15. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he and his European Union and United Nations colleagues continue to press for humanitarian assistance in the various conflict zones globally; if he and they are considering the provision of safe or protective havens for civilian communities fleeing from war, genocide and terrorism, and making peace-keeping interventions in the most sensitive war zones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11912/16 asked on 26 May 2016)

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe McHugh): Responding to the unprecedented scale of humanitarian crisis worldwide poses a huge challenge for the international community. Violations of international humanitarian law preventing access to communities in need of assistance compound this challenge. Ireland continues to work with our partners to respond actively and effectively. Last year, we provided some €140 million in humanitarian assistance. Earlier this week, world leaders, civil society and representatives of the private sector gathered at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which was called by the UN Secretary General to address the scale of humanitarian crisis. President Michael D. Higgins and I led Ireland’s delegation to the Summit.

We have seen the scale of the humanitarian crisis first-hand in Europe over the last year as increasing numbers flee conflict in desperate need of safety. 60 million people worldwide are now displaced their homes. Over 4.8 million people have fled from Syria alone. Many millions more – in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Nigeria – have sought safety within their own countries.

Providing safe havens within conflict zones is extremely difficult, especially where the warring parties do not prioritise the protection of civilians. Such safe havens require a mandate from the UN Security Council as well as robustly equipped peacekeeping personnel.

As UN Secretary-General Ban has stated: “Peace operations can and have succeeded when they are an expression of strong and unified international political will. … To deploy them in the absence of a political strategy for resolving the conflict is to risk lives and money in pursuit of a peace that will likely remain elusive.”

In many of today’s conflicts, this political will is lacking, including from some on the UN Security Council. However, in other places, the UN is active and there are more than twice as many UN peacekeepers deployed today as there were 15 years ago. Ireland is playing its part, with 356 uniformed Irish personnel currently serving in seven peacekeeping operations.