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NGO forum in capital reviews Ireland’s commitment to aid and human rights By Daniel Pelu

Last update - Thursday, March 1, 2012, 15:08 By Metro Éireann

A Top priority for Ireland is a review of the White Paper on Irish Aid, according to the Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs at its 12th NGO Forum on Human Rights recently.

Opening the forum in Dublin on Friday 17 February, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore stressed the importance of human rights in Ireland’s foreign policy and development aid programme.
The forum’s deliberations focused on the White Paper and how the Government can improve and strengthen methods that will lead to an effective aid delivery programme.
Among the topics examined were how the impact of development aid can be maximised through poverty reduction; the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); how better policy coherence can be achieved; accounting for development results; ensuring public enjoyment; and particularly improving the working relationship with key partner countries.
The forum placed human rights at the core of development aid in its panel discussions, and three workshops examined the role of human rights in aid, civil society and foreign policy.
The Tánaiste underscored Ireland’s long-standing commitment to the promotion of human rights in the developing world, and noted that such a focus is critical for the sustainability of development goals.
Minister for State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, also affirmed that human rights should provide the framework for development, adding that that if the MDGs are to be met, human rights must be paramount.
Irene Khan, director general of the International Law Organisation (IDLO), commented that assessing the relationship between development and human rights encourages the Government to build a rights-based approach through empowerment, participation and accountability.
Meanwhile, Trócaire director Justin Kilcillem noted that for aid to be effective, it must be rights-based, poverty-focused and inclusive of citizens.
The forum also stressed the need for a rights-based approach to development aid, as it yields better outcomes. Folke Kayer, advisor to the German Agency for International Co-operation, highlighted the importance of strengthening human rights with development co-operation by systematic application and promotion of rights principles with regard to participation, transparency and accountability.
In addition, Marcia Kran, director of research and rights to development at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that in the past the role of human rights was often neglected, and the result today is a lack of coherence in policy. She stressed the need for harmony between human rights and aid policy.
More than 250 key stakeholders from civil society, the general public, the Oireachtas, the private sector, academia and partner countries took part in the one-day forum.
The conference was chaired by the president of the Irish Human Rights Commission, Dr Maurice Manning.

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