, Ireland contributes to the global response to situations which push people into forced displacement and irregular migration. For example, 70% of the €4.8 billion committed through the EU Trust Fund for Africa is being used to address the root causes of forced displacement and irregular migration.

Through our participation in international bodies, as well as direct support for human rights and the provision of humanitarian and development assistance, Ireland is making strong efforts to address the needs highlighted in a principled and consistent manner. With regard to the conflict in Ethiopia, Minister Coveney has urged all parties to cease hostilities, de-escalate tensions, demonstrate restraint and work for reconciliation, and has also condemned atrocities and targeting of ethnic groups. Most recently, on 19 November, Minister Coveney intervened at the EU Foreign Affairs Council regarding the outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia and stressed the need to act fast and collectively to call for unconditional, unrestricted access for humanitarian actors to affected areas.

Foreign Policy

Questions (434)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

434. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he and his Department and the international community continue to monitor the activities of the Al Shabaab and Boko Haram or other similar organisations engaged in various nefarious activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38708/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland strongly condemns all acts of violence and terror perpetrated by Boko Haram and Al Shabaab. Ireland supports the EU, UN and other international efforts to reduce the influence of Boko Haram and Al Shabaab and to prevent their attacks, especially against civilians. Ireland continues to monitor the activities of these groups and to assist populations affected by their actions.

The UN is active in working to undermine the influence and impact of Al Shabaab and Boko Haram. The UN continues to monitor the situation in areas affected by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin, through its Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), as well as at the UN Peacebuilding Commission, in which Ireland actively participates. The UN-mandated African Union-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) supports the Federal Government of Somalia in its efforts to combat Al Shabaab.

The EU is one of the main financial contributors to AMISOM and it has also pledged €50 million in funding to the Multinational Joint Taskforce to improve security in West African territories affected by Boko Haram. More broadly, the EU supports the strengthening of government institutions and provides significant development funding in Somalia, and in the countries affected by Boko Haram's terrorist activities, notably through its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Ireland is a long-term donor to the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and has committed over €15 million to that Fund.

The EU Council Conclusions of June 2020 reaffirm the EU’s commitment to tackling terrorism across Africa, particularly in the Sahel and Horn of Africa. The EU has three Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in the Horn of Africa. A number of Irish nationals are deployed to EUCAP Somalia, including the current Head of Mission. In the Sahel, Ireland previously had 20 Defence Forces personnel participating in EUTM Mali, with numbers temporarily reduced to 12 due to Covid-19. Ireland also deploys one expert to the EUCAP Sahel Niger. Ireland’s participation in these missions allows us to contribute to international peace and security, protect human rights, and support conditions for sustainable development in the region.

Ireland also works bilaterally to promote peace and security in areas affected by armed groups. Ireland places a strong emphasis on tackling the poverty, hunger and exclusion which can contribute to radicalisation. We are members of the International Support Group of the Regional Stabilisation Strategy for the Lake Chad Basin (ISG), and observer members of the Sahel Alliance. Both groups offer international partners a forum to coordinate support in addressing the challenges in Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin.

In addition, Ireland works with partners to respond to humanitarian need in regions affected by conflict. Ireland has provided €27 million in humanitarian funding to the Lake Chad region since 2015. Ireland’s Embassy in Abuja also contributes funding for those displaced by conflict in North-East Nigeria through its Humanitarian Fund. Ireland has also been a consistent supporter of the humanitarian response in Somalia, providing over €51 million in humanitarian assistance since 2012, including to communities displaced by conflict in Al Shabaab-held areas. With humanitarian needs in these regions likely to remain acute, Irish funding will continue to target those most in need.

The Embassies of Ireland in Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Abuja will continue to actively monitor the situation on the ground, advise on humanitarian response and guide Ireland’s engagement in EU and UN fora, particularly as we take up our UN Security Council seat in 2021.

Foreign Policy

Questions (435)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

435. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU and UN colleagues continue to monitor event sin the horn of Africa with a view to intervening to challenge abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38709/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Although the Horn of Africa has seen some positive developments in recent years, internal conflict, weak governance and historically strained relations between neighbours persist. Fragile political transitions and peace processes are taking place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting the entire region politically, economically and socially and adding to the existing burdens of climate change, terrorism and migration, as well as multiple humanitarian challenges, including infectious diseases, locust infestations, drought and floods.

Ireland, together with its UN and EU partners, is strongly committed to the Horn of Africa, through our political, development and humanitarian efforts and we will remain closely engaged in the region in the context of our upcoming tenure on the UN Security Council. Minister Coveney discussed the Horn of Africa with fellow EU Ministers during a high level event in July and stressed that the region must remain a priority on the EU’s agenda.

