O'Donnell: "Invest in Education to Combat Poverty"
Ireland is to treble its support for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, over the next three years. Speaking this morning at Dublin Castle at the Ireland Aid Education Forum, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D., announced that Ireland will serve on the board of UNICEF for the first time in 2002.
She said that it was shocking that an estimated 113 million children, two thirds of them girls, do not attend school and that 150 million children drop out of school without acquiring a basic level of literacy. "The experience of many countries, including Ireland", the Minister said, "has shown that education and prosperity go hand in hand".
The Minister said that investment in education is essential to long-term poverty eradication and sustainable development and highlighted some of the gains being made in Ireland Aid priority countries in securing access to education:
• in Eastern Tigray (Ethiopia) enrolment has increased from 35% to 70%;
• Northern Province (Zambia) now meets the 5 km walk to school target;
• enrolments have risen from 2.5 million in 1997 to 6.9 million in 2000 in Uganda; and
• enrolments increased by 75% last year in Lesotho with the introduction of free primary education.
The Minister added that Ireland Aid is deeply committed to the struggle against the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. "We know that education works in reducing HIV/AIDS and vulnerability", she said "and we will use our seat on the UN Security Council to urge for more concerted efforts at the international level to address this issue."
The Government is committed to reaching the UN development cooperation target of 0.7% of GNP by 2007. This will mean a fourfold increase in aid expenditure from IR£208 million last year to IR£800 million in 2007. The Minister said that the discussions at the forum would feed into the fundamental review of Ireland Aid policies which she is currently chairing. "We will increase our support to education in priority countries", she said, "in order to deliver on the commitments made last year at the World Education Forum in Dakar".