Dáil Éireann - Volume 544 - 22 November, 2001
Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
82. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he has made at international level through the UN and EU to positively influence the situation in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29396/01]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The Government remains concerned at the situation in Zimbabwe. With our European Union partners, we have consistently called upon the Government of Zimbabwe to put an end to the violence and intimidation and to ensure full respect for democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law.
As the Deputy will be aware, the EU has been engaged in a dialogue with the Zimbabwean Government since February. The General Affairs Council on 25 June noted the lack of substantial progress in the dialogue and stressed the need for rapid and tangible results in the following five areas: an end to political violence; an invitation to  the EU to support and observe coming elections; concrete action to protect the freedom of the mass media; independence of the judiciary; and an end to the illegal occupation of properties.
At the General Affairs Council on 29 October, my EU colleagues and I noted that Zimbabwe had made no visible progress on these issues and we, therefore, decided to intensify discussions with Zimbabwe by launching the consultation procedure provided for in Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement. The consultations will focus on the five areas of concern outlined by the General Affairs Council on 25 June.
Ireland will monitor the situation in Zimbabwe carefully and we will continue to make our concerns known in all appropriate fora.
Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 14.
Questions Nos. 84 and 85 answered with Question No. 48.
Questions Nos. 86 to 90, inclusive, answered with Question No. 14.
Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 23.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
92. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he has taken at UN or EU level to influence the situation in Afghanistan, with particular reference to the alleviation of starvation and recognition of human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29424/01]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains of major and immediate concern to the Government. We continue to call on the relevant countries and the international donor community to work together so that we can achieve this key objective. In his contacts with President Bush, the Taoiseach has highlighted the humanitarian dimension of the crisis. I have also been pursuing these concerns, including in my meetings with other Foreign Ministers and with senior UN representatives at both the UN Security Council and the 56th Session of the UN General Assembly. In these latest contacts, we are emphasising that there must be a visible and effective strategy for meeting the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people over the coming period.
At the same time, we are also witnessing continued human rights abuses in Afghanistan and the Government condemns these actions unreservedly. We call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to fully observe and uphold the principles and requirements of international human rights and humanitarian law. Such human rights abuses must stop both to ensure that we can continue to provide essential humanitarian aid to the vulnerable population and to create the necessary conditions for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. The Government considers the observ ance of human rights to be fundamental to any future political dispensation in that country.
Recent improvements in aid delivery have resulted from concerted international action. Ireland has been strongly supportive of a number of special missions which were carried out to countries on Afghanistan's borders and which arose from the consultation process which we spearheaded during our Presidency of the UN Security Council. In addition to the visit to the region made by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, visits have also been made by the UN Secretary General's two Special Representatives to Afghanistan and by the UN Under-Secretary General with responsibility for the co-ordination of humanitarian aid.
These special missions have led to improved aid delivery and humanitarian access to Afghanistan through neighbouring countries such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan. Along with our bilateral efforts on behalf of Irish NGOs, they have also led to an easing of the visa restrictions which had been inhibiting the work of international aid staff. The World Food Programme has delivered over 55,000 tonnes of food aid to Afghanistan since the beginning of October and has total stocks of 88,000 tonnes in the region to support millions of people. At EU level, the delivery of humanitarian aid remains an absolute priority and will be subject to closer co-ordination between member states and the Commission, as well as with specialist humanitarian agencies, donor support groups and NGOs. Bilaterally, the £4 million, 5.08 million, provided by Ireland in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan this year is balanced in its delivery between those at risk within the country and those who are seeking protection in neighbouring states such as Pakistan and Iran. This is being provided through Irish NGOs such as Concern, Trócaire, GOAL and Christian Aid, and through the appropriate UN and International Red Cross and Crescent agencies which have the necessary working access to deliver aid to those most in need.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
93. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give an assessment of the situation regarding starvation and political stability on the African continent; the extent to which the Government has used its influence at EU and UN level to bring about a stabilisation programme to deal with the issues involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29425/01]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I remain very concerned about the situation in Africa in relation to starvation and political stability. They remain major obstacles to the development of the continent. Last January, the World Food Programme presented a world hunger map which illustrated the scale of the problem of global hunger, now estimated as affecting 830 million people worldwide. The problem is particularly acute in Africa, with up to 16 million people affected by hunger in the greater Horn of Africa  alone. Working in close co-operation with UN and EU partners, Ireland Aid has been to the forefront of international efforts to respond to humanitarian crises in Africa including Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola and Sierra Leone. In 2000, Ireland Aid provided over £8.5 million– 10.8 million – to fund emergency relief and rehabilitation programmes for the affected regions of the continent. Emergency funding to the continent last year represented almost 70% of the total emergency assistance budget.
We have also actively supported efforts to improve the international community's ability to respond to humanitarian crises in Africa. At EU level, Ireland has participated in a major evaluation intended to improve the effectiveness of EC food aid and food security policy. This study recommended a number of changes to EU policy in this area to make it more effective and responsive. These included a refocusing of efforts towards strategic and sectoral issues, the introduction of country strategy papers to assist in streamlining rules and procedures and closer co-ordination of efforts with NGOs and recipient governments. In September 2000, the European Commission presented a communication on the evaluation and future orientation of food aid policy and food aid management, which will give effect to the recommendations of the evaluation with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of EC food aid.
In September 2000, the UN Millennium Summit endorsed the goal of reducing by half by 2015 the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. The Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the plan of action, adopted at the World Food Summit, WFS, in 1996 set out the way towards the achievement of the goal. Food security requires an enabling political, social and economic environment, designed to create the best conditions for the reduction of poverty and a durable peace based on the full and equal participation of women and men.
The Government is dealing with the inter-related issues of starvation and political stability in Africa through an unprecedented increase in the volume of overseas development assistance in line with Ireland's commitment to reaching the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on ODA by 2007; using our current membership of the UN Security Council to work towards resolving conflicts in Africa which are inhibiting food security and increasing the numbers of people suffering from hunger; participating in UN peacekeeping operations in regions of conflict, such as the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea – UNMEE; and providing funding for the key UN organisations – World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisations, International Fund for Agricultural Development – involved in helping the starving and in promoting food security.
Another important initiative will be the follow-up to the World Food Summit. Ireland will be playing an active part in the follow up to this con ference, which has been re-scheduled to take place next year. This summit will provide an important opportunity to review progress towards meeting the WFS target, and to renew global commitment at political level to the task of eliminating hunger and malnutrition and to the achievement of sustainable food security for all vulnerable people, especially those living in Africa.
Dáil Éireann 544 Written Answers. Foreign Conflicts.