Ireland supports the efforts of the EU and the UN in taking a multi-pronged approach to the Horn of Africa, including continued support for the important work of the African Union and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), which play a key role in regional peace and security.

I am deeply concerned by the outbreak of armed conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including the reported atrocities and ethnic profiling, and the humanitarian consequences. Ireland is actively supporting the efforts of the EU and wider international community to de-escalate the situation, including through engagement with the African Union which has appointed three Special Envoys. Minister Coveney has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and the commencement of a national dialogue to de-escalate tensions. Minister Coveney has also condemned the reported atrocities and identity-based attacks. It is essential to ensure that the human rights of all Ethiopians are upheld. I am gravely concerned by reports that Ethiopia’s federal military has said civilians should protect themselves from heavy artillery, in advance of a planned assault against the regional capital. I urge all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. Ireland is also a longstanding humanitarian supporter of the wider Horn of Africa region. In the context of the Tigray crisis my Department has reallocated €416,000 for the humanitarian response within Ethiopia and €500,000 to assist refugees in Eastern Sudan.

South Sudan continues to endure an ongoing crisis, in large part the consequence of civil war. While the ceasefire is largely holding between the main opposition parties, following the formation of the unity government last February, I am concerned that sub-national violence and human rights abuses continue to cause immense harm to civilians, with the UN reporting that over 1,000 people have been killed and more than 400 abducted in the last six months. The situation is very fragile with key aspects of the peace deal still to be implemented, including the creation of a unified army, local governance and transitional justice measures. Ireland continues to monitor the situation closely, including via our Embassy in Addis Ababa and via the EU Delegation in Juba.

Just over one year on from the signing of the power sharing agreement between the military and the opposition, Sudan’s fragile transition is proceeding amid significant challenges including COVID-19, difficulties accessing international funding, an economic state of emergency and severe flooding. On 3 November 2020, I was able to speak with the Acting Foreign Minister of Sudan to reiterate Ireland’s continued strong support for the transition and to announce additional support for Sudan’s response to floods. In an historic step, on 3 October the Government of Sudan signed a peace agreement with key armed groups, which the EU witnessed. In June 2020, then Minister of State Ciarán Cannon represented Ireland at the high level Sudan Partnership Conference hosted by Germany, the EU and Sudan, and announced Ireland’s contribution of $500,000 to the World Bank Trust Fund for Sudan, to provide cash transfers for vulnerable families.

Despite Somalia’s recent progress in peacebuilding and state building, volatility and risks remain high and tensions between the Federal Government and Federal Member States remain a cause for concern. While recent consensus reached on the electoral model for upcoming elections is welcome, it is disappointing that the model is far from the ‘one-person one-vote’ elections that the international community, including the EU, advocated for. The security context in Somalia remains deeply fragile and Al Shabaab is still capable of complex attacks. Al Shabaab has also developed sophisticated revenue-raising capabilities that make it an increasingly competitive actor within Somalia. Ireland is concerned by other developments in Somalia including the ousting of the former Prime Minister in July and recent regressive legislative proposals which will impact efforts to prevent sexual and gender based violence. Ireland has raised these concerns at the most recent session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and in discussions with the Government of Somalia.

The EU engages actively in the region through political dialogue, its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions (EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta, EUCAP Somalia, and EUTM Somalia), and development and humanitarian cooperation. Ireland has been an active contributor to EUCAP in Somalia, to which there are a number of Irish deployees including the current Head of Mission. Ireland, through the EU, also supports the efforts of the African Union led peacekeeping mission, AMISOM, to stabilise Somalia.

Through regional and bilateral programmes and the Trust Fund for Africa, the EU is providing over €3 billion to the Horn of Africa (2014-2020) which focuses on supporting economic opportunities for young people. Ireland has pledged over €15 million to the Trust Fund for Africa.

Ireland also supports the office of the EU Special Representative to the Horn of Africa, Alex Rondos, whose mandate is to contribute to regional and international efforts to achieve lasting peace, security and development in the region.

Ireland is also a longstanding humanitarian donor to the Horn of Africa, having provided over €222 million in humanitarian assistance to the region since 2012 and we are also a significant contributor to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which countries in the Horn benefit from. With humanitarian needs likely to remain acute throughout 2021, Ireland remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance where it is needed most in the Horn of Africa.

Foreign Policy

Questions (436)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

436. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the international community continues to encourage a peace process in the Arab-Israeli disputed territories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38710/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have given a high priority to the Middle East Peace Process since my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2017, and I continue to do so in the current Government. I have made four working visits to the region, most recently in December 2019.

