Liz O'Donnell praises work of NGOs in disaster relief work
Minister of State O'Donnell paid tribute to the invaluable work of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in development work and emergency situations. She spoke, in particular, of the wonderful work carried out by these organisations and by APSO volunteers in the wake of the recent hurricane disaster in Central America and said that this was very obvious to the Irish public and to the world.
The Minister of State was speaking at the opening of the 1998 National Forum on Development Aid which is being held in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham today. The Forum provides an opportunity for NGOs and other interested individuals and groups to discuss development issues. The Minister gave the opening address on the theme of Strengthening Civil Society through Capacity Building - the Role of NGOs.
The Minister said that the complex issue of capacity building - helping people to help themselves and to take charge of their own development - could not be divorced from the wider social, economic and political picture in any given society. It calls for a sustained commitment by donors and NGOs at whatever level they are engaged. Ms. O'Donnell said it is essential to stay with countries affected by disasters and to help rebuild their capacity. She assured the Forum of the long-term commitment of the Government to help with the rehabilitation of Central America following the HurricaneMitch disaster.
Ms. O'Donnell said that there is no greater practical indicator of solidarity with the poor of the world than through our ongoing work with developing countries. She stressed the need to continue increasing the aid budget in line with our stated commitment to reach the UN target and said that reaching the interim target of 0.45% of GNP would put Irish Aid on a firm financial footing into the new millennium. This would permit us to plan and project our spending programmes with new certainty and confidence.
The Minister said that there is a need to examine the overall direction of Irish Aid and to look critically at our programmes and policies. The debate has already begun with Hurricane Mitch and the Irish Aid estimates for spending in 1999 stimulating some comment, and with issues such as the value of debt relief and the importance of long-term development strategies being acted on at international and domestic levels.