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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 75-85
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Humanitarian Aid
 Header Item European Union Membership
 Header Item Colombian Peace Process
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item European Court of Human Rights Judgments
 Header Item EU Enlargement
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item Child Solidiers
 Header Item Humanitarian Aid

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 803 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 75-85

Foreign Conflicts

 75. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which the international community continues to seek cessation of hostilities in Syria combined with humanitarian assistance with particular reference to the large number of refugees arising from the conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23607/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The conflict in Syria continues to be one of the greatest challenges confronting the international community at present. After more than two years of relentless destruction and violence, and with an estimated 80,000 people having lost their lives, it is clearer than ever that only a political solution can bring about an end to the hostilities and facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy. Since his appointment in August 2012, the UN/League of Arab States Special Envoy Ladkhar Brahimi has shown great resolve in working to achieve these objectives. The international community has consistently expressed its full support for his efforts, notably his search for a formula for transition based on last year’s Geneva Communiqué and providing for a transitional Government leading to free elections in Syria.

The role of the international community in seeking a political settlement to the crisis, in particular through the UN Security Council, remains essential. I therefore warmly welcome the agreement reached by the US and Russia on 7 May to host an International Conference on Syria which would be held before the end of the month. UN Secretary General Ban and Special Envoy Brahimi have also welcomed this development. I urge both sides to the conflict to seize the opportunity offered by the US-Russia proposal and to engage fully in a process of dialogue aimed at ending the violence and starting a transition towards a genuine democratic dispensation in Syria.

It remains essential not to lose sight of the dreadful humanitarian crisis that is unfolding as a result of the conflict in Syria; we are now faced with a truly alarming situation, with almost 1.5 million refugees and over 6.8 million within Syria in need of assistance. I was able myself to witness the impact of this appalling conflict on ordinary civilians and children when I visited a refugee camp at Nizip on the Turkish-Syrian border in early April. The crisis is placing particular pressure on neighbouring countries which are required to host large numbers of refugees. It is important that the international community continues to provide financial and political support to these countries in order to prevent a further deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation.

In response to the various calls for support and help, Ireland has generously contributed more than €8 million to this humanitarian crisis, including a €1 million contribution to the UN-led humanitarian effort which I announced during my recent visit to Turkey. Total EU assistance to date currently stands at well in excess of €600 million. Ireland will continue to take an active role at all levels of our engagement in working to bring about the earliest possible cessation of violence in Syria and ensuring that all those in need, in or outside Syria, can be given the aid they require.

Humanitarian Aid

 76. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which the international community continues to focus on humanitarian and other issues in the Great Lakes region of Africa; if adequate resources are available to adequately address the problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23608/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to face one of the most complex and enduring humanitarian crises in the world. After decades of war, instability and poor governance the humanitarian needs facing the country are enormous. Ongoing conflict, human rights violations and gender-based violence in the east of the country continue to displace hundreds of thousands of people internally and across borders into Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. The challenges facing the DRC require the support of the international community not just in terms of traditional humanitarian interventions but also longer term strategies which aim to build the lasting capacity and increase the ability of communities to withstand future shocks. Furthermore, the situation demands the attention and political support of the United Nations and regional actors.

In this regard, I have in recent weeks voiced Ireland’s strong support for the appointment by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of Mary Robinson as his Special Envoy to oversee the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement and the leadership offered by the United Nation in this renewed effort to break the cycle of violence in eastern DRC. I also recognise the constructive role the European Union is playing in the region. The EU is working through political and diplomatic engagement and development cooperation programmes, in support of implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement and the strengthening of the UN peace-keeping force MONUSCO. The European Commission (DG ECHO) provided almost €61 million in humanitarian aid to DRC in 2012, with a further €12.7 million provided to the Great Lakes region and in support of Congolese refugees. Current plans foresee at least €54 million being provided in 2013. As Presidency of the European Union, Ireland has consistently worked to ensure a strong EU position on the DRC and to highlight the need for humanitarian organisations in eastern DRC to have access to those displaced and in need of assistance.

