Thursday, 2 November 2006
White Paper on Irish Aid: Statements
I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House on Ireland's first ever White Paper on overseas aid policy. The White Paper was launched by the Taoiseach on 18 September. It has been widely welcomed by the Irish development community and our partners in the developing world. In recent weeks, it has been discussed in the Seanad and at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Therefore, it is timely that we have the chance to debate it in the Dáil today, although it is unfortunate that the debate will not be as long as I would have liked.
The White Paper on Irish Aid is a document of which I am most proud. It comes at an important time for my Department and the Government. On one level, the White Paper sets down a clear blueprint that will guide how Irish aid will expand as we reach the UN aid spending target of 0.7% of our GNP by 2012. However, it is about much more than good development practice and where best to expend the rapidly growing aid budget.
As the Taoiseach stated at the launch: "The White Paper is a practical expression of the values that help define what it means to be Irish at the beginning of this century." It represents our sense of a broader global concern and our obligation to those with whom we share this planet and our humanity. It represents our shared belief in democracy, solidarity and fairness. Above all, it demonstrates a clear awareness that with prosperity comes a responsibility to assist those who are most marginalised and vulnerable.
At the launch of the White Paper, I drew attention to the fact that in July 1985, when Ireland had one of the highest per capita debts in the world, ordinary Irish people gave more per head to Live Aid for Ethiopia than any other nation on earth. This White Paper builds on the service and generosity of Irish people towards the developing world over many decades. It embraces the work of missionaries and non-governmental organisations and seeks to consolidate and expand the work of the official aid programme, Irish Aid, since its foundation more than 30 years ago.
This White Paper is about putting development at the heart of our foreign policy. It is about embracing an enhanced role for Ireland in the struggle against global poverty, both at the operational level of our aid programme and at the international level where the voices of the poor and marginalised need much greater resonance.
Ireland is very well placed to adopt a leadership position in the fight against global poverty in all its manifestations. We have a legacy of service in the developing world. We have our own history of poverty and conflict. We have a proud record of engagement with the UN at every level. We have no hidden agendas in our development assistance. Our commitment to reaching 0.7% of GNP on overseas development assistance by 2012 will provide the resources and the authority through which we can deliver the leadership espoused by the White Paper.
The sums we will expend on development assistance over the coming years are enormous. I expect the aid programme will reach €1.5 billion per annum in today's terms by 2012. As recently as 1996, our total aid programme amounted to approximately €142 million. By any standards, this represents an enormous commitment by the Irish people. It trebled since the Government came into office in 1997 and it will double between now and 2012.
The challenge is to make a real difference in the lives of more than one billion people who live on one dollar a day. One dollar a day is defined as extreme poverty. However, 3 billion people live on two dollars a day or less. We must and will grasp the opportunity to make the difference, which means ensuring our aid programme is of the highest standard, delivering aid that is effective, accountable and making a measurable change in the lives of the poor. The difference also means doing everything in our power to enhance the operation of global partnerships to fight poverty.
No individual country or regional organisation can, no matter how wealthy, effectively address the complex nature of global poverty on its own. This is why the set of development targets, called the millennium development goals, agreed by the international community at the UN in 2000, represent an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration and co-ordination in fighting poverty. These eight goals clearly outline a set of measurable targets to be attained by 2015, if we are to halve global poverty by that year. These targets are attainable if the necessary resources, human and financial, are dedicated to the goals by the wealthy nations of the world.
The millennium development goals are at the heart of the White Paper on Irish aid. These goals represent the best road map to what the development economist and indefatigable advocate on behalf of the poor, Jeffrey Sachs, has called The End of Poverty.
Much of the White Paper firmly validates the changes which have happened in the aid programme over the past ten years. We are not starting with a blank slate. Irish Aid has been in existence since 1974. Building on Irish people's traditional solidarity with the marginalised and dispossessed, for 32 years it has been to the forefront of international development. Over that time, the way we work has changed significantly, moving away from individual projects towards programmes based on partnership, where developing countries themselves lead the development process. These changes are reflected in the guiding principles outlined at the beginning of the White Paper.
Our aid will remain untied. We will retain a clear focus on the poorest countries, particularly in Africa, and partnership will be central to all that we do. Our change of approach has been widely praised. A recent ActionAID report, for example, put Ireland at the top of the world league of donors whose aid is real and makes a real difference on the ground to the poorest of people. We work through our partner countries to build better governments and better functioning societies. I will give some examples.
In Lesotho in 1999, enrolment in primary schools was at 57%. With Ireland's support, by 2003 this figure had increased to 82%. In Ethiopia, through our safety nets programme which I saw in action when I visited there in July, Irish Aid keeps hunger at bay for more than 6 million Ethiopians every year. Another example is that with Ireland's support, immunisation rates against childhood diseases in Uganda are now at 84% for the entire country. That represents a dramatic rise in recent years.
The White Paper reinforces our long-standing commitment to the key areas of education and health. We know from our development experience that the realisation of human potential in every area, most particularly the economic, will only occur when people have good health and are both literate and numerate. A focus on education and health will remain at the very core of the Irish Aid programme, which invests in people and systems that can deliver sustainable services to enable and empower people to take control of their own lives.
As the programme grows financially, we will both deepen and broaden our engagements. We will increase the number of key partner countries in which we work. In the medium term, we will increase the number of partner countries from eight to ten. Malawi will be the first country so designated.
