MINISTER O'DONNELL UNDERLINES GOVERNMENT'S COMMITMENT TO STRENGTHEN IRISH AID
UNDERLINES GOVERNMENT'S COMMITMENT TO STRENGTHEN
IRISH AID PROGRAMME
Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (with special responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance and Human Rights) will launch the 1996 Irish Aid Annual Report at 11.00 a.m. on Thursday, 31st July 1997 at Iveagh House,
80 St. Stephens Green, Dublin 2.
Commenting on the Annual Report, the Minister underlined Irish Aid's exceptionally strong programme of collaboration with NGOs. "The role of Irish NGOs in development cooperation is a source of great pride to Irish people. The Government will continue to work closely with NGOs in a spirit of partnership and dialogue. I emphasise the word ‘dialogue' and full openness to each others viewpoints".
As detailed in the 1996 Report, total Irish Aid expenditure through NGOs amounted to £17.32 million (equivalent to 15% of total ODA). The Report demonstrates that Irish Aid funding of NGOs has increased not only in absolute terms, but also as a proportion of the expanding overall aid programme.
In the course of her address, the Minister refers to the Government's commitment to strengthening and expanding the Irish Aid programme. "The Government is committed to making steady progress in Irish Overseas Development Assistance towards achieving the UN recommended target of 0.7% of GNP. Specifically, we are committed to having Irish Aid reach 0.45% of GNP by the year 2002".
Referring to Africa, the Minister notes that "Africa poses by far the greatest challenge today to the international community in the field of development cooperation..A quarter of all African children die from disease or malnutrition before their fifth birthday. Only half of African adults can read or write. ..We have an obligation to help. We have a track record in Africa and we have longstanding human links in terms of history and personnel. For this reason, I intend to maintain the main focus of Irish Aid on our present priority countries in Africa".
The Minister emphasises that poverty reduction will be the central focus of Irish Aid. "I intend that in my time as Minister, poverty reduction will be the overwhelming focus of Irish Aid efforts. Every project, every proposal, every assessment will be judged by its impact on this central test". The Minister also refers to the importance of "partnership" and"..supporting local needs identified by local communities and people. The principle of local ownership of Irish Aid programmes will, therefore, continue to be a central feature of our programmes".
The Minister outlines the work of Irish Aid during 1996. In that year for the first time expenditure broke the £100 million barrier to reach £112 million. The report provides a detailed description and breakdown of total Irish Aid expenditure in 1996, covering the range of activities of Ireland's Development Assistance - both Multilateral and Bilateral.
The important link between development and human rights is confirmed by the Minister. "I want a clear relationship between human rights, democracy and development to be an important feature of Irish development cooperation policy". The Minister emphasises that "...partner governments in developing countries must actively pursue and vigorously implement policies to advance human empowerment in all senses, including absolute and full respect for human rights".