Minister Kitt announces New Private Sector Forum to cooperate with the Government's Aid Programme
Mr. Tom Kitt T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Development Cooperation and Human Rights, today announced the establishment of a new forum to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between the Government's official aid programme, Development Cooperation Ireland, and the Irish private sector. Speaking at the presentation of the initiative Minister Kitt said:
“Over the past three years Ireland's Overseas Development Aid (ODA) budget has increased from €250 million in 2000 to €450m in 2003. Development Cooperation Ireland will spend over €370 million in 2003 in support of development programmes in some of the world's poorest countries. This is a bigger budget than many domestic Government Departments. Ireland's ODA in 2003 represents 0.41% of our Gross National Product.
Since I became Minister with responsibility for Development Cooperation last year, I have focussed on the need to update our national ODA programme and to bring it into line with the huge changes in our economy over the past decade. I want to modernise and to deepen the linkages with the Irish private sector and other key sectors in Irish society.
Development Cooperation Ireland has a very high reputation in the developing world and has very significant experience in dealing with the opportunities and challenges that arise in poor countries.
At the same time, over the past decade, Irish industry, both indigenous and multinational, has become increasingly globalised. Our companies have expanded their operations into many developing countries. Today we have Irish based operations working in China, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania, Malaysia, Vietnam and many other developing countries. We have developed a huge pool of national expertise in such areas as consultancy services in trade, energy and banking, software development, pharmaceuticals, food processing and research and other key sectors.
It is now high time that our national ODA programme, Development Cooperation Ireland, and Irish industry shared experiences and identified possible partnerships with a view to working more closely together. While Ireland's ODA budget is not linked to the purchase of Irish goods and services, there is considerable scope for a much closer working relationship between Development Cooperation Ireland and the private sector. The private sector in developing countries, furthermore, has an important contribution to make in generating the economic growth needed for poverty reduction.
I have, therefore, decided to establish a Private Sector Forum. Enterprise Ireland has agreed to partner Development Cooperation Ireland in this initiative. The Forum will bring together key sectors in Irish industry and Development Cooperation Ireland for discussions and action related to the opportunities and challenges we both face in promoting our objectives in developing countries. I see the Forum as the vehicle for building a close relationship between Development Cooperation Ireland and a key social partner in Ireland and strengthening support and understanding for the Government's development cooperation efforts in an important sector of civil society.
Among the issues I want the Private Sector Forum to look at are:
• the opportunities in developing countries for Irish business, particularly the development of partnerships between Irish companies and their counterparts in the developing world;
• the developing country perspective in relation to issues on the international trade agenda such as tariffs, subsidies and trade barriers;
• the supply of life-saving drugs, particularly anti-retroviral drugs for the fight against HIV/AIDS, in poor countries;
• how to maximise Ireland's share of procurement and consultancy contracts issued by international organisations such as the UN and the World Bank and by the European Development Fund;
• and how to facilitate Irish companies, such as ICT companies, who are interested in providing expert staff for voluntary assignments overseas.
Enterprise Ireland and Development Cooperation Ireland are now working together on the organisation of the inaugural meeting of the Private Sector Forum which will take place in the near future.
“I want Irish companies who are working in the developing world, who have key suppliers in developing countries or who are thinking about expanding into a developing country to join with Development Cooperation Ireland in the Private Sector Forum. I think we have much to learn from one another. Our development work in the poorest countries on earth will benefit from transfers of know-how and experience from the Irish private sector. Together we can work to help poor people improve their lives and also ensure that Irish industry makes an important contribution to development for the four fifths of the world's population living in developing countries.”