Dáil Éireann - Volume 634 - 21 March, 2007

Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

[294] Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and the international community are able to address the issues of war, starvation, genocide and general strife that has most notably affected African countries in the past number of years; the degree of progress to date; his expectations for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10826/07]

  Mr. C. Lenihan:Africa is at the heart of Ireland’s programme of official development assistance. The complex series of factors, which contribute to the enormous needs encountered in Africa, include food insecurity, poverty, environmental degradation, weak governmental capacity and policies, unequal global trading relationships, protracted conflict, severe infrastructural weaknesses, poor governance, debt and the effects of HIV/AIDS.

Irish Aid’s emergency humanitarian budget is a key instrument in responding to the humanitarian needs arising from conflict, food insecurity and the effects of natural disasters. Our recovery and long-term development programmes seek to assist countries emerging from natural and man-made emergencies and also address the underlying causes of poverty in all its manifestations.

Irish Aid provides development assistance to many African countries, either directly, or through our partnerships with the United Nations, the Red Cross family and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as Concern, Goal, Trócaire, Oxfam and others. In the context of an increasing aid budget as we approach the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012, these interventions are being further strengthened through enhanced support at the global and country levels.

Addressing Africa’s needs, especially the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, necessitates a comprehensive and coordinated series of actions by the international community and African Governments. In order to measure development progress and to set benchmarks, the United Nations developed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were endorsed by world leaders in 2000.

While the MDGs are undoubtedly ambitious, they can be reached if all stakeholders, the affected countries themselves, the donor community, the UN and EU work together to ensure that poverty reduction, good governance and sustainable development are the cornerstones of all our efforts in Africa.

In addition to our humanitarian response, Ireland’s approach to efforts to promote security and stability in Africa includes our contribution to the security and stability of Liberia through the [295] deployment of troops with UNMIL, the UN Mission in Liberia, since 2003. Ireland has also provided assistance to the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan (AMIS), as part of the EU’s joint actions to foster peace and security in Darfur. In addition, we have provided support to the UN’s Peace Building Fund and have been strongly supportive of the establishment of the Peace Building Commission. We are actively seeking ways to support regional organisations in Africa, particularly the AU which represents an important strategic partner for the European Union and the international community generally.

The challenges facing Africa are enormous. But there is some encouraging news. Many African economies are growing. Inflation, now averaging 8% a year, is at its lowest level in many African countries since soon after independence. While there are exceptions such as Somalia, Zimbabwe and others, many African countries now have less violence and civil strife than for many years. There is relative peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and southern Sudan. In 2006, free and fair elections took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a President and Prime Minister have been appointed.

Through our growing aid programme, we will continue to address needs and build on progress to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of the poorest in Africa.

Question No. 249 answered with Question No. 97.