Ireland is a significant humanitarian donor to the DRC. In 2012 alone, Ireland provided over €10 million in emergency and longer-term development funding to the country. Some €6.9 million of this funding was allocated to the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) for DRC, a UN-administered fund which is allocated to projects by the resident UN Humanitarian Coordinator, with an additional €3 million provided to Christian Aid, Concern, Trócaire and Oxfam. So far in 2013, Ireland has provided €3.8 million in funding, with much of this directed at the provision of emergency food, water, health and protection to vulnerable groups in eastern DRC.

In addition to this direct humanitarian assistance and our work as EU Presidency, Ireland also continues to monitor the human rights situation in the DRC closely and will continue to use our membership of the Human Rights Council to raise issues of concern with regards human rights abuses and violations as appropriate. In this regard, we look forward to raising these issues when the Human Rights Council next discusses DRC in September 2013.

European Union Membership

 77. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which he and his colleagues within the EU have managed to focus on a situation that may arise in the event of Britain leaving the European Union; if it is recognised that the future decision by the UK might yet become a self-fulfilling prophecy with permanent damage to EU solidarity; if other likeminded Member States have been identified in this context; the extent to which the EU intends to address any such situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23609/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore It is clear that the on-going debate in the UK about its membership of the European Union is a live one, and that it is set to continue for some time. It will have consequences for us all in the EU – most of all for the United Kingdom which must be allowed to reach the decision that it deems best for its own interests, but also for other Member States, especially Ireland, depending on how events unfold. I have made clear, many times, my strong preference for the United Kingdom continuing to play a full and active part in the Union into the future. Not only do I believe that this is the best outcome for Ireland; but I also believe that it is the best outcome for the UK and for the wider European Union. While many have commented in and on the debate underway, the question has not arisen in a formal way in the European Union. While many have commented in and on the debate underway, the question has not arisen in a formal way in the European Union.

The Treaty of Lisbon for the first time included a provision – Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union – which explicitly provides for circumstances in which a Member State might seek to withdraw from the Union, and which sets out the procedures that would be followed in such a case. While the provision is a new one, it was always considered implicit in the Treaties, the Union has never been one of duress. It is only when a Member State makes such an application that the issue would fall for formal consideration.

Article 50 has not been invoked to date, and I very much hope that this will remain the case. Both nationally, and as Presidency, the Government’s priority is ensuring that the Union is properly equipped to deal with the complex and exceptional economic challenges that confront the Union. We will continue to work with like-minded partners, including the UK, to achieve the Union our citizens want – a recovered Union back to the path of economic growth and job creation; and based on the values that have served it will, including solidarity, democracy and mutual respect.

Colombian Peace Process

 78. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which the international community continues to support the peace process in Colombia with particular reference to the need to achieve specific targets by autumn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23610/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I strongly support the Colombian peace process and hope that the ongoing negotiations will bring an end to the long conflict there that has caused much suffering. From the outset, the peace talks have received strong support from the European Union and the wider international community. In the latest joint communiqué from the peace talks in Havana, published on 3rd May, the delegations noted progress achieved on a number of areas under discussion and also reiterated their appreciation to Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and Chile. These countries are, at the request of the parties to the talks, playing a helpful role as facilitators to the process. The European Union continues to follow closely the progress of negotiations, and has declared its readiness to provide support for activities that promote peace, truth, justice, reparation and reconciliation.

Ireland supports fully this approach, and stands ready within available means to share our experiences, if invited to do so by the parties to the process. I had the opportunity to meet with Colombia’s President Santos last January on the margins of the EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean countries) Summit in Chile and I assured him of Ireland’s support for the negotiations. President Santos told me of his interest in our own peace process and said that the Colombian process has already incorporated some useful lessons from it. In the course of our conversation, we spoke also of the visit to Colombia by the delegation from Northern Ireland last year and President Santos recalled the useful discussions that had taken place during that visit. I told President Santos that Ireland understands very well the challenges as well as the opportunities represented by this peace process and I expressed the hope that a successful outcome can be reached in the talks underway.

Human Rights Issues

 79. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the ten locations worldwide in respect of which the greatest human rights violations continue to be reported; the extent to which the international community continue to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23611/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Neither Ireland nor, as far as I am aware, the European Union or the United Nations maintains a list of locations in regard to the greatest human rights violations as requested by the Deputy.

