O'Donnell Launches UNDP Human Development Report 2000
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D, has:
emphasised the link between the denial of the right to development and increasing numbers of economic migrants;
underlined building democratic structures as key to development efforts; and
questioned the use of conditionality in development assistance.
Speaking this morning (Thursday, 29 June) at the Mansion House, Dublin, at the launch of the UNDP Human Development Report 2000, Minister O'Donnell said "it is inevitable that as income inequality between nations grows, as rich economies like Ireland harness information technologies to underpin their economic growth and to benefit from globalisation, large numbers of the poor, the marginalised and the excluded will try to migrate to countries where they and their children can prosper".
The Minister said the denial of the right to development in their own countries is a fundamental reason for the increasing numbers of economic migrants coming to Ireland. "As long as this right is denied to huge numbers of people, we must accept that one of the consequences will be economic migration. No doubt many of the poor who leave their homelands would prefer to remain where they are. Their choices, are, however, limited, and many are compelled to leave by powerful economic and social forces beyond their control."
She welcomed the Report's conclusion that there must be a shift from a focus on civil and political rights to a broader concern with all rights - giving as much attention to economic, social and cultural rights. "In Ireland's case we are now in transition to a multi-cultural society. While we like to see ourselves as a welcoming and generous people, we have also been confronted with the ugly face of Irish society namely xenophobia and intolerance. This was brought home to us with appalling force through recent vicious racist attacks. Tackling xenophobia is now a key issue for our society. As is the formulation of comprehensive integration policies which are properly funded".
The Minister said that the promotion of human rights requires action and commitment from the major groups in society - NGOs, media and businesses, local as well as national government, parliamentarians and other opinion leaders such as the Church.
"This is particularly the case in tackling xenophobia," she said. " We all have a role to play".
The Minister highlighted democratisation and human rights as being central concerns of Ireland's aid to priority countries. The Government currently allocates IR£1.5 million per year on democracy and human rights projects every year out of an overall ODA budget of almost IR£200 million. "Building democratic structures is now a key aspect of development efforts, both in the least developed countries of the Third World and in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe", she said.
But the Minister spoke of her concern about the growing link between a rights based approach to development and conditionality. "I fully endorse the Human Development Report's view that the use of conditionality in promoting human rights is often ineffective and leads to counterproductive confrontation. It too often smacks of the rich North lecturing to the poor countries of the South, who are struggling with chronic poverty".
She also referred to the issue of development assistance to countries involved in armed conflict as a matter of major international concern. "It is my firm view that when development assistance is focussed on supporting the poorest sections of society in a poor country, which is the case of Ireland Aid in Ethiopia, this aid should continue despite the conflict. Of course, we have to ensure that aid is not diverted to military effort. But if we are to take the right to development seriously, we cannot treat aid which is verifiably focussed directly on alleviating poverty as a resource flow which can be turned off and on depending on the political circumstances". Top