Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Department of Foreign Affairs
Question 196: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will put together a business plan to develop the Shannon region as a hub for international humanitarian aid and EU-UN peacekeeping missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42725/10]
The Department of Foreign Affairs, through Irish Aid, pre-positions essential humanitarian relief items in a series of depots located close to those regions which are most susceptible to natural or other disasters. The pre-positioning of such stocks forms part of the Rapid Response Initiative established in the aftermath of the 2004 Asia tsunami.
The United Nations Humanitarian Relief Depots (UNHRD), which are highly specialised, are administered by the World Food Programme and are strategically situated in Brindisi, Italy; Accra, Ghana; Subang, Malaysia; Panama and Dubai. They are supported by a growing number of national governments and international humanitarian organisations, meaning a large reservoir of supplies is available which can be borrowed and replaced should our own stocks be insufficient. The UNHRD network has proven itself an important instrument in Ireland's humanitarian response and has allowed Irish Aid to organise airlifts and shipments of essential shelter, water and sanitation supplies to emergencies such as those which affected Haiti and Pakistan earlier this year.
Given the highly effective and cost-efficient nature of the UNHRD system, owing to its pooling structure and proximity to disaster and emergency prone regions, and current budget constraints the Government has no plans at present to develop an alternative facility which would have a high capital and management cost. As regards peacekeeping, the Defence Forces deploy to various UN and UN-mandated missions from the Curragh in County Kildare which is the location of the Defence Forces Training Centre and Logistics Base. In recent years, as the nature of peacekeeping missions has become more complex, Ireland has also deployed police and civilian personnel to various crisis management missions. Deployment takes place smoothly and I do not consider at this time that value would be added by seeking to develop new site for this purpose.