This priority is set out in the Programme for Government, which states that the Government will “Maintain and build our relationships with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority and remain active on the Middle East Peace Process. Ireland’s longstanding support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain an integral aspect of our foreign policy and we will continue to build consensus at EU level to take a more proactive approach in supporting a negotiated two-state solution and lasting peace process”.

Ireland remains ready to support any peace initiative that respects the international parameters for a two-state solution and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, and provides a basis to meet the aspirations of both peoples.

The Middle East Peace Process is regularly discussed in meetings of EU Foreign Ministers. On 19 November, I participated in a discussion with the Palestinian Foreign Minister along with EU Foreign Ministers. This was an important opportunity to discuss our shared concern regarding recent settlement expansion plans and demolitions of Palestinian property, discuss the road ahead towards the holding of Palestinian elections and how negotiations to bring about a peaceful settlement based on a two-state solution can be resumed. On 27 August, I participated in a discussion with the Israeli Foreign Minister during an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. The EU’s firm commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict was conveyed to Foreign Minister Ashkenazi, in addition to the EU’s welcoming of Israel’s suspension of annexation plans.

Ireland will continue to work with international partners on this issue including, as we prepare to take up our seat on the UN Security Council in January 2021.

Human Rights

Questions (437)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

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.

Overseas Development Aid

Questions (438)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

438. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which Irish aid is directed towards providing irrigation or water systems for deserving communities globally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38712/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is a precondition for success in the fight against poverty, hunger, child deaths and gender inequality, and has taken on a renewed importance since COVID-19 emerged. Water system management is critical to establishing sustainable food systems, and Ireland will work to ensure that this is discussed at next year's Food Systems Summit.

The Government through Irish Aid supports efforts to improve governance of water and sanitation, especially where scarce and precious resources are under threat from climate change. This includes investing in irrigation and water system projects and climate-smart agricultural practices. This support is delivered through different development partners including: local and national Government agencies; Irish, international and local NGOs; and multilateral organisations.

This support includes working with local Government representatives in Mozambique to build new water systems, install water access points and rehabilitate existing boreholes as well as train community water committees to manage these resources. In Vietnam, Ireland has supported ethnic minority communities in 48 communes to improve access to basic services including water. In Gaza, Ireland is partnering with the French Development Agency to provide sustainable solar power to the North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment plant to reduce contamination of water aquifers and ensure adequate clean water.

Irish core support for UNICEF contributes to improved water supplies and sanitation facilities in schools and communities, and safe hygiene practices in 90 countries. In Sierra Leone, Irish Aid worked with UNICEF to ensure that hygiene facilities in approximately 100 schools were upgraded to facilitate safe reopening.

Also with Irish Aid support, Irish NGOs and missionary orders are working with communities and local governments in low-income countries to improve water supply systems for household consumption and for agriculture production.

Ireland supports the UN’s Global Environment Monitoring System for freshwater which is helping to build the capacity of developing countries to accurately monitor and report on water quality, including through a web based postgraduate diploma course in freshwater quality monitoring and assessment delivered by University College Cork.

Foreign Policy

Questions (439)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

439. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which he continues to support calls for the deployment of UN peacekeepers to various trouble spots globally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38713/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

UN peacekeeping is one of the most effective and visible tools of the UN in the promotion and maintenance of peace and security across the globe. There are currently 13 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, with over 95,000 uniformed personnel from over 120 countries. It is one of the world's most collaborative efforts to deliver stability and safety to millions of people and it is a global effort to which Ireland is fully committed. With contributions from the Defence Forces and from An Garda Síochána, Ireland is present in more than half of those operations.

UN peacekeepers are increasingly deployed to complex and volatile environments. It is vital that peacekeeping operations are designed in a way that ensures they are effective, efficient, focussed on the protection of civilians and responsive to the needs on the ground. During our time on the Security Council, Ireland will work with partners to deliver peacekeeping mandates that align with the needs of the people they seeks to protect and have the resources necessary to do so.

We will also support the cooperation of the United Nations with regional organisations, such as the African Union and the European Union, who are increasingly taking responsibility for peacekeeping operations under UN authorisation. In this framework, Ireland participates in a number of EU military crisis management and civilian crisis management missions.

In undertaking this work, we remain cognisant that peacekeeping is not an end in itself but a tool to create the space for locally-owned political solutions. In that area too, Ireland looks forward to playing our part during our forthcoming tenure on the UN Security Council.