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Joe Costello to lobby Africa for Irish seat on UNHCR

IRELAND's minister for overseas aid is to lobby African government ministers for support for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC).

Joe Costello will this week attend the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa as part of the drive to secure election to the influential body.

"This will provide me with an opportunity to press Ireland's case with our African friends," he said.

"Given Ireland's strong record in working to improve human rights and the commitment of this Government to tackling human rights abuses around the globe, membership of the council would provide us with a strong platform to further our work in this crucial area."

The junior minister will push for support as part of a five-day trip to the east African state to see the impact of Ireland's development programme.

Mr Costello, appointed Minister of State for Trade and Development in late December, will visit schools, health centres and agriculture projects, supported by Irish Aid and targeted at the poorest communities.

He will also visit Tigray in the north of the country, where Ireland supports a programme to provide cash or food in return for vital environmental works which improve agricultural productivity.

The programme is instrumental in protecting the lives of more than 7.5 million people, who otherwise would be at risk of hunger.

"These are long-term, sustainable results which ensure that vulnerable communities can build a better future for their children," he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced earlier this month Ireland was seeking a seat on the UN council for the first time, based on commitments to justice and peace.

The HRC, an inter-governmental body made up of 47 member states, was created by the UN General Assembly in 2006 to help address human rights violations by replacing the often-criticised UN Commission on Human Rights.

The council assesses the situation of human rights in 192 UN member states through what is known as the Universal Periodic Review.