Apologies have been received from Senators Ann Ormonde and Dominic Hannigan. I remind members and those in the Visitors' Gallery to ensure their mobile telephones are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting as they cause interference with recording equipment in the committee rooms even in silent mode.
The first item on the agenda is the minutes of the previous meeting. The minutes have been circulated to the members. Are there are matters arising from those minutes? Are the minutes agreed? Agreed.
The purpose of this meeting is to meet Ms Magdalena Sepúlveda, the UN independent expert on human rights and extreme poverty, on her visit to Ireland. She had a very heavy schedule in recent days. It is ironic that she should be here on the first anniversary of the Haiti earthquake disaster. We welcome her and her team. She is accompanied by Mr. Allegra Franchetti and Ms Lidia Rabinovich from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
I also welcome Mr. Colm Rafter and Ms Iverna McGowan, from the human rights section of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The mandate of the independent expert is to evaluate the relationship between the promotion and protection of human rights and the elimination of extreme poverty in all countries of the world, regardless of their level of development. The purpose of her visit to Ireland this week was to study the Irish Government's approach to alleviating poverty, both domestically and internationally and she has had a heavy schedule. We will, therefore, try and get our proceedings under way as quickly as possible. Today's meeting provides an opportunity to focus in particular on Ireland's development programme and on its effectiveness in promoting human rights and alleviating extreme poverty. Human rights and development aid are seen as twin priorities for Ireland's foreign policy. It is significant that in the Irish Parliament the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs also has two sub-committees, one of which deals with human rights and this one which deals with overseas development. These issues are widely regarded as particular foreign policy priorities for us. This committee has held hearings and members have undertaken visits to a number of Ireland's programme countries to assess the effectiveness of our aid programme. It is a cross-party committee which has consistently and unanimously supported the protection of Ireland's aid budget and which also supports concentrating development activities through untied aid on the poorest development countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa. With the publication of the hunger task force report, Ireland has placed livelihoods and food security at the heart of the Irish Aid programme. We regard the right to adequate food as the most fundamental of human rights.
Again, I welcome Ms Magdalena Sepúlvedaand invite her to address the committee. Her contribution will be followed by those of members to which she may then respond. Before we commence, I must inform the committee on the issue of privilege. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice or rule of the Chair to the effect that Members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(i) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to effect that where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
I understand Ms Sepúlveda is a little unwell this morning. I invite her to make her presentation and we will then take questions from members.