Statement by Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D. to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Estimates provision in 2000 for the aid programme is almost £138 million - the largest allocation ever. The net increase is over £26 million and an equivalent increase is guaranteed next year.
Official Development Assistance in 2000 is estimated at over £201 million - almost £60 million higher than when the government came into office and five times the figure of £40 million in 1992. This will amount to 0.31% of estimated GNP.
The singular record in Ireland on economic growth in recent years has not translated in the aid programme into annual financial increases sufficient to show progress against the long-standing UN target of 0.7% of GNP. The reasons are well known - conservative estimates of GNP used for forward negotiation and the negative impact of a new CSO system for calculating GNP.
To address this issue proposals for Government are under consideration at ministerial level. The intention is to map out a course to the UN target within a specific time-frame and to secure agreement on the resources needed to manage the additional allocations in a quality programme.
Out of total ODA of £201 million, £125.5 million, or 62%, is provided directly as bilateral aid to individual developing countries. £69 million or 34.5% is provided as multilateral aid through the aid programmes of the EU, the UN and the World Bank; and £6.3 million or 3.1% is accounted for as administrative support and tax deductions on private or corporate aid donations, the tax on which is passed to NGOs. About half the bilateral allocation is provided to six priority countries: Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Lesotho.
NGOs are vital collaborators with the aid programme. About 15 per cent of the overall ODA budget - a very high figure by international standards - is channelled through our NGOs.
95 per cent of our development aid is allocated to long-term development assistance. In an ideal world development would obviate the need for emergency aid, but it is a distressing reality that there persists a need for such aid. Emergency humanitarian funding, for which £7 million is provided in 2000, is allocated for relief operations to
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alleviate the effects of natural disasters, conflicts, famine and drought in developing countries. Such aid was provided in 1999 to countries including Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Turkey.
Rehabilitation assistance complements emergency aid. The main objective of our rehabilitation assistance is to help the most vulnerable people in a number of countries to reestablish their lives after natural or manmade disasters. Bosnia, Cambodia, Honduras, Rwanda and Somalia benefitted under this provision in 1999.
Support for human rights and good governance is an integral part of our aid programme. The objective of the Human Rights and Democratisation scheme is to assist the development of democratic processes and institutions and the promotion and protection of human rights in developing countries outside our priority countries. The allocation in 2000 is £1.5 million.
The management of the European Development Fund (EDF) suffers from the same bureaucratic and political obstacles that have caused difficulties for all EC development aid activities. Although there is agreement to establish a new fund, previous funds remain in existence because they have not yet been fully spent. In all there is almost 10 billion euros in unspent funds.
The delay in spending under the EDF is caused by (i) excessive bureaucracy inside the Commission, (ii) complex financial controls, (iii) failure to decentralise decision-making on spending to offices in the field,(iv) micro-management of aid projects by the member States - all projects over 2 million euros must be approved by member States - (iv) the suspension of development aid to countries in breach of their obligations under the Lome Convention.
The new ACP-EU Partnership Agreement streamlines the programming arrangements for EU aid which should lead to much more rapid delivery. 1 billion euros of the unspent balances will be allocated to debt relief. I have expressed strong support for the reform of Community aid and insisted this should be speedily implemented.
The burden of external debt imposes a serious constraint on the development of many of the world's poorest countries, specifically the 40 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs). The Irish government, although not a creditor, is determined to play a full role in this area and in late 1998 pledged £31.5 million in bilateral and multilateral debt relief. In addition, in the wake of the floods in Mozambique, Ireland has been vocal in calling for accelerated debt relief for that country. I have personally argued that there is a compelling case for the cancellation of all of it's external debt and we have welcomed decisions by bilateral creditors such as Britain, France and Italy to forgive Mozambique's debt to them and we would encourage other bilateral donors to take similar actions.Top