Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ceisteanna (70)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

70. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will be prioritising visits to affected communities in Colombia in view of the new embassy in place in Bogota and his commitment to human rights defenders and the peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12143/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

As the Deputy mentioned, Ireland has long been a committed supporter of the peace process in Colombia, with a particular focus on the protection of human rights and human rights defenders. Ireland has committed more than €10 million in funding to Colombia since 2007 to prevent conflict, build peace, protect human rights and support the livelihoods of rural populations, including women.

Ireland was a founding member of the EU Trust Fund for Colombia, and continues to provide funding to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, in their work to support the implementation of the peace accords.

We have also facilitated lesson sharing programmes between Ireland and Colombia, based on our own experience of peace building. As we know well in Ireland, the signing of a peace agreement only marks the beginning of a process. We understand the slow and painstaking work that goes into building trust between communities to enable reconciliation and to develop a culture of trust. We have had many dark moments and setbacks, and we understand that peace building is the work of generations.

Ireland's new Embassy in Bogotá has just recently opened, with Ambassador Alison Milton presenting her credentials last month. This, combined with the opening last year of the first resident Embassy of Colombia in Dublin, marks a tangible strengthening of relations between our two countries, and will greatly enhance our ability to engage on issues on the ground.

One such important area of engagement is with those local communities and groups that have been most impacted by the armed conflict. Officials at our Embassy in Bogotá have already met with a number of civil society and multilateral organisations, including those working with conflict-affected and rural communities, indigenous and women's groups. My officials engage regularly with the EU delegation and other embassies in Bogotá on these issues.

Having a permanent diplomatic presence on the ground will also further enable us to monitor the status of the peace accords closely and to fulfil our commitment to the Government and people of Colombia.

Ireland remains committed to supporting the full implementation of the peace accords in Colombia to ensure a more peaceful future for all Colombians. We have stressed our continued support for the peace process to the Government of President Iván Duque, including when the Taoiseach met President Duque en marge of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2018.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Colombia and with our EU partners to ensure a coordinated and effective approach that best supports the peace process. I can assure the Deputy of our continued commitment the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Colombians.