Statement on ODA levels by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Micheál Martin, T.D., and the Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr Peter Power, T.D
Ireland has built up a strong, internationally-renowned aid programme, which is firmly focused on the poorest people and communities in the developing world. We very much regret that it has been necessary to reduce funding to the programme for 2009. The reduction announced today is one of a series of measures required to restore the public finances and establish a solid platform for renewed economic growth. We confirm today that the Government is committed to resuming the expansion of the aid programme as soon as economic growth has been re-established.
Last year, Ireland was the sixth largest aid donor in the world in per capita terms. Notwithstanding today’s difficult decision, this is likely to be maintained in 2009. The total ODA budget for 2009 will be €696 million. On current projections, this will represent 0.48% of GNP. Ireland’s commitment is to achieve the international target of spending 0.7% of GNP on overseas development assistance by 2012. This compares to the broad EU commitment to achieve the 0.7% target by 2015. Ireland remains closer to achieving the EU target than all but a few Member States.
Clearly, today’s Government decision will make it more difficult to achieve the 2012 target. Nevertheless, the Government will continue to work towards it. We will make a full assessment of Ireland’s capacity to achieve the target in the context of the preparation of the 2010 Budget. We are determined to ensure that our commitments to our development partners are at all times transparent and credible.
Difficult decisions will now be required on adjustments to the aid programme. We will ensure that Ireland’s clear focus on poverty and hunger in the poorest countries, especially in Africa, is retained. We will maintain the strategic approach set out in the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid. We will work even harder to ensure the effectiveness of Ireland’s aid so that it continues to make a real difference to the lives of millions of the poorest people.
We will maintain our position as one of the most generous donors internationally to the non-governmental sector. Ireland’s development NGOs, missionaries and charities are among the most committed and effective in the world, reflecting the commitment of the Irish people over the years. The Government provided over €200 million in funding to civil society organisations last year, including very significant funding to Concern, Trócaire and Goal. Inevitably, there will be some reduction in this funding in 2009. But it is essential that Government and civil society strengthen our partnership to ensure that the overall Irish contribution has the maximum effect on the lives of those most in need.
While everyone in Ireland connected with overseas development, not least the Government, is disappointed that we have been obliged to temporarily reverse the growth of our aid programme, it is worth stepping back a little to reflect on what we have achieved over the past few years. To have become the world’s sixth biggest donor per head in such a short period of time is an extraordinary and unparalleled achievement.
If we find that we now have to pause, we should not be overly critical of ourselves. The important thing is that we retain our vocation to support the world’s poorest, and a determination that, once we have got our economy back into a pattern of sustainable growth, our aid programme will resume its expansion.
7th April 2009