Irish young people to serve with UN agencies


A new scheme which gives young people the chance to serve with the UN in developing countries will benefit Ireland's expanding aid programme, Minster of State Conor Lenihan said today.

The pilot programme, which is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs' Development Co-operation Ireland division, came out of discussions with UN secretary general Kofi Annan during a visit to Ireland.

In the New Year the first 11 interns - who will work with aid agencies under the existing UN Volunteers scheme - are heading to one-year postings in Africa, Asia, Kosovo and Guatemala.

Mr Lenihan said the programme grew out of the high regard Ireland had for the United Nations system.

"Given our commitment, we felt we should get more Irish people involved in development and this was a good way to immerse young people in the UN structure," he said. "Over the years, quite a lot of people who are quite senior in the UN or our own system started off their lives in development as UN volunteers."

Mr Lenihan said the reaction to the internship had been extraordinary, with 300 people applying for a handful of places. In response, the Government would shortly be announcing its own internships within the Irish aid system to give more people the chance to volunteer, he said.

The Minister of State with Responsibility for Overseas Aid said he hoped the new opportunities would lead to more people coming through the aid agency system and would support the work of Irish charities such as Trocaire and Concern.

The Government has made a commitment to contribute 0.7 per cent GDP to overseas aid by 2012.