We will deepen our focus on working in fragile states and build on our existing activities, including our role in UN peacekeeping operations. We will focus our efforts on Sierra Leone and Liberia, two countries with hugely challenging operating environments. While Africa remains our main focus, we will respond to need in other parts of the world. To this end, we will build a regional programme in south-east Asia, working from our most recently designated key partner country, Vietnam. We will also increase our responses to humanitarian emergencies, wherever they occur.
The White Paper also launches a number of new initiatives of which we are extremely proud. We will establish a rapid response initiative to enable Ireland to respond more effectively to sudden-onset emergencies. My experience during my visit to the worst affected regions in the aftermath of the tsunami convinced me of the need to ensure an effective operational response by Ireland and the European Union to emergencies and disasters. I am delighted to tell the House that preparations for this initiative are well advanced.
My colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Conor Lenihan, recently signed an agreement with the World Food Programme for the pre-positioning and transportation of humanitarian supplies to disaster areas. We will also put in place a roster of skilled and experienced individuals from the public and private sectors, including from the Defence Forces, for deployment at short notice to emergency situations.
Ireland will seek to forge a distinctive role in the areas of conflict prevention and resolution and peace building, drawing on our experience and knowledge of conflict resolution and peace building. To this end, a dedicated unit for conflict analysis and resolution will be established in the Department of Foreign Affairs. We will establish a hunger task force to examine the particular contribution Ireland can make to address the root causes of food insecurity, particularly in Africa. Again, we will build on our experiences and knowledge in the area of food production.
Development co-operation is a contract between donor and recipient, and both sides have obligations. Both sides must, in good faith, honour this contract. Recipient countries must ensure our aid provided from taxpayers' money gets to where it is most needed and that no moneys are diverted from this cause. They must use resources for the public good and work to combat corruption across all areas of society. We must insist on a steadfast adherence to democratic principles and human rights. To this end, we will establish a new governance unit within Irish Aid which will be a focal point for all our activities in this area.
Ireland will continue to take a lead in the fight against the scourge of HIV-AIDS. Our spending on this and other diseases exceeds €100 million a year — more than 10% of the total Irish Aid budget.
Finally, I wish to say a little about the challenge for Irish Aid at home. With the blueprint in hand, a major challenge for us now is to further involve the public in the work that Irish Aid does on our behalf. Broad public understanding of and support for the aid programme is crucial as we expand it.
The public has a clear appetite for information on development issues. Since the launch of the White Paper in September, more than 4,000 copies of the document have been distributed and more than 31,000 people in Ireland and across the world have downloaded the document from the Irish Aid website.
At international level, both the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, and I distributed copies of the White Paper to our ministerial colleagues at EU level. At the United Nations I presented a copy to the UN Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly. All our embassies around the world have been forwarded copies for distribution.
In the new year we will launch a national information campaign based on the White Paper to raise awareness here in Ireland of the work of Irish Aid. As part of this, we will be distributing a summary version of the White Paper to every household in the country. Planning is under way for the opening in 2007 of an Irish Aid information and volunteering centre which will make more and better information available to the public about volunteering opportunities for individuals, institutions and communities. For the first time Irish Aid will have an accessible shop-front presence in central Dublin providing comprehensive information on all aspects of development and volunteering. As well as providing information to the public, the centre will be a valuable tool for our development education programme.
The Oireachtas has a critical role to play in raising awareness of development issues and Ireland's response. At my instigation and that of the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, the White Paper commits Irish Aid to growing this relationship and ensuring that Members of the Oireachtas are informed of and engaged with the work of the programme. My Department values the broad cross-party support which development co-operation enjoys, given that it is the House which votes the considerable moneys that are available for the Irish aid programme. A number of Deputies have travelled to see for themselves the work Irish Aid is doing in developing countries. These visits forge important ties and help to strengthen the parliamentary systems in our partner countries by demonstrating the key role that our Parliament plays in our democratic system.
This White Paper is the outcome of dialogue with the developing world, our multinational partners and NGOs. It has been shaped by extensive consultation with the public. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, for travelling throughout the country and listening to the open fora which fed into the deliberations on the White Paper, which was agreed across all Departments. The White Paper details the Government's response to the clear wish of the Irish people that we be true leaders in international development. It also recognises that public awareness and support are critical to the success of the Irish Aid programme. While communicating the challenges the developing world faces, we must also present the success of our projects and remind constituents and taxpayers that every day, through the work of Irish Aid, they are making a real and significant difference to some of the world's poorest people.
I compliment the Minister on providing this opportunity to debate this important issue. The reasons for its importance are graphically illustrated by the pictures on our televisions, which serve to focus our minds and attention on those who are less well off than we are, in particular given our historic memory of hunger and starvation in this country.
The millennium development goals commit the international community to a series of objectives to which the Minister referred, namely, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development. It is a fine set of objectives and one that will take not only the commitment of the Government and people as set out by the Minister but also the commitment and sustained effort of the world community, which will need to be focused specifically and objectively to ensure that aid goes where it is most needed and most effective.
I compliment the various Irish aid agencies which have over the years committed their money and effort to addressing the issues in this area. Reference was made by the Minister to the 0.7% objective for development aid. As we know, that objective has been tossed about for at least 15 years and has been revised more than once. The Taoiseach correctly made a commitment to the United Nations in New York under this heading but the target was revised downwards four years later, which was not helpful and gave the wrong