O' Donnell urges continued increases in Irish Aid budget
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms Liz O'Donnell, T.D., has urged continued support for increases in the Irish Aid budget.
The Minister, speaking at the launch of Concern's report the "Reality of Aid" for 1998-1999, said "the strongest argument is the moral argument. Generosity and compassion are very human and powerful instincts. There is no more tangible way of promoting human rights in the world than by development assistance to the poor. We ourselves have benefitted considerably from the generosity of others, both historically and in the present day. In the past Irish people seeking to escape from extreme deprivation and famine at home found homes and opportunities in other countries. More recently we have benefitted from EU transfers. We must provide aid because it is the right thing to do and aid makes a real difference: Between 1960 and 1992 average life-expectancy in developing countries rose from forty-six to sixty-three years; In the same period in these countries the proportion of children dying under the age of 5 fell by more than half; the share of people with access to safe drinking-water in developing countries rose from 36 per cent in 1995 to 70 per cent in in 1991, and Immunization coverage for the child-killing diseases rose from around 10 per cent late in the 1970s to 80 per cent by early 1990s."
Minister O'Donnell also raised the issue of Developing World Debt, saying "While Governments of many developing countries have initiated economic reforms which have created a favourable climate for investment, the short-term effect often hurts the poorest sections of those societies. Such reforms, while necessary on economic grounds, can generate instability. Countries that have taken such steps to put their economic houses in order deserve sustained international assistance to help their frail democracies and in the alleviation of their crippling debt burden. Debt alleviation will henceforth be a critical feature of Irish Development Assistance."
Notwithstanding that the Concern report shows that Ireland's position as a donor country has improved in recent years to being twelfth place in a list of 21 donor countries, the Minister cautioned that, while our contribution to Development Aid in 1998 will be the largest ever in financial terms ( IEP 137 million), when expressed as a percentage of GNP it may be no more than 0.3 % as a result of our spectacular economic growth. The Minister urged that we must continue to ensure that we get value for the taxpayers money and continue to reach out to the most wretched and deserving people on the globe. The size of the aid budget is a litmus test of the degree of our committment to civilised values and human rights and it is ultimately in our own interests to ensure stability and growth in Developing countries.