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Tánaiste Opens 12th NGO Forum on Human Rights

Human Rights, Press Releases, Ireland, 2012

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Eamon Gilmore T.D., today opened the 12th Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade NGO Forum on Human Rights in Dublin Castle.  Speaking to over 250 participants from government, civil society, and academia, the Tánaiste reiterated the importance of human rights in Ireland’s foreign policy.   

This year’s Forum focuses on the Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid.  The Tánaiste said:

“Ireland has a long-standing commitment to the promotion and realisation of human rights in the developing world.  When we joined the United Nations in 1955, we helped to promote decolonisation, disarmament and peace-keeping.  With the emergence of newly independent States in the 1960s, we took up issues of development and in time established our own bilateral aid programme.  Today’s Forum is well placed to provide a tangible input into the ongoing Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid, an exercise which has been launched by this Government and which will help shape the direction of our development cooperation programme over the coming years.

The Tánaiste also spoke of Ireland’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for the term 2013-2015:

“Later this year, Ireland will seek election for the first time to the United Nations Human Rights Council.   The Human Rights Council is the primary international forum for advancing respect for human rights and promoting compliance with the key international instruments.   We have a strong domestic record and have also clearly demonstrated our commitment to the strengthening of human rights at the global level.   No country, of course, has a perfect performance in the area of human rights.   We recognise that there is still much work to be done in Ireland by Government and civil society in order to achieve our common objectives.  But there is nevertheless a solid basis of achievement and of common endeavour.   

“As a small State which emerged from a history of conflict and oppression, we are strong believers in the community of nations working together to advance the values which lie at the heart of the UN Charter.  We are proud of our record in the promotion of human rights at the UN, notably our contribution to the UN stand against apartheid.  If we are to contribute further to the strengthening of human rights internationally, we need to be at the heart of the Human Rights Council.

In his address to the Forum, Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, TD, said a strong culture of human rights is crucial for sustainable development.  

“Human rights are realized when development programmes deliver real and lasting results for poor people, especially women, children and the marginalised. We need to constantly ask how our efforts can best be targeted at building democratic ownership of human rights, accountability, transparency and non-discrimination. 

The Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid affords an important opportunity to take stock of our progress in this regard, and more broadly, the achievements and challenges of our development programme. We know that our aid is delivering result:  Poverty levels in Uganda have halved since the early ‘90s, while the number of children attending school in Mozambique has grown from 400,000 in 1992 to almost 7 million today.

“But many challenges remain, including climate change, food and energy insecurity, gender inequality and poor governance. We need to carefully examine how our aid can contribute further to addressing these challenges. And we need to think and act beyond aid, ensuring that poorer countries have better access to trade, can raise more of their own revenue, and are able to drive their own development.”

“As part of the public consultation phase of the Review, I want to hear the views of the general public on the aid programme; because this is their programme, carried out in their name, and built on our values as a nation. Today’s forum will also feed into our deliberations in a very meaningful way.”

Notes to the Editor

  • The DFAT-NGO Forum on Human Rights was established by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1998 to allow discussion on a wide range of human rights issues with the emphasis on foreign policy.  It acts as a vital mechanism for exchange and discussion between the Government and civil society.   
  • The theme chosen for this year's Forum is “Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid”. 
  • Public consultations on the Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid are taking place between now and April 2012. Public meetings will be held in Cork, Dublin and Sligo over the coming months. For more information on the Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid, visit

 Further information on the Forum can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website: Copies of the Tánaiste’s and Minister of State Joe Costello’s speeches are available at