Address by Minister of State at the Annual Christmas Lecture on International Relations, DCU (Part 1)
I am very honoured to be invited to give the Annual Christmas Lecture on International Relations at Dublin City University.
The years' end timing provides an opportunity to review developments in Ireland's aid policy over the past year in the overall context of international relations, particularly after 11 September.
Our world today is marked by the process of globalisation. Graduates emerging from Irish Universities are entering a highly competitive international commercial and financial environment. Global trade flows have tripled since the 1970s and by tenfold since the 1950s. Daily foreign exchange flows exceed $1.5 trillion. Rapid advances in information and communications technologies are accelerating the movement of goods, people, information and capital across international boundaries.
The faster globalisation proceeds, the more interdependent the world's economies are becoming. In 1997, the collapse of the Thai currency initiated a chain of events resulting in a financial crisis in Asia which had repercussions in Ireland. Today, the financial crisis in Argentina is being anxiously watched, on all continents, because of its potential to produce instability on a global scale.
On balance the process of globalisation is positive. Here in Ireland our national economic progress in recent years has been achieved through our ability to harness globalisation to promote our national development and trade. During the 1990s, Ireland attracted over $35 billion in foreign investment. In the same period our exports increased by almost 400%. At the UN we are regularly cited as a country whose positive development experience contains lessons to be learned by others.
However, globalisation also has its dark side. Most of the world's poorest countries, particularly in sub Saharan Africa, continue to be marginalised from the global economy. Their share of world trade is in decline, they receive about 1% of foreign direct investment and they remain highly dependent on a limited number of primary commodities. We clearly do not, yet, have a fair world trade order.
Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, in his report to the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 said: "The central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalisation becomes a positive force for all the world's people instead of leaving billions of them behind in squalor."
The recent decision by Ministers at the World Trade Organisation to launch a new round of global trade negotiations was historic. The agenda for the new round pays close attention to the concerns of developing countries. The forthcoming negotiations at the WTO will be an opportunity to begin working on a more level international playing field in trade and to end the marginalisation of the poorest.
Overseas Development Assistance
Many of these poor countries will require substantial financial assistance to help them integrate into the global economy. They need to educate their people. They need to overcome the challenges of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB. They need to protect their environments.
In short they need to make faster and more substantial progress towards achieving the so called Millennium Development Goals which were endorsed at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000. The most important of these goals is to reduce by half the number of people living on less than $1 per day by 2015.
For these countries Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) from the developed world will remain a crucial financial resource for many years to come.
In 1970, UN member States agreed an ODA target of 0.7% of GNP. In 2001, only five countries meet that target. The most recent report on donor performance from the OECD shows that far from increasing, ODA continues to decline. The average ODA for all donors is now just 0.22% of GNP.
Ireland has long accepted the UN target but has struggled to meet it. Our national programme of development assistance has, throughout the 1990s, increased but at a rate which was less than our economic growth. What was needed was a time frame on the achievement of the target and interim targets on the way to 0.7%.
Since becoming Minister with responsibility for development assistance, I have worked to put the programme on a firm financial footing and on track to meeting the target.
At the UN Millennium Summit , the Taoiseach gave a commitment that Ireland would meet the target by 2007. He also indicated that we would meet an interim target of 0.45% of GNP by the end of 2002. Ireland is the only donor to have given a time bound pledge to achieving the target. We are also the only donor to set an interim target.
The Government's commitment on ODA reflects strong public and cross party political support for development assistance. It will translate into very significant increases in ODA funding. In 2002, our ODA budget will increase by an unprecedented 55% to reach an estimated 455 million or 0.45% of our GNP. Our aid budget is now rising faster than any other donor.
The traumatic events of 11 September have, in my opinion, strengthened the case for greatly increased ODA. We have witnessed the menacing face of globalisation - in International terrorism. We know what interdependence is now. We all feel vulnerable like never before. Poverty, injustice, exclusion and marginalisation help to create a fertile breeding ground for terrorism. ODA, with a strong focus, on poverty reduction, the promotion of human rights and the prevention of conflict can play a major role in addressing these root causes. Our interdependent globalised world must recognise that unless trade and economic liberalisation are accompanied by international solidarity with the poor and the marginalised, we face an uncertain future.
It is worth recalling that before 11 September, Afghanistan was one of the so-called forgotten emergencies. UN appeals for food and other aid were being largely ignored by donors. There was already a serious food shortage. The vicious rule of the Taliban, particularly their oppression of women, was receiving only passing attention.
There are many other such emergencies around the world - the anarchy in Somalia, the human rights abuses in Sudan and the continuing instability in many parts of Africa's Great Lakes region. ODA, in addition to a closer international political engagement through the UN Security Council, has a key role to play in helping these countries to return to the path of peaceful development.
During Ireland's term of office on the UN Security Council we have worked to bring a strong development perspective to the issues on the Council's agenda. We have pushed for a more integrated response by the UN system to challenges to international peace and security. The Security Council is building such a comprehensive approach through its discussions and resolutions on such issues as conflict prevention, HIV/AIDS and children in armed conflict.
We have also paid particular attention to intractable and difficult conflicts such as those in Somalia and the Great Lakes.
Ireland Aid Review
The huge expansion in Ireland Aid, our national development cooperation programme, brings with it new demands. It is essential that a programme of this size and sophistication has the right policies and an organisational structure capable of effective aid delivery.
Earlier this year, the Government appointed a review committee to examine policies and structures. This Committee, which I chair, is now finalising its report to Government.
Since its establishment in 1974, the Ireland Aid programme has earned a worldwide reputation for aid of the highest quality. It has been characterised by its sharp and unrelenting focus on poverty reduction, on a model of aid which is not donor drivenTop