Written Answers. - UN Security Council.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

188 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he is taking as Minister for Foreign Affairs and as Chairman of the UN Security Council to help the humanitarian needs of thousands of innocent Afghan people and refugees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27595/01]

Both before and since taking up our position on the UN Security Council, Ireland has sought to highlight the humanitarian dimension of the situation in Afghanistan. This concern is shared throughout the international community and every effort is being made at all levels to meet the humanitarian needs of the vulnerable Afghan population. In October 2000, Ireland Aid gave priority to Afghanistan as a then "forgotten emergency" with support of £440,000. Since the start of this year, a further £4 million has been provided by the Government in humanitarian assistance to that country. This aid is aimed at meeting the urgent needs of both the vulnerable population within Afghanistan and those who have fled the country, mainly to Pakistan and Iran.

During Ireland's Presidency of the UN Security Council in October, we underlined the urgent need to focus on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan at the Council's weekly consultations. In particular, we gave priority to both getting aid in place before the onset of winter and keeping borders open to Afghan refugees seeking sanctuary in neighbouring countries. These issues have also been given priority at meetings between the Taoiseach and President Bush. I am also pursuing the humanitarian issues in the context of my ongoing meetings with other Foreign Ministers and senior UN representatives at the current session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Ireland has been strongly supportive of a number of special missions which were carried out to countries on Afghanistan's borders and which arose from the consultation process which we spearheaded in October. Visits were paid to the region by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Ruud Lubbers, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Afghanistan, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi and by UN Under Secretary General Kenzo Oshima who is responsible for the co-ordination of humanitarian aid within Afghanistan. These special missions have led to improved aid delivery and humanitarian access to Afghanistan through neighbouring countries such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan. Along with our bilateral efforts on behalf of Irish NGOs, they have also led to an easing of the visa restrictions which had been inhibiting the work of international aid staff.
An estimated 52,000 tonnes of food aid are needed each month to meet the requirements of the vulnerable people of Afghanistan. The UN agencies, along with the International Red Crescent and the NGO community, are developing a 30-day plan to address urgent needs by region. The Government will continue to support these and other efforts aimed at dealing effectively with the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. We are engaged in ongoing, intense consultations with the key humanitarian and other actors in Washington, New York and Geneva and with those who are delivering aid to the people of Afghanistan with our support.