Human rights concerns remain central to our foreign policy. Together with our EU partners, Ireland closely monitors the human rights situations in many countries throughout the world. We do this on the basis of information obtained from a variety of sources including both official channels and non-governmental/civil society organisations. Where and when the situation warrants, we make known our concerns about human rights violations to the Governments in question. We do this bilaterally, through the EU or via the positions we take at the UN General Assembly and in the UN Human Rights Council, of which we are a member for the period 2013 to 2015.

We support the use of the full UN human rights machinery in responding to human rights abuses. This includes support for the role of UN Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Bodies, Special Procedure Mandate Holders and for the convening, where appropriate, of Special Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. The EU regularly makes statements at these bodies on the human rights situations in individual countries and Ireland is fully associated with these statements. The EU also introduces or supports resolutions dealing with specific countries.

Since March 2006, when the UN Human Rights Council was formed, Ireland has engaged proactively with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism initiated by the Council. The UPR mechanism allows for the review of the domestic human rights records of all 193 UN Member States approximately every four and a half years, based on human rights obligations under UN human rights and other instruments. Any UN Member State can take part in the interactive dialogue (i.e. the actual examination of the State under review) and submit written questions in advance. Ireland was itself examined under the UPR process on 6 October 2011. The process enables UN Member States to raise issues, some of which would have been identified by members of the public and civil society, and to make recommendations about the protection and promotion of human rights in the State concerned. Ireland has engaged fully with the UPR process and welcomes the open and constructive dialogue associated with it. We have also made numerous interventions during the UPR examination of other states, raising issues of concern such as gender-based violence, freedom of expression, religious freedom, freedom of assembly and the protection of human rights defenders within the State under review.

The EU has adopted Common Positions on certain countries, which attach 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 and also raises human rights concerns as part of political dialogue meetings. In June 2012 the EU adopted a Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.

Ireland and its EU partners have been strong and consistent supporters of the International Criminal Court, recognising it as an essential means of combating impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Court’s Prosecutor has opened investigations into a number of country situations and we will continue to monitor this work closely.

Ireland has also consistently taken the lead in negotiating resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council, of which we are a member for the period 2013 to 2015, on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders, as well as on the implementation of EU Guidelines in relation to human rights defenders in third countries, the aim being to ensure that the latter can operate in an environment free from hindrance and insecurity.

Mindful that the risk of human rights violations is greater where political, economic and administrative systems are weak, the Government’s development cooperation programme, Irish Aid, supports concrete actions designed to promote human rights, including strengthening government systems and in-country human rights institutions (in particular through legal training). Legal aid programmes targeted at victims of human rights abuses are also supported. Irish Aid, the aid programme operated by my Department, has a specific focus on governance in several programme countries. The Government will continue to avail of all the above-mentioned mechanisms and instruments with a view to highlighting violations of human rights and furthering their protection.

European Court of Human Rights Judgments

 80. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the current position in the aftermath of any recent court decisions in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23612/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I assume the Deputy is referring to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgement on 30 April 2013 that the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Ms. Yulia Tymoshenko, had been unlawfully detained. High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle issued a joint statement in response to this judgement, which urged the Ukrainian authorities to reconsider Ms Tymoshenko’s detention and to implement fully all judgments of the ECHR. The statement also encouraged the Ukrainian authorities to work closely with the European Parliament’s monitoring mission to Ukraine headed by former president of the European Parliament Cox and former president of Poland Kwaśniewski with a view to redressing the effects of the current situation and removing outstanding concerns regarding selective justice in Ukraine. I fully support this statement. The EU maintains its position, as set out in the Conclusions of the 10 December 2012 Foreign Affairs Council and in the joint statement of the EU-Ukraine Summit of 25 February 2013, that Ukraine must address the issue of ‘selective justice’ in a determined manner. In this context, the release last month of former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and another imprisoned former Minister represents an important step by the Ukrainian authorities towards addressing the concern about selective justice that the EU has repeatedly expressed. Ukraine must address this issue convincingly if progress is to be made towards signature of the Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. We would very much like to see further steps taken that would make signature of the Association Agreement possible.

