Famine in the Horn of Africa: Dáil Statement on Post EU Council Meeting.

Famine in the Horn of Africa: Dáil Statement on Post EU Council Meeting.

Full Transcript:
I thank the Taoiseach for his comprehensive update on what was discussed at the European Council. None of us is surprised that the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the resulting outcomes dominated much of the meeting. It is striking to hear the language used and reiterated by the Taoiseach in describing some of the Russian actions as war crimes. That is not a term to be used lightly but it is an assessment with which I fully agree. It is good that international organisations are being tasked with getting to the bottom of that.

Deputy Brady referred to the artillery war that is being waged in Ukraine but, of course, it is much more and much broader than that. We are seeing the weaponisation of human misery. We are seeing that directly expressed in Ukraine with the indiscriminate targeting of civilian populations, as the Taoiseach said, and places that had absolutely no military or strategic outcome whatsoever. That approach saw sickening expression in the forced relocation of Ukrainian children across the border into Russia. The Taoiseach spoke more widely about the impact of that on the childhood of a generation of children. We see it in our own country but the most egregious possible example is forced relocation.

In Europe, we are seeing human relocation and displacement being weaponised. We are also seeing the weaponisation of energy and its costs. Putin knows that is going to create energy poverty in communities. It is going to foment dissent and create dissatisfaction. It is all aimed at undermining the solidarity of the European effort. Deputy Brady asked what the Government was doing to communicate the impact of the energy crisis. It is not the Government alone that bears that responsibility.

I heard an informed and nuanced contribution from Deputy Conway-Walsh. I do not always hear that nuance or honesty in some communications. As Deputy Gannon said, of course we must do everything we can to insulate people from rising energy costs. However, it is disingenuous to say that across Europe, it would be possible to do this in a way that does not translate in some way to difficulties. The supply of gas to the Nord Stream pipeline was reduced to 40% and it is now in maintenance mode, which means there is zero supply through it at the moment. People across Europe are concerned that the pipeline will remain switched off. We must be honest that there will be implications for the European economy and people across Europe if this weaponisation of energy plays out in that way. We must be honest about that.

We are also seeing the weaponisation of food.

We are seeing that in particular in the Horn of Africa. Deputy Boyd Barrett’s glib commentary in the face of what is unfolding in the Horn of Africa is misplaced. We are seeing human misery unfolding at an unprecedented level. I am being told by people who are experts in the area, including representatives of Oxfam and Dóchas, that this is dwarfing the unthinkable situation that occurred in 2011. We said we would not allow that to happen ever again, yet 11 years later the situation is worse. We know that is also the result of climate change and the absence of rain for four years. We also know it is the result of deliberate policy. I do not think this is incidental; it is intentional. The Taoiseach referenced the Holodomor, which was a human-created famine in Ukraine. We are seeing another human-created famine now as a result of the implications of climate change and the blockading of the ports. The latter has meant that many people who are reliant on Russia and Ukraine will not be able to avail of food exported from those countries. That issue has been outlined by other Deputies, including by Deputy Haughey in some detail. Some 23 million people in just three countries, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, are being exposed to crisis levels of hunger.

It is an unthinkable level of hunger. We are seeing livestock, which are people’s entire way of life, being wiped out and decimated. Looking at the reasoning behind it, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, delved into this a little when he stated:

Many people are already starving or food insecure and are increasingly on the move in search of food and pastures… I am deeply concerned about the impact this will have not only on health but on overall national and regional security.

As I said, I do not think this is incidental. I think it is intentional and aimed at creating instability within Europe through energy costs and instability worldwide through food costs. It is the weaponisation of human misery. It poses a challenge to us, as a small country, with respect to what we can do about that in an international context. First, we have to support in every way we can the development of those solidarity lanes, notwithstanding Deputy Howlin’s point that this can only provide a fraction of the capacity that sea transportation can. I very much support the ongoing UN initiative with Turkey to leave no stone unturned in seeking to reopen the sea routes because nothing else will provide the export capacity we need.

In the longer term, we need to look at energy and food security within Europe and domestically. Deputy Conway-Walsh mentioned that our renewables are increasingly coming on stream. We know generation is intermittent and we need to build baseline capacity so that we integrate renewables into our system in a more coherent way that will allow us to move further away from fossil fuel sources.

We also need to think about root-and-branch restructuring of our agricultural systems. Is it right for us to import fodder when we know people across the world are dying as a result of a lack of grain? In that context, do we need to review our agricultural systems? We need to continuously push on the development of a loss and damage facility. Ireland is at the forefront on that. Some headway was made at COP26 but the issue needs to be revisited in COP27, which will be held in an African country. I hope that will bring more focus to bear on a loss and damage facility.

The Taoiseach gave firm commitments on climate financing but we need to build capacity within our own system to deliver on that expansion in capacity he promised.