EU Development Ministers respond to humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
Ms Liz O'Donnell, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for development cooperation and human rights, took part yesterday in a specially-convened meeting of EU Development Ministers in Brussels to consider how the EU can enhance its efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Speaking after the Ministerial meeting yesterday, the Minister underlined "the need to keep international humanitarian principles to the fore" as the crisis deepens and the plight of hundreds of thousands of innocent Afghan people worsens. "With time running out as winter conditions approach, it is essential to ensure a secure means for humanitarian assistance to reach those most in need and to protect the position of refugees in this conflict."
The Minister also observed that "there has never been a better time to demonstrate the importance of development assistance as a tool for reducing poverty and injustice in the world." Although there can be no justification for terrorism, terrorism can be nourished by the despair which many of the poor and marginalised feel and "we must redouble our efforts to put an end to the conditions which prompt despair." The international community, the Minister continued, "must be tough on terrorism but it should also address the roots of terrorism. Development coordination and the building of strong democracies have a vital role to play in the longer term in the fight against conflict and terrorism."
EU Development Ministers agreed that EU humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan should be increased beyond the 316 million euro already provided and there should be close coordination with the UN agencies, Ireland has donated over 5 million euro so far this year.
The Minister said that in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks "there are now compelling arguments for rich countries to increase ODA levels end thereby invest in development, democracy-building and conflict prevention. It would be disastrous if the predicted economic downturn in the rich countries were to result in cuts in overseas development assistance. In that event, poor countries would be doubly hit by economic downturn at home as well as a cut in aid from the donor community. Only five countries have reached, or exceeded, the UN target for ODA of 0.7% of GNP. Ireland will reach it in 2007 and is rapidly expanding its aid programme." The Minister urged her Ministerial colleagues to fight hard to defend their ODA budgets from attack in the context of a downturn in their economies. That would, she said, be "calamitous, short-sighted and dangerous to international peace and security".