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Minister highlights Ireland's commitment to humanitarian assistance

Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello addresses European Parliament and highlights Ireland’s commitment to effective and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance

Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, T.D., today highlighted Ireland’s commitment to ensuring that life-saving humanitarian assistance is delivered quickly and effectively to communities in crisis, including those in Mali and Syria.

Addressing the Development Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels to outline Ireland’s priorities for strengthening humanitarian policies and programmes under our EU Presidency, Minister Costello said the EU must continue to respond to the overwhelming humanitarian needs of the citizens in Mali and Syria by providing life-saving, emergency assistance, while working simultaneously to support efforts to find a sustainable political solution.

“It is essential that the EU, as a leader within the international community, continues to respond to the overwhelming humanitarian needs of the populations affected by these conflicts.

“We call on all parties to these conflicts to respect the safety of civilians, to leave medical and educational facilities untouched, not to impede the delivery of life-saving assistance to those in need and to respect and uphold international humanitarian law.”

During our Presidency, Ireland will work to enhance cooperation between the EU and member states in responding to humanitarian crises, he pledged. 

“In 2011, humanitarian aid provided by the European Commission assisted 117 million people across 91 countries, whose lives were at risk due to manmade or natural disasters. It is clear that much good work is being done and thousands of lives are being saved. Nonetheless, we must always challenge ourselves to achieve more; to deliver our assistance more effectively and to ensure that we are fully accountable to our own citizens and to the vulnerable populations we seek to serve.”

Minister Costello underlined Ireland’s particular focus on so-called ‘forgotten crises’:

“Whilst our attention is, inevitably and justifiably, drawn to crisis situations which attract the international media spotlight, we will seek to shine a light on the world’s forgotten humanitarian emergencies, which are often complex and long-running. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo remains one of the world’s most devastating crises, yet is all too often forgotten. The conflict there, which has seen more than 5 million people die since 1998, is arguably the world’s most deadly crisis since the Second World War’

Minister Costello also told Parliamentarians that Ireland will work to build stronger links between emergency assistance and longer-term development programmes in order to support vulnerable populations to better prepare for and cope with crises. He said:

“The complexity of crises such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo requires both immediate strategies to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and longer-term strategies to increase the ability of communities to withstand future shocks. An important element of our response is to anticipate, prevent and prepare for disasters.”

Minister Costello welcomed the continued support, generosity and empathy of European citizens for those affected by humanitarian crises, noting that:

‘ Some 88% of Europeans support the EU’s funding of humanitarian aid in spite of the economic crisis and associated pressure on public finances’