Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Dáil Eireann Debate
327. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he directly or through the aegis of the UN or EU he has examined the situation in the various African countries from whence refugees have fled in the past five years; the extent to which the situation has been normalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25479/07]
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Michael P. Kitt): Refugee movements have many causes, including human rights abuses, conflicts and poverty. It is commonly accepted that the targeted eradication of poverty is an effective means of reducing migratory pressures from less developed countries to the developed world, thereby ensuring that migration can be effectively managed to the benefit of both sending and receiving countries.
My Department monitors the situation in Irish Aid partner countries with a particular emphasis on the impact of migration on sustainable development. Ireland participates in the global debate on population movements, including refugee movements, through a number of fora. At the EU level, the ongoing EU-Africa Dialogue on Migration and Development provides an opportunity for European and African governments to work towards greater cooperation in managing migratory flows to the benefit of all. Ireland has also played an active role in the High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, held in New York in late 2006, the Global Forum on Migration and Development, the first meeting of which was held in Brussels in July of this year, and the Inter-Governmental Consultations on Asylum, Refugee and Migration Policies. The issue of the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in wider migration flows is increasingly a focus of attention in the migration debate internationally. My Department liaises closely with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in these and similar fora.
Issues relating more specifically to refugees are dealt with in the context of Ireland’s ongoing relationship with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to which Ireland is a major contributor of funding. Over US$24 million have been provided to date in 2007, making Ireland the 11th largest donor to UNHCR. Both core funding and funding for specific operations are provided. UNHCR operations in the following African countries have received funding in 2007: Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan. Funding has also been provided in 2007 for regional operations in the Great Lakes Region (GLR) and West Africa. Regular contact with UNHCR in Geneva is maintained through the Permanent Mission to the United Nations, as well as through direct dialogue at the headquarters level. Regular contact is also maintained with the UNHCR representative in Ireland. Ireland is a member of the Standing Committee and Executive Committee of UNHCR.
328. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the most commonly known African countries wherein human rights and other abuses occur on a regular basis; the extent to which he and the international community can positively influence these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25480/07]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Dermot Ahern): As has been made clear in reply to previous questions, it is not the policy of the Government to draw up any kind of “league table” of countries in relation to human rights abuses. Ireland closely monitors developments in the human rights situation throughout the world and where the situation warrants, we make known our concerns to the Governments in question, either bilaterally, through the EU, or through action at the UN General Assembly or the UN Human Rights Council.
The risk of human rights violations is of course greater where political, economic and administrative systems are weak. Development is essential to allow people the full enjoyment of their human rights, and Africa lies at the heart of Ireland’s development co-operation programme. Irish Aid supports specific actions designed to promote human rights, including by strengthening government systems and in-country human rights institutions, in particular through legal training. Irish Aid has a specific focus on governance in several programme countries.
The link between security and human rights protection is a key concern in many parts of Africa. Where state authorities do not have the will or capacity to enforce the rule of law, people are extremely vulnerable to serious human rights violations, with little prospect of redress. Some of our most serious human rights concerns relate to countries which are currently suffering from conflict, or which have recently emerged from conflict, such as Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sustained efforts are required to restore the kind of stability within which human rights can be protected. Ireland supports the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission in this regard, as well as the considerable efforts of the European Union. On a national basis, Ireland also promotes security and stability in Africa through our active development aid programmes and through our participation in peacekeeping, most recently as part of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from 2003-2007. Ireland’s contribution to the planned ESDP mission to eastern Chad and the Central African Republic will help improve security for the many refugees and displaced people in that region.
The EU, in its political dialogue with African countries under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, regularly raises issues which arise in the development of democracy and the need for protection and promotion of human rights. The EU also pursues human rights issues when appropriate through the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council. Ireland is fully associated with EU statements on human rights in these bodies. We actively supported the UN Human Rights Council’s consensus resolution on Darfur, which was adopted in March 2007. Ireland and the EU have also made statements of concern about Zimbabwe at the Human Rights Council this year.
Together with our EU partners, Ireland has been a consistent and strong supporter of the International Criminal Court, recognising it as an essential means to combating impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Court’s Prosecutor has opened investigations in relation to four situations, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Darfur region of Sudan, and we will continue to monitor this work closely.
In addition to the United Nations and European Union, the African Union also has an important and growing role to play in the protection of human rights in Africa. The aims of the African Union include the promotion of peace, security, and democracy on the continent, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights, in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The emergence of African standards in this area is a very welcome development. The African Union is an important strategic partner for Ireland and the European Union and for the international community generally.
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