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Junior Minister Newton's Speech- Launch Of ACSONI's Strategic Plan January 11th 2010

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Good afternoon.  I would like to add my welcome to everyone here this afternoon to the Long Gallery for the launch of ACSONI’s Strategic Plan.

ACSONI management has drafted a very ambitious plan for the next three years, setting themselves seven strategic priorities.   Now that the priorities have been set, their focus has already turned to delivery.

These strategic priorities include promoting integration within and between communities, capacity building and promoting social inclusion.    These are priorities which OFMDFM wholeheartedly support and in fact promote in our own good relations work.

You may be aware that JI recently announced the launch of the application process for the Minority Ethnic Development Fund for 2010/11.

The £1 million that we will be allocating this year represents a substantial increase on the previous annual spend prior to the restoration of devolution.

Even with this, we realise we can not fund every worthwhile project and those who are successful will be announced in February.

The aims of the fund align with our Programme for Government commitments by supporting work which contributes to the promotion of good relations between people of different ethnic backgrounds, the building of community cohesion, and facilitation of integration.

We have increased funding for good relations and race relations by a third for the period 2008-2011 to almost £30 million. This means that vital work on the ground is now better resourced than ever before.

Whether receiving funding or not, as Ministers we are determined to recognise those who are working on a daily basis to build the relationships and confidence which strengthens our communities. 

This is a measure of the importance we place on the work being carried out at the local level by groups such as ACSONI. This work is vital to our local communities.

Equally, ACSONI acknowledges in their strategic plan that they can not implement and bring to life their strategy alone. 

They need the assistance of stakeholders and other partners in order to achieve their strategic priorities and objectives. 

We all recognise that partnership working is the only way that we can and will achieve our common goals.

In the foreword to the plan, ACSONI management states that they are convinced that they will have made a significant contribution to the vision of good relations, community cohesion and integration in Northern Ireland by the end of their planning period.   I would like to wish ACSONI every success in achieving this aim and in their future work.

Thank you and a Happy New Year to you all.

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