Minister O'Donnell confirms Government commitment to UN target
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O'Donnell TD, says detailed proposals are before Government to agree a definite timetable for ODA increases to reach both the interim target of 0.45% during the lifetime of this Government en route to the United Nations target of 0.7%.
Speaking at the launch of Ireland Aid annual report for 1999, the Minister said the proposals were at an advanced stage and she was determined there would be a positive outcome very soon.
She said Ireland had one of the fastest growing development cooperation programmes in the world.
"In 1999, in contrast to some quite wealthy countries which cut their aid budgets, we increased our overall overseas aid budget by more than 40 million to £181 million, from £139 million in the previous year." the Minister said. "But these volume increases have not been sufficient to allow real progress in linking ODA with our GNP target".
"While we have achieved a lot in 26 years, the needs and challenges for development are alarming. We are living in a world where 1.3billion people still live on less than $1 dollar a day, where 12 million children die before their fifth birthday, where 34.3 million people are infected with the HIV virus and 13 million AIDS orphans are left to fend for themselves. Today, 21 million people are displaced by civil war, disease,, famine and ecological disasters. But, rather than being daunted by the scale and depth of these challenges, we press on sure in the knowledge that our aid is making a difference to the lives of many," the Minister added.
In 1999, the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD had commended Ireland Aid, the Government's official overseas assistance programme, on the quality of its programmes.
"With an increasing budget, we want to set and maintain the highest standards. It demands constant investment of financial and human resources and political commitment. I am fully committed to ensuring that Ireland continues to play an active and effective part in promoting genuine development," the Minister emphasised.
"Commercial market forces, and the search for economic efficiency create an environment in which the needs of human development are often neglected. Too often, the goal is more profits - not more people living above the poverty line. More sustainable development, more regard for human values, more inclusion of the marginalised, more political stability and respect for human rights - these are the priorities for Ireland Aid, she said."
Renewing her previous criticism of bureaucratic delays in emergency situations, the Minister added that "bottlenecks in getting aid to the starving, which could have been avoided through foresight and planning, cost lives."
The Minister also addressed the problem of HIV/AIDS, which she described as one of the biggest challenges to development. "The alarmingly high infection rate in sub-Saharan Africa threatens to destabilised the entire continent. The scale of this unprecedented tragedy demands an unprecedented response." she said. She referred to the HIV/AIDS Strategy for the Ireland Aid programme launched earlier this year, which aims to mainstream the battle against HIV/AIDS into all programme activities.
"Expensive drugs have reduced AIDS to the level of a treatable disease in the West. In the developing world, however, the chances of dying from AIDS or AIDS related illnesses are so much higher because there is little access to affordable treatment. On Friday, I announced a £2.5 million grant to an international research initiative to find a vaccine as part of a £4 million allocation related to AIDS."
The Minister concluded by sending a strong message on the need for continued public knowledge of and support for the Government aid programme.
"Central to sustaining our development efforts abroad is public support and ownership of the Irish development programme. Support depends also on the social partners and civil society as the budget expands and our influence grows amongst donor and partner countries alike. Educating our people on development is crucial."
Note for Editors
The Ireland Aid programme is the Irish Government's Official Development Cooperation programme. The Annual Report provides a detailed description and breakdown of Ireland Aid expenditure in 1999 - both Bilateral (given directly by the Irish Government to projects in a developing country) and Multilateral (channelled through international organisations). Ireland Aid bilateral expenditure is concentrated on some of the poorest countries in the world - namely sub-Saharan Africa (in particular Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia).