Dáil Éireann - Volume 565 - 09 April, 2003

Written Answers. - Bilateral Aid Agreements.

  136. Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Sierra Leone will be adopted as a programme country in the expanded priority countries programme. [9948/03]

  Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Ireland currently maintains bilateral aid agreements with the following six countries in Africa, known as programme countries: Tanzania; Lesotho; Zambia; Ethiopia; Uganda; Mozambique.

  The report of the Ireland Aid review committee in 2002 whose recommendations the Government has accepted, proposed that at least one and possibly two new programme countries might be selected from the least developed countries in that region, sub-Saharan Africa, whose needs are acute and which could be expected to respond well to an Ireland Aid engagement building on the experience gained from existing bilateral programmes.

  While the report did not recommend the addition of any programme countries in West Africa, it suggested that Sierra Leone and other countries, emerging from years of civil war which have devastated their economic and social infrastructures, might be given support in the humanitarian field. Acknowledging that longer term development co-operation programmes were not feasible in current circumstances, the report recommended continued involvement in the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance to such countries, often carried out through Irish NGOs. It also stated that if and when progress is made towards the resolution of these conflicts, there would be scope for Ireland Aid to assist with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of these countries.

  Ireland Aid has had a development engagement with Sierra Leone since 1997. Over the past three years a total of €3.28 million has been provided in humanitarian assistance to Sierra Leone through international agencies and Irish NGOs. In 2003, €500,000 was given to the International [233] Organisation for Migration towards the provision of community based assistance for resettled internally displaced persons. In addition, €174,000 was allocated to the NGO, Tearfund, to help fund the provision of clean water, community health education and agricultural equipment to almost 9,000 civilian returnees.

  In January, and again very recently, my officials had discussions with the Sierra Leone High Commissioner to Britain, who raised the question of future Ireland Aid assistance to his country. My officials indicated, with particular reference to the progress made since the elections in May 2002, that Ireland Aid would be happy to build on the support provided to date and would look at the possibility of providing additional assistance for a national recovery programme.