Statement by Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister of State on the work of Ireland’s official aid programme
2005: A momentous year for development
Statement by Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister of State
on the work of Ireland's official aid programme
2005 has been a momentous year for development cooperation.
Here at home, a key decision has been taken. The Government has set itself the ambitious, but achievable, goal of reaching the UN target of 0.7% of GNP to be spent on aid. We have also set out a number of benchmarks against which our progress towards achieving the target can be measured.
As a first step, our aid spending in 2006 will be more than €675 million, its highest ever level.
Globally, development has never been higher up the news agenda. A number of high-profile events, such as the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, the UN's Millennium Review Summit and the WTO meeting in Hong Kong, have focused attention on the challenges of development.
There has been some criticism of and disappointment at the results of these meetings. However, it is, I think, important to acknowledge that progress has been made in relation to aid volumes, trade and debt relief and a new urgency has been injected into efforts to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
At Gleneagles, G8 leaders made important commitments on aid volumes and debt relief. In New York, the UN's Millennium Review Summit injected a new urgency into efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In Hong Kong, we saw progress towards a world trade deal that will benefit the world's poorest countries.
2005 also saw a number of major humanitarian disasters. As the year began, efforts were underway to deal with the immediate impact of the Asian Tsunami. In the summer, we saw the effect of major food shortages in Niger, and across the Sahel region.
As the year ends, we are all conscious of the continuing difficulties faced in dealing with the effects of the Pakistan earthquake.
Earlier this month I visited the affected region and got a first hand-understanding of problems faced in the recovery effort, in particular, with the onset of winter.
The Government's response to these disasters has been swift and generous.
We allocated approximately €66 million to emergency and recovery operations worldwide, including €20 million in response to the Tsunami.
This money – the public's money – is helping to rebuild lives and communities.
Humanitarian disasters, natural and man-made, can grab the headlines and, as a result, so too can our response.
However, most of the work of the Government's aid programme is in supporting developing countries in their own efforts to promote social and economic development. The slow, determined work of promoting development remains at the heart of our programme.
We provide support for the building of health and education systems, for the provision of clean water and for strengthening the systems of Government.
We do it well.
Earlier this year, a leading international NGO, Actionaid, rated Ireland's aid programme as one of the best in the world at delivering real assistance on the ground.
The Irish people should be proud of this.
The key challenge for 2006, and beyond, is to maintain that quality as the size of the programme continues to reach new record levels.
In the middle of next year, the Government will publish a White Paper on overseas development policy.
In preparing the White Paper we will combine the best practice which has given us such a high quality aid programme with an openness to new ideas and approaches. This will ensure that Ireland remains at the cutting edge of international development policy.
Some of the results of the programme are listed in the attached.
The official aid programme in 2005
Below is an illustrative list of the work of the aid programme, up to and during 2005.
• Working with the Clinton Foundation and the Government of Mozambique, Ireland funds anti-retroviral HIV/AIDS treatment for more than 14,000 people in that country.
• In Tanzania, almost every child between the ages of seven and thirteen now attends primary school. The increase in numbers – from 4.8 million in the late 1990s to 7.5 million today – has been achieved by the Government of Tanzania with help from donors, including Ireland.
• With Ireland's assistance, the number of trained healthcare staff in Uganda has risen by 30%.
• Ireland's aid programme has helped the Government of Ethiopia establish a new welfare system, which sees the country's poorest people receiving direct transfers of food and money. This initiative kept hunger at bay for 6 million Ethiopians last year.
• The programme has funded the construction of ten new footbridges and gravel roads in Lesotho.
• The programme has given small producers in Honduras and Nicaragua greater access to international markets. It funded an initiative which creates a distribution network whereby these producers can competitively sell their products like sunflower seeds, dried fruit and coffee.
• The programme funded the publication by Comhlámh of a guide to volunteering in developing countries: “Working for a Better World”
• Funding has been provided for a Cork University Maternity Hospital project which provides health-workers in Sudan with training in midwifery and obstetrics.
29th December 2005