Launch of the 2009 Irish Aid Annual Report
Launch of the 2009 Irish Aid Annual Report
Irish Aid Centre, Dublin, 6 September 2010
Remarks by Minister of State Power
I am delighted to be here to launch the 2009 Irish Aid Annual Report. This is the Report to the Irish people on the effectiveness of the Government’s aid programme – the Irish people’s aid programme.
The Report focuses on Ireland’s strong contribution to the fight against global poverty and hunger. In just two week’s time, world leaders will meet in New York for a UN Summit to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals. The message we will bring to New York is the need to intensify international efforts to achieve those Goals by 2015, even at a time of great economic difficulty.
The Annual Report highlights how Ireland has taken a lead in focusing attention on the continuing crisis of hunger in our world, and how we are making a difference by ensuring that every Euro of our aid has maximum effect, working in partnership with Governments and communities in some of the poorest countries in the world
The devastating flooding in Pakistan and the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in January have reminded us just how vulnerable a large proportion of the world’s population continues to be. The Irish people have been very generous in response to both disasters, despite the economic pressures at home. The response of the Government has been rapid and comprehensive. We have committed €13m to relief and recovery efforts in Haiti as well as experts from our Rapid Response Corps and materials from our humanitarian goods stockpiles.
Our response to the Pakistan flooding has included €2m in assistance channelled through aid agencies such as Concern, Trócaire and Goal so far. We have also ensured the early provision of pre-positioned funding and supplies with UN agencies.
We are now assisting the longer-term recovery in Haiti. In the case of Pakistan the authorities and expert agencies are now beginning to work on on an assessment of needs following the floods. Further assistance from Ireland will be based on this assessment.
Natural disasters bring home not just the importance of immediate emergency assistance from the international community but also the need to build up the resilience of developing countries over the long term. The effects of natural disasters are always accentuated by the effects of poverty. And developing countries remain the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the least well prepared to cope with these effect.
Changing this unacceptable reality is impossible without a sustained, international effort based on partnership. There are no quick-fix solutions. Funding alone will not suffice. Building resilience requires us to work with developing countries to invest in health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, water and irrigation projects and other programmes that reduce poverty and hunger.
Ireland is playing its part through the Irish Aid programme. And last year, Ireland was the seventh most generous international donor, in per capita terms.
The 2009 Annual report very clearly re-states the priorities of the aid programme. These are a focus on the fight against poverty and hunger, particularly in the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The challenges these countries face have been compounded recently by the economic downturn, the effects of climate change, fluctuating food prices and instability in some regions. At the same time aid budgets around the world are under increasing pressure. The imperative now is to make our aid more effective, and to focus clearly on key priorities – in Ireland’s case, the fight against global hunger.
As you are aware, last year our aid budget had to be adjusted substantially in the context of serious reductions across all areas of Government spending. However, it is important to emphasise that we remain committed to reaching the international target of spending 0.7% of GNP on overseas aid by 2015. We will be ahead of the EU target of spending 0.51% of GNP on overseas aid in 2010.
The Irish Aid programme is sharply focused. Seven of our nine partner countries are in sub-Saharan Africa and these are among the poorest in the world. We are also working in Sierra Leone and Liberia which are fragile states still recovering from conflict and providing significant assistance to Palestine where the humanitarian situation continues to be very serious.
Our humanitarian funding represents approximately 14% of our total bilateral aid spending. This allows Ireland to respond rapidly and flexibly to sudden emergencies wherever they occur.
Our assistance prioritises the fight against HIV and AIDS, small-holder and women farmers and improving the enrolment of girls in primary education – areas in other words which have a direct impact on poverty. The focus is on building local systems and the capability to deliver local solutions to the challenges of poverty, in line with international best practice. It also includes steps to strengthen good governance and the effective oversight of funds.
It is essential of course that we maximise value for money from limited resources for the benefit of the people and communities that we are working with. Having visited many of our partner countries I am convinced that are doing just that. The Annual Report gives plenty of examples but permit me to cite a few.
I visited Ethiopia last year where I saw how women have been assisted through agricultural extension services and the availability of credit. Over 450,000 hectares of land have been enclosed for reforestation in Tigray in recent years and 185,000 households, 20% of which were headed by women, benefitted from additional irrigation in 2009.
I saw in South Africa and Lesotho earlier this year how Irish Aid is supporting local solutions to fight the HIV and AIDs pandemic. More than one in five of the adult population in both countries is living with HIV. Almost 1,000 people die from HIV-related causes every day in South Africa alone. In South Africa we are supporting home-based care programmes that are directly responding to the needs of women and children. In Lesotho Irish Aid along with the Clinton foundation are supporting a network of clinics that are alleviating the problem in very remote areas of the country.
I can say categorically that the Irish Aid programme is making a very real contribution to the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
However, we cannot be complacent and we must re-double our efforts internationally to improve the quality of aid delivered. Overlaps between the work of donors must be minimised and joint accountability and ownership with our partner countries must become more of a reality.
It is critical also that the process of reform within the United Nations is further consolidated and Ireland will continue to play an active role in this.
Non-governmental organisations and other partners also need to play a stronger role in this in my view and to focus more on long-term impacts. Ireland channels a higher proportion of its assistance through NGOs and missionaries than any other international donor. I see that representatives from Dóchas as well as a number of NGOs are here today and I very much welcome your willingness to work with us on maximising the impact of Ireland’s overall contribution to the fight against poverty and hunger.
Ireland will play an active role at the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York later this month as I mentioned earlier. We will emphasise the need for progress on the first MDG in particular – that is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. Ireland is co-hosting a high level political meeting at the Summit along with the US Administration, on 21 September. It will focus attention on hunger and nutrition, especially among young children.
The aid programme represents a very significant commitment by the Irish people to global development and to building lives and futures for the people of developing countries. It is an investment in their future, but also in our own. It draws from the strong sense of solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable communities that the Irish people demonstrate time and again.
Even as we focus on our own economic situation at home, we are determined that Ireland will continue to make a strong contribution to the fight against poverty and hunger through the Irish Aid programme and the partners with whom we work.