Remarks by Minister of State Kitt at launch of DCI Website 3 July 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to welcome you today to the launch of a dedicated website for our development cooperation programme.
Over the past six years, first as Minister for Trade and now as Minister for Development Cooperation, I have become increasingly aware of how difficult it can be to convey to people in Ireland, or anywhere in the developed world, who live in peaceful, democratic countries, the kind of challenges which people in developing countries have to contend with every day. I have seen in the poorest countries of the world how people struggle to provide food and shelter for their families, and live in fear of illness, war and natural disasters. Breaking the vicious circle of poverty in these countries is an extremely difficult business. It requires a strategic approach, based on partnership, whether with organisations, with other donor governments, with governments of developing countries or with NGOs. I am very proud that Ireland's development cooperation programme has real partnership as one of its key principles, partnerships that are absolutely focussed on the reduction of poverty and on lasting development.
The Irish public should know about this – they should know what our priorities are, they should know how their money is spent, and where and – most important - why.
I want to build up a strong partnership and dialogue with the Irish public on the challenges of development cooperation.
The website which we are launching today represents my commitment to that partnership. It is an invitation to explore our programme, to examine our spending, to engage with the challenges we face. The beauty of a website is that, unlike other publications, it offers the visitor the chance to engage at the level of his or her choosing. Our website will offer the widest range of people an opportunity to interact with our development programme. I believe that in particular our younger visitors and their teachers will enjoy the interactive map, which in my view is the best of its kind. For those people who believe that we have a moral obligation to help the world's poorest people, but who are not sure how Ireland goes about it, the website sets out clearly where we work, how we work there and the key development challenges we face. You will be surprised by how many of these challenges there are, from agriculture to information technology, from gender to governance, from education to rural development and many more. For those with a particular interest or expertise in development challenges such as HIV/AIDS, the website offers an opportunity to “drill down” into the issues involved and into the action we are taking on the ground in our Programme Countries. My ambition for this site is that it will become both a showcase for our programme, a resource for the development community and a means by which public understanding of the root causes of global poverty and inequality can be strengthened.
The website is not a static resource – it is very much a work in progress, as it should be. Over the coming months we will add to the site, including all our publications, our evaluations and reports of expenditure, as they occur. Going beyond written records to visual records, our photo archive will continue to expand, giving visitors a very powerful sense of what is happening on the ground in the many countries where we work. As an interactive medium, the website will offer the public a real opportunity to engage with our programme and to take ownership of it. We will welcome all feedback from visitors to the site.
I would also like to announce today a change of name for our development cooperation programme.
I have decided that the programme, which has been described over the last few years as Ireland Aid, will in future be known as Development Cooperation Ireland (DCI).
The new name brings out more clearly the distinctive character of what the Government is doing in developing countries. The long-term development of the poorest countries of the world is our primary aim. We work for this through a range of activities at the bilateral, multilateral and other levels. Our approach is based on principles of partnership, equality and global interdependence. We attach particular importance to local ownership of what we are doing in developing countries.
The word “cooperation” captures precisely the essence of our work. As a Government, we cooperate with a wide range of actors – partner governments in developing countries, multilateral organisations and non-governmental organisations at home and abroad – in our pursuit of long-term development and poverty reduction. In contrast, the term “aid” can be taken to mean a one-way relationship only.
Our programme also addresses short-term humanitarian needs and post-conflict rehabilitation and recovery. However, there is an important longer-term dimension which needs to be reflected in the title of the programme.
It should also be recognised that the forces which shape inequality in the world extend beyond the issue of aid flows to developing countries and include the areas of trade, debt, conflict, inequality between men and women, agriculture, access to clean water and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We must engage in all of these areas if our assistance to developing countries is to be effective and sustainable.
For these various reasons, I have chosen the title Development Cooperation Ireland. I believe that it signals more clearly the contribution made by the Government, as distinct from other organisations working in this field. The new name will, I believe, help to increase public awareness of, and ownership of, the vital work which is being carried out on behalf of the Irish taxpayer in the developing world.
