Launch of the Publication, ‘80:20 Development in an Unequal World',
Friday, 12 July 2002
Speech of Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tom Kitt TD
Welcome and thank you all for joining us here this evening to launch ‘80:20 Development in an Unequal World'. I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet with so many of you at this early point in my term as Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights.
Now is a genuinely challenging time to take on this portfolio. The challenges, particularly as set out in the UN Millennium Development Goals, have never been greater, but happily the resources being made available for development purposes by the Irish Government have also reached historic highs.
2002 Budget Revision
All of you will be aware that there is currently a somewhat changed environment in terms of the public finances. Unfortunately, this has necessitated a tightening of public spending during the second half of this year and in turn the rate of increase in Irish ODA for 2002 will be somewhat less than we had anticipated. This budget revision notwithstanding, the Government's official development assistance programme will still expand in 2002 by €100 million, the single biggest annual increase in the programme's budget since its establishment in the mid 1970s when the entire programme stood at under 10 million punt.
I want to reassure you that the Government continues to be committed to the goal, announced by the Taoiseach at the UN Millennium Summit, of reaching the UN target for ODA of 0.7% of GNP by the end of 2007. This commitment has been restated in the new Programme for Government and I intend to do my utmost, with your support, to ensure that the programme continues to grow and to be a source of pride for the people of Ireland and, most importantly, makes a real and sustainable difference to the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.
A key objective of the Government's programme of development cooperation is the reduction of poverty through the achievement of sustainable development. This poverty focus and the quality of the programme itself have been endorsed by the Ireland Aid Review Committee in March of this year and somewhat earlier by our peers in the OECD. I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Liz O'Donnell, for her work and that of the dedicated staff of Ireland Aid. Under my leadership this poverty focus and pursuit of quality will continue and I will implement the recommendations of the Aid Review as quickly as possible.
I would like this evening to outline some of my hopes for the programme and the way in which we can perhaps move forward. I am very proud of the work of Ireland Aid in Africa and elsewhere. I am equally proud of the magnificent work of our NGO partners, our missionaries and other development workers. Yet so much remains to be done. We have all heard the statistics. Yet they bear repeating. Over 1.2 billion people on this planet live on less than one dollar a day and 2.8 billion on less than two dollars a day. 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation. This is simply not acceptable in the opening years of the 21st century.
At the Millennium Summit in September 2000 the leaders of the world pledged to work in partnership to meet a specific and measurable set of development targets- the so-called Millennium Development Goals. The overall objective is to halve the proportion of people living in absolute poverty by 2015. We must succeed in attaining these targets, but to do so requires new ways of working which will entail a renewed commitment to the quantity and quality of the international development effort. The development agenda must also include addressing the issues of trade and debt which shackle developing countries and prevent them from taking full advantage of the benefits of development assistance. For developing countries the issue of governance is crucial to providing the framework for utilising aid effectively in the interests of the poor.
The need for a quantitative increase in the assistance provided by donors and agencies is self evident. There are some signs of a reversal of the decade long decline in aid disbursements and this is to be welcomed. The quality of the aid effort is perhaps even more critical. Again the signs are hopeful that lessons of the past have been learned. Experience teaches us that effective aid is untied, targets poverty, is carefully coordinated, is driven by need not supply, builds local capacity and promotes partnership. Effective aid offers real hope to the poorest and most vulnerable. For the first time Governments, donors, agencies and civil societies are, however imperfectly, working together on Poverty Reduction Strategies and providing a framework for real progress. The jury is still out, much remains to be done, but there are hopeful signs.
I believe that on the basis of our strong programme, the rapid growth in our aid budget, the reputation of our NGOs, and our own history, we can and should use every opportunity to promote the cause of the poorest people on the planet.
While Ireland Aid and our partners, many represented here this evening, can make a real difference in our own fields of operation, it is only through our coordinated efforts internationally and in the developing world that the Millennium Goals can be met. Without an international commitment to key development instruments such as access to markets, debt relief, more and better quality aid and an unrelenting focus on poverty, we will simply not reach these Goals. I wish to assure you that during my tenure as Minister responsible for our aid programme I will do all I possibly can at the international level to bring forward and promote the development agenda as encapsulated in the Millennium Goals.
On a related note I know that some concerns have been expressed about the decision of the European Council in Seville to create a new General Affairs and External Relations Council. The new Council will have responsibility for the EU's external action including development cooperation and humanitarian aid. I believe that dealing with development issues at the Council's regular meeting will place development at the centre of decision making and will ensure greater coherence between the EU's foreign, development and trade policies.
Crisis in Southern Africa
A matter of immediate and grave concern to the Government is the unfolding food security crisis in Southern Africa. This latest crisis is the outcome of unusually dry conditions which have resulted in crop failure and low crop yields over consecutive growing seasons. Regretably poor governance and the mismanagement of grain reserves have also played a role. Regional grain stocks in Southern Africa, which were already drawn upon to meet last year's shortages, are currently at exceptionally low levels. The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that 7.7 million people will require food aid during June to August of this year, while almost 13 million people will need assistance by March of next year. Poor nutrition also contributes crucially to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region.