EU Enlargement

 81. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which progress continues in respect of EU enlargement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23613/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Enlargement is a priority for the Irish Presidency, and we are working to facilitate progress for all candidates and prospective candidates. Enlargement is a conditional process: prospective member states must themselves achieve progress on reforms in order to move forward on their EU paths. There have been a number of developments in enlargement policy during our Presidency. The Commission and EEAS have issued positive reports on Serbia and Kosovo, following the agreement reached at the Belgrade Pristina Dialogue on the sensitive issue of Serbs in the north of Kosovo. It is hoped this development may lead to Council decisions in June on the opening of accession negotiations with Serbia and the opening of negotiations of Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with Kosovo. However, progress on the implementation of the Belgrade Pristina Dialogue Agreement will be important between now and June. The Commission also published its report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in April. It was relatively positive on reforms, good neighbourly relations and on efforts regarding the ‘name issue’ with Greece. However it also noted the negative effects of two months of political crisis following events on 24 December 2012, which resulted in the forcible removal of opposition MPs from Parliament. It remains to be seen whether enough progress has been achieved for the Council to agree to open accession negotiations. The Irish Presidency stands ready to facilitate this, should the Council so decide.

The final Commission monitoring report on Croatia, issued on 26 March, was positive. Ratifications of the Croatian Accession Treaty by Member States are on track, and we expect to see Croatia accede to the European Union as planned on 1 July. We are hopeful of being able to open a negotiation Chapter (Chapter 22 on Regional policy) with Turkey during our Presidency. However, this will depend on the efforts of Turkey and the EU Member States to facilitate progress.

Negotiations with Montenegro are at an early stage. A Chapter was opened last month and we may be able open another in June. We are also working to progress the important Rule of Law Chapters (23 and 24), which are central to the pace of Montenegro’s accession process.

Iceland is already well advanced in the accession negotiations. The previous Icelandic government took a decision to slow down the accession negotiations ahead of elections on 27 April. At present negotiations are underway to form a new coalition. Until they are concluded it is not known for certain what way the negotiations with Iceland will proceed.

For Albania, the Council stands ready to consider granting official candidate status when the Commission reports that necessary progress has been achieved. However progress has been limited in recent months in the run up to elections in June, and so we would not anticipate a Council decision on Albania during our Presidency.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is now lagging behind its neighbours on reforms, and this is an issue of real concern. The Bosnian government and political leaders must make real and sustained progress in order to realise the country’s EU perspective. What is required is clearly laid out in the December Council Conclusions, and in the June 2012 roadmap agreed by the Commission and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders.

Human Rights Issues

 82. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which the international community continues to focus on the situation in the Horn of Africa with particular reference to conflict and human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23614/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello The situation in the Horn of Africa continues to be a serious concern for the international community, including the European Union. The EU is continuing to implement vigorously its comprehensive Strategy for the Horn of Africa which was adopted in 2011 and which covers the entire region including the situations in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Kenya and other countries of the region. It addresses all dimensions on the different crises in the region including conflict, underdevelopment, and issues related to governance and human rights.

The EU is also implementing significant humanitarian and recovery programmes to respond to the food security crisis and the impact of conflict in the region, including its 'Supporting the Horn of Africa's Resilience' (SHARE) initiative, which was born out of the 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis, and which aims to promote resilience for vulnerable communities in the region.

The situation in Somalia continues to be a major focus of international attention. I represented Ireland at the Somalia Conference in London on 7 May which was attended by representatives of more than 50 countries and international organisations. The Conference discussed a wide range of issues relating to ongoing efforts to consolidate lasting peace and stability in Somalia after twenty years of conflict and lawlessness.

Ireland is making an important contribution to efforts to improve the security situation in Somalia through providing the Commander and a significant contingent of personnel for the EU Training Mission in Somalia, which is building the capacity of the Somali National Security Forces to enable them to take over responsibility for security and law and order. Ireland has contributed more than €41 million to efforts to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia and the region, and we are committed to continuing to provide support and help in this area. We have also indicated, in the context of our new Policy on International Development, ‘One World, One Future’, which we launched earlier this month, and which has a strengthened focus on fragile states, that Ireland will examine other opportunities for assisting Somalia’s recovery in the period ahead. A further important international Conference on Somalia, with particular focus on ways of supporting its economic and social development in the context of the Busan New Deal on Fragile States, will be hosted by the European Union in Brussels later this year.

