The protection and promotion of human rights is, and has always been, a priority of successive Governments and central to our foreign policy. Support for civil society, human rights and democratisation is an important element of Ireland's international development co-operation programmes.
Together with our EU partners, the Government monitors the human rights situations in many countries, on the basis of information obtained from a variety of sources including non-governmental organisations. Where the situation warrants, we make known our concerns about human rights violations to the governments in question, either directly or through action at the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission on Human Rights. At these bodies, the EU regularly makes statements on the human rights situation in various countries. Ireland is fully associated with these statements. The EU also introduces or supports resolutions dealing with specific countries.
Human rights were a central part of Ireland's recent EU Presidency. One of the most significant achievements of the Presidency was the adoption by Ministers in mid-June, and approval by the European Council, of EU guidelines on support for human rights defenders.
At the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which was held in Geneva earlier this year, Ireland in its capacity as EU Presidency successfully presented a significant number of country specific initiatives, including resolutions on the human rights situations in Burma-Myanmar, North Korea, and on the question of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. Ireland also, on behalf of the EU, proposed initiatives on Turkmenistan and Belarus jointly with the United States. In addition, the EU initiated chair's statements on Colombia and Timor Leste, and was active on the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Russian Federation — Chechnya, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
At the current session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Ireland will join in EU initiatives on the human rights situations in a number of countries, including Burma-Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as on the subject of religious intolerance.
Active participation in multilateral organisations such as the EU, UN and the Council of Europe provides an occasion where Ireland can voice its concerns regarding human rights abuses. Through these organisations, international pressure can be brought to bear on those responsible for violation of human rights.
The EU has also adopted common positions on certain countries, an integral part of which attaches priority to promoting human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. In addition, the EU conducts human rights dialogues with a number of countries. The progress of these dialogues is the subject of regular review and evaluation — the dialogues with China and Iran were the subject of Council conclusions at the most recent meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on Monday, 11 October. The Government will continue to use these mechanisms as a means of highlighting violations of human rights and furthering their protection.