Ireland Aid has been responding actively to this unfolding food crisis. Food shortages are already having a severe impact on the vulnerable people of Malawi and threaten millions of others across Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I announced earlier this week a further allocation of €3.69 million towards meeting the emergency demands posed by this crisis throughout the region. This latest contribution is in addition to the €1.5 million already being provided by Ireland Aid to help cover immediate needs in Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. A further € 2.7 million has been provided in emergency relief and recovery assistance to Angola. Ireland Aid is working closely with Irish NGOs and other implementing partners on the challenges posed by this crisis. We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation closely through our missions in Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and South Africa. Our total funding for emergency relief in Southern Africa has now reached over €8 million.
The Government is also working closely with other members of the international community to develop strategies for addressing immediate food needs at both the national and regional levels. At Ireland's initiative a Declaration on the Food Crisis in Southern Africa was adopted by the EU Development Council at the end of May. We will continue to avail of every appropriate international forum to raise this humanitarian emergency and I will be meeting with Commissioner Neilson on the matter next week.
I plan to travel to Southern Africa next month, to see first hand, the situation facing the people of the region. I will be examining how Ireland Aid, our partners and the wider international community, can respond optimally to this crisis situation.
New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)
In July 2001, at the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) Summit in Lusaka, African countries adopted the New Partnership for Africa's Development or NEPAD. This initiative is an African inspired and owned plan for African development. The NEPAD is honest about Africa's failings, particularly in the governance and economic areas, and sets out ambitious proposals for the future. Its implementation deserves all our support.
The word ‘partnership' in NEPAD's title refers not only to the need for partnership between African countries, but also a partnership between Africa and the industrialised world. It is only on the basis of such a partnership that Africa will succeed in ending decades of under-development and integrating itself into the global economy of the twenty first century, in a manner in which the continent can truly prosper. This will be a core element of our relationship with the OAU's successor organisation, the African Union.
G8 Summits and Development
G8 Summits in Japan, Italy and most recently in Canada, have had a focus on African issues. That leaders of the largest, wealthiest and most influential industrialised economies are devoting close attention to HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, education and trade issues in the African context is welcome. The G8 has sought to respond to NEPAD through an action programme.
If the G8 is to give real substance to its engagement with Africa, the question of additional resources will have to be high on its agenda. The result of the most recent Summit was long on broad words of encouragement for Africa and NEPAD but short on concrete promises of new and additional assistance.
In April of this year, at the International Conference on Financing for Development, the US announced that it would increase its ODA by $5 billion per year. The EU announced an increase of up to $7 billion by 2006. These commitments are welcome evidence of a new interest in reversing the decade long decline in ODA. But they are just a start. As I mentioned earlier if the major economies are to deliver on their commitment to partnership with Africa, we will have to see more ODA, more trade access, more money for research into diseases of the poor and greater efforts to bridge the technology gap, the so called “Digital Divide”, particularly in information and telecommunications.
We have come here this evening to launch an important development education resource, ‘80:20 Development in an Unequal World'. I am acutely aware of the importance of development education, particularly its role in enlarging public understanding of development issues, both global and local. Development education seeks to challenge attitudes which perpetuate poverty and injustice. It seeks to empower individuals to address the underlying causes of inequality.
I believe that public ownership of the Ireland Aid programme is now more important than ever. We need to communicate to the Irish public that the aid programme belongs to them. Our work is undertaken in their name and with funds provided from their taxes. It is essential for the longer term support for the programme that the Irish people appreciate the real and positive impact that it has on the lives of the poor of the developing world. This is a major challenge for us and one which we will address through a comprehensive programme of information and communication.
One of the recommendations of the Report of the Ireland Aid Review Committee was that the National Committee for Development Education (NCDE) be integrated into Ireland Aid as a development education unit. Steps are currently under way to bring this about and I would hope that an advisory committee will be appointed before too long. I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the outgoing NCDE Committee and especially its chairperson Mairead Foley, for the outstanding commitment and dedication to the furtherance of development education in Ireland.
‘80:20 Development in an Unequal World'
I welcome the publication of ‘80:20 Development in an Unequal World' and I am particularly happy that Ireland Aid was one of the financial contributors to the project. This publication has become one of the best used resources in development education internationally. I am heartened that it is a co-production with a wide range of partners in Ireland, Britain, Australia and South Africa.
This resource fulfils a very important function – ensuring that up to date information on development issues is available and accessible, while encouraging debate and reflection on what are very complex issues facing our world.
In conclusion, I wish to warmly welcome our guest speakers this evening, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson; David Ervine MLA of the Progressive Unionist Party; and Emily Sikazwe of Women for Change in Zambia. You are all most welcome and I look forward with interest to hearing your remarks.