The Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces has a significant international profile and has been an active participant in bilateral and multilateral projects designed to promote the rule of law through co-operation and sharing of expertise, particularly in countries currently examining the establishment of military ombudsman institutions to ensure that complaints from service personnel are dealt with by an impartial, independent, expert body. In this context in September 2011 a delegation led by Lt. General Themba Matanzima, Chief of Joint Operations, South African National Defence Forces visited the ODF to discuss its structure and operation. Lt. Gen. Matanzima discussed draft legislation providing for the establishment of an office of miltary ombudsman in South Africa with the ODF. He was interested in benchmarking and reviewing how ODF worked and served the interest of the Irish Defence Forces. In May 2012 Lt. Gen Themba Matanzima was sworn in as South Africa's first military ombudsman.
The current Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, Mr Patrick Anthony McCourt, attended the fifth International Conference of Ombuds-Institutions for Armed Forces, held in Oslo from 20th - 22nd October 2013. The Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces is an active contributor to the the Ombudsman Association which was established in 1994. The Ombudsman Association (formerly known as the BIOA) came into being when membership of the United Kingdom Ombudsman Association was extended to Offices of Ombudsmen Institutions from the Republic of Ireland. Members of the Executive Committee of the Ombudsman Association held meetings with the Ombudsman Mr McCourt and with the Case Investigator, Mr Brian O'Neill in April 2013. The Case Manager, Mr Conor Gallogly, engaged in a study visit to the UK Armed Forces Service Complaints Commissioner in December 2012.
The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces has keenly supported the work of the Organisation for Co-Operation and Security in Europe (OSCE) as the lead international institution driving such initiatives. The organisation has a comprehensive and co-operative concept of security, and views the protection of human rights as central to the sustainability of peace and security.
Ireland held the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2012 for the first time since the establishment of the organisation in 1975. In this content the former Ombudsman for the Defence Forces Ms Paulyn Marrinan-Quinn S.C. was invited to deliver a paper on the theme of the role of the police and the armed forces in democratic societies at the OSCE Mediterranean Partners Conference in Montenegro in September 2011. OSCE activities fall within three dimensions: the Politico-Military Dimension, the Economic and Environmental Dimension and the Human Dimension. Ireland attaches particular importance to the Human Dimension, which deals with human rights and fundamental freedoms, as this is a central focus of Irish foreign policy. Conscious of Ireland's commitment in this field, the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces actively supports OSCE initiatives in this area aiming to ensure full respect for human rights, the rule of law and the promotion of policies and practices which protect and enforce the human rights of armed forces personnel.
The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces was invited to address the Inaugural Conference of Military Ombudsman Institutions which was held in 2009 in Berlin on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the German Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces. She was also invited to address the Second International Conference of Ombudsman Institutions for the Armed Forces held in Vienna on 25 April 2010 to 26 April 2010 and will make presentations to and moderate one of the discussions sessions of the Third International Conference of the Ombudsman Institutions for the Armed Forces to be held in Belgrade on 13-15 April 2011. The Ombudsman was invited to chair one of the main conference sessions in Belgrade focusing on the relationship between external complaint handling (e.g. ombudsman or parliamentary body) and the internal complaint handling mechanisms of armed forces.
In February 2011, the then Ombudsman was invited to participate in an OSCE supported conference in Yerevan, Armenia, where the establishment of a military ombudsman was being examined. As the Ombudsman had prior work commitments she was unable to present her paper in person, which was kindly delivered to the conference by the Honorary Counsel of Ireland to the Republic of Armenia, Mr Jonathan Stark.
From a bilateral perspective, in July 2010, the Ombudsman was honored to have been invited by Dra. Nilda Garre, former Argentine Minister for Defence to contribute to a publication related to Human Rights and Civilian and Military relations that the National Office on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Argentine Ministry of Defence intended to publish.