Statement by MoS O'Sullivan to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, 5 July 2011
Statement by Ms. Jan O’ Sullivan, T.D.,
Minister of State for Trade and Development
This will be a very brief introduction to our plans for 2011 under Vote 29 (International Cooperation). The Vote covers the main elements of the Government’s overseas development programme, managed by Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I am deeply honoured to have been given responsibility for the Government’s aid programme. In just a few months I have seen for myself the contribution that Ireland is making to international development policy, and the impact our programme is having on the lives of poor families and communities in Africa. My recent visits to Malawi and Mozambique, and the Tánaiste’s visit to Tanzania, provided an important opportunity to restate clearly to our partners in Africa our commitment to the programme, as a central element in Ireland’s foreign policy.
The aid programme has always enjoyed strong cross-party support in the Oireachtas. Even during the most difficult times at home, it has been supported by the Irish people. But this cannot be taken for granted. I look forward to engaging with this Committee in a constructive and detailed way on the objectives and impact of the aid programme, and to ensuring that the Irish people have the greatest possible understanding of how public funds are being used in the fight against extreme poverty and hunger in our world. I strongly believe that our continued commitment to Ireland’s development programme is consistent with our values and interests as a people, with our place on the world stage, and with our wider efforts to rebuild Ireland’s international reputation.
The Government is committed to the 0.7% GNP target for Official Development Assistance, and we will seek to achieve it by 2015. For 2011, the overall allocation for ODA has been set at €659 million. €534 million of this will be managed by Irish Aid under Vote 29. The remaining €135 million comprises Ireland’s allocation of the EU Development Cooperation budget and development contributions by other Government Departments. On current projections, the overall allocation will amount to about 0.52% of GNP, which will keep Ireland ahead of the EU interim target of 0.51%, set for 2010.
Meeting our targets will be a very real challenge. We can do so, however, if we as a people can rise to the challenge of reforming and restoring growth to the Irish economy. At a time of very scarce resources, it is essential that we be able to demonstrate with total clarity that the funding provided for the aid programme is used to maximise the impact on the lives of poor people and communities. We need to be able to measure that impact, and to ensure that there is no duplication of effort with other organisations. We will work internally and internationally to reinvigorate the approach to international development, ensuring that the effects of our actions and policies can be measured, not just in terms of the Millennium Development Goals, but in the lives of real people.
The OECD has described Ireland as a champion in making aid work more effectively. We will take that leadership role to the major international meeting to be held in Korea later this year, on aid effectiveness. I look forward to attending the meeting, in November. It will represent a crucial milestone, at a time of budgetary pressures everywhere, in the international effort to judge the quality of development assistance and its contribution to social and economic progress in developing countries.
Ireland’s development programme is renowned for its genuine spirit of partnership with developing countries, for its strong focus on the fight against global poverty and hunger, and for its concentration on the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. As promised in the Programme for Government, I have launched a review of the White Paper on Irish Aid, to ensure that we can maximise our impact at a time of great change, at home and abroad. The detailed Review will be carried out over the coming twelve months. It will involve wide consultation. I look forward in particular to engaging with the members of the Committee during the process. At the end of the Review, I would hope that we will collectively have a clear understanding of the priorities for the future direction of the Irish Aid programme. And that we will have an even stronger public understanding of why Ireland should maintain our work with the poorest people of the developing world, recognising that persistent poverty and inequality represents a direct threat to their lives, but also to the wider prospects for economic and political progress.
I can assure this Committee that the Government is determined to ensure that every cent spent on the aid programme delivers value for money, with clear accountability to the Irish people, and to the partners we work with in developing countries. I look forward to answering your questions, and to working closely with you in the period ahead.