OECD PRAISES IRISH AID PROGRAMME - SAYS IT REFLECTS IRELAND'S COMMITMENT TO REDUCING POVERTY
O'Donnell welcomes review as "major morale boost for staff at home and abroad"
The Irish Aid Programme has been given a ringing endorsement in an external review just published by the OECD.
The final report just published, carried out by the OECD's Development Aid Committee, says our aid programme - 25 years old this year - operates to high standards and reflects Ireland's commitment to reducing poverty in developing countries.
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O' Donnell TD, has welcomed the favourable review describing it as a "major morale boost to aid staff at home and abroad and confirmation that our aid programme provides good value for money in terms of impact.
"It is a validation of the work done by those on the Irish Aid Programme over many years and confirms that the focus is right and that our efforts are making a real impact when it comes to tackling poverty in developing countries," the Minister added.
She said the OECD did not hand out plaudits easily - and the review just published demonstrated that Ireland had an outstanding programme which reflected Irish people's support for development aid.
"In 1999, the amount spent on aid will be £178m. and we are committed to continuous growth in the budget to reach the target of 0.45% of GNP by the year 2002. We are also considering adding a new priority country for Irish aid. This review gives us fresh impetus as we seek to improve the plight of millions of people who continue to live in the most abject poverty, and to respond to humanitarian emergencies as they arise such as recently in Kosovo and Turkey," Minister O'Donnell added.
The OECD report says one of the major strengths of the aid programme is its focussed nature.
"The programme is growing and is expected to continue to do so as a reflection of Ireland's commitment to reducing poverty in developing countries and of Ireland's place in the world. Ireland's potential for further growth in aid is supported by a strong economic performance, coupled with solid political and public support for development co-operation in general," the report says.
It says the programme also has a strong policy basis.
"The Irish programme is a good reflection of current international policy orientations aimed at eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable people-centred development...Ireland has worked out good systems for promoting coherence in its policies which impact on developing countries, as well as among its various channels for delivering aid".
The OECD also says Irish Aid is a strong performer when it comes to putting partnership approaches into practice, especially in the six least-developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where the programme is concentrated.
"Irish Aid recognises the need for developing country (and local) ownership of the aid process, and carries out its programmes in partnership with recipient governments and people, and in line with their priorities. While continuing to target its assistance at local or district level through its area-based programmes, Irish Aid is becoming more involved at the national level, through programme aid and support for selected sector-wide approaches," the report adds.
The review also praised the impressive growth in the aid budget over the last six years and noted that, simultaneously, the quality and operating professionalism of the programme had been strengthened.
But it expressed concern that the growth had taken place without the necessary strengthening of staffing levels and administrative systems for the Department of Foreign Affairs' Development Co-Operation Division.