O'Donnell Raises Scandal of Unspent Funds with EU Aid Commissioner
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D., has urged further reforms in the European Community's $5 billion per annum development assistance programme at a meeting in Dublin this evening with Mr. Poul Nielson, the EC Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid.
Since his arrival in office in 1999, Commissioner Nielson has taken vigorous action to deal with the management failings in the EC aid programme. But a number of recent evaluations of the EC programme have revealed that over _20 billion in funds remains unspent in the EC aid programme. There have also been criticisms about the slow moving response of the Community to humanitarian crises, including the floods in Mozambique and food shortages in the Horn of Africa.
Speaking after their meeting, Minister O'Donnell said: “Reform of the EC aid programme is an urgent priority. The credibility of the EC development aid programme is at stake unless the reforms are implemented as soon as possible. It is a scandal that such a huge backlog of unspent funds should have built up at a time when the needs in poor countries, particularly in Africa, have never been greater. Commissioner Nielson is driving the reform forward with great determination and the member States must support him in achieving quick results”.
The Minister told the Commissioner that the Community should be playing a global leadership role in fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as malaria and TB. said: “ In May I urged the EC Development Ministers to revitalise the Community's efforts to fight these diseases which are spreading rapidly through some of the poorest countries in the world and are undermining decades of development. In September,” she said, “the Commission issued a new policy approach on accelerated action to fight communicable diseases. The EC aid programme will now play a major international role in areas such as access to medicines and research into new vaccines”
Commissioner Nielson was also briefed by the Minister on the expansion of Ireland's national development assistance programme.
“I informed the Commissioner about our commitment to reach the UN target to spend 0.7% of our GNP on development aid by 2007 and to reach an interim target of 0.45% of GNP by the end of 2002. The recent publication of the Estimates shows an increase of IR£52 million in our aid programme in 2002 which will increase our spending from 0.31% of GNP to 0.35%. We have now locked in budget increases for the next three years to put us on track to meet these targets. I will be chairing a thorough review of the aid programme to put in place a strategic plan for this unprecedented expansion.”Top