Public ownership of our programme is critically important. I want the public to know more about what we are doing with public resources to combat poverty in developing countries. Everyday, more than a billion people struggle for survival on our planet. The Government is playing its full part in the global efforts to correct this injustice. The Government's development cooperation programme is considered to be one of the finest in the world today. Ireland has built up over the past twenty five years or so a reputation for high-quality, well focussed and effective development assistance. We are achieving real and measurable results in some of the poorest countries in the world. We are demonstrating real value for money with everything we do. We have a set of approaches which are at the cutting edge of international best practice and constantly push out the boundaries of what can be achieved in the development field.
Yet, although our success is widely recognised by other Governments and the international development community, the programme has yet to capture the imagination of the public at home. A recent survey showed that 62% of the respondents had never heard of Ireland Aid and that most people (79%) felt that the programme should be made better known. It is, of course, entirely understandable that the public would be more familiar on a day-to-day basis with Ireland's development NGOs, such as Concern, GOAL and Trocaire. Our NGOs engage in a variety of fund-raising activities and also have a strong advocacy role. As a result they have a high media profile. They do superb work in the field which complements our own and we are working actively to deepen our strategic partnership with them.
But what the Government is doing has not tended to receive as much attention. I would like to change this and to increase significantly the flow of information to the public about our activities. I want to create far greater public awareness of our work and at the same time to stimulate an interactive public involvement in what we are doing. More information through our new website should help to generate more comment and debate about the best means of achieving the Government's development cooperation objectives. I would like to bring the Irish public with us as partners in the hugely challenging work of improving the conditions in which the poorest people of the world live. Our development cooperation programme is helping to save the lives of millions and transforming those of countless others. This is a programme of which the public should be more aware and with which I hope there will in future be much greater public identification.
Development Cooperation Ireland, as the programme will now be known, belongs to the people of Ireland. It is the contribution we are making as a State to the reduction of poverty and disadvantage in developing countries. It is a sizeable investment by the taxpayer which is yielding real dividends and in which we can all take pride.
The budget allocated by the Government to development cooperation reflects our acceptance of our global responsibilities in this area, particularly with our increased prosperity of recent years. As a people, we have had our own lengthy historical experience of poverty, famine and disadvantage and can empathise with the hardship which afflicts millions of our fellow human beings on a daily basis.
What are the key facts to be known about the programme?
We have a budget of €373 million for the current year. Allowing for expenditure by other Government Departments, we expect that total ODA for 2003 will be in the region of €450 million. We are making progress towards the goal of achieving by 2007 the UN target of 0.7% of GDP.
With this level of funding, which puts us in seventh place among international donors at present, we are active across many different fronts. As has been widely recognised, there is no single path to development. We have a balanced programme whose key elements include the following:
– a strong emphasis on bilateral cooperation in our priority countries and elsewhere:
– partnership with a number of key multilateral agencies;
– funding to address the growing number of humanitarian crises (natural and manmade);
– support for NGOs and missionaries;
– dedicated funding to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis.
In our bilateral programme, we focus on basic needs in areas such as health and education, water and sanitation, food security, rural roads, agriculture and good governance. We have rigorous auditing systems and controls which ensure that our funding is used only for the purposes agreed with our partner Governments. Accountability and transparency are given the highest priority. We recognise the extent of the problem of corruption, mismanagement and poor governance in African countries. This is in itself a development issue which needs to be tackled and we are working in different ways to address it, strengthening, for example, the capacity of national audit institutions in a number of countries and supporting public sector reform and the democratisation process.
As Minister for Development Cooperation and Human Rights, I can assure the public that our funding is being spent to maximum effect and is making a very real difference on the ground. With the growth in our resources which is envisaged for the period up to 2007, I believe that Development Cooperation Ireland will have an even greater impact in future. It is critical that, as we step up our efforts to reduce global poverty, we have the support and engagement of an informed Irish public. One of the challenges I have set myself as Minister is to tell the Irish people more about what we are achieving on their behalf and to seek their input and support as we take this work forward. The announcement today of a new title for the programme and the launching of a dedicated website will, I hope, assist this process.
In conclusion, I would like to pay a warm tribute to all those who have helped to create our new website over the last six months. Our designers (Arekibo) have done a wonderful job and we have also had the benefit of design advice from a wide range of groups and individuals. I would like to thank also my staff here at Development Cooperation Ireland as well as the staff of other divisions of this Department and other Government Departments who have provided much of the content for the website. Particular thanks are due to the IT Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs. We now have a resource which will increase greatly the interaction between the Irish public and our development cooperation programme and will promote a wider dialogue which is long overdue.