Child Solidiers

 83. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which the international community continues to focus on the use of child soldiers in various conflicts in Africa and elsewhere; if any particular initiative has been taken to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23615/13]

 89. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which the international community is in a position to discourage the recruitment of child soldiers in the various conflict zones worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23621/13]

 90. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which the international community has identified countries in which child soldiers are used in conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23623/13]

 91. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which Ireland’s influence at UN Human Rights Council level has engaged in the discouragement of the use of child soldiers and human rights abuses in the various conflict zones worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23624/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 89 to 91 together.

  The recruitment and use of child soldiers continues to be a serious problem and a matter of grave concern to Ireland and indeed the international community. The involvement of child soldiers has been reported in most recent armed conflicts and in almost every region of the world over the last two decades. Each year, the United Nations Secretary-General issues a report on children and armed conflict which lists all armed groups – both state and non-state – that recruit and use children. The most recent list includes 52 state and non-state armed groups operating across three continents. It is estimated that up to 300,000 children continue to be involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide, including, notably, in a number of internal and regional conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.

  Against this background, international legal efforts to curb the practice of using children in armed conflict have been stepped up significantly. In 1996, the UN General Assembly voted to establish the post of Special-Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, tasked to serve as an independent advocate for the protection and well-being of boys and girls affected by armed conflict. In 1999, the UN Security Council passed its first Resolution highlighting the impact of armed conflict on children and condemning violations carried out in that context. With the adoption of nine Resolutions and several Presidential statements since then, the Security Council has developed important tools to strengthen child protection and to promote compliance with international standards.

  The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 May 2000 and entered into force in 2002. It is considered the core international human rights treaty on child soldiers: It lays out clear standards relating to the recruitment and use of under-18s by state armed forces as well as non-state armed groups which, if fully implemented, provide a strong foundation for long-term prevention of unlawful recruitment and use of children, and for assisting those who have already became involved in armed conflict.

  Ireland has engaged on this issue in various ways including, crucially, through the core work of our aid programme in addressing poverty and under-development – major root causes of this problem. Ireland has also supported more targeted and specific interventions from supporting agencies such as UNICEF and the International Criminal Court, to designing interventions in our bilateral programmes that address the needs of children affected by conflict.

  We remain deeply committed to addressing this issue, as has been recently reflected in Ireland’s new Policy for International Development, ‘One World, One Future’, where we have pledged to increase our engagement on the issue of child soldiers and children in armed conflict. We are actively examining options for strengthened action in this area. We are also actively exploring ways in which we can use our membership at the UN Human Rights Council to support ongoing international efforts on this important issue.

  Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 37.

Humanitarian Aid

 85. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the degree to which he and his EU-UN colleagues endeavour to ensure that aid intended for specific objectives actually goes to those for whom it was intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23617/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello As Minister of State with responsibility for Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, I am very conscious of the need to ensure that our development assistance is used to achieve its intended objectives. In our new Policy for International Development: One World, One Future, in line with the Government’s commitments to Public Service Reform, we renew our strong focus on openness, transparency and accountability. All programmes considered for funding assistance are rigorously appraised using clear criteria, including efficiency in the use of resources, cost effectiveness and sustainability of intended impact. All partners in receipt of aid funds are obligated to report regularly on the results being achieved as a consequence of this support. At the most fundamental level our aid must make a real difference in the lives of the poor and must assist in building essential service delivery systems and capacity for the future.

We work closely with the UN and EU in conducting joint appraisals, ensuring clear and measurable targets for our aid are agreed and that the achievement of these is monitored in a systematic and transparent manner. Programmes in receipt of funding through the Irish Aid programme are subject to regular internal and external monitoring to ensure that the intended objectives and goals are being achieved. They are evaluated and audited by independent experts as well as by my Department’s Evaluation and Audit Unit. The Unit’s work is regularly reviewed by the independent Audit Committee of my Department.

I believe that our ‘zero tolerance’ for any misuse or misappropriation of aid funding is recognised and respected. In the event of any fraudulent use of Irish Aid funding, such as happened last year in Uganda, it is our policy to demand a full refund of monies disbursed and to pursue the perpetrators through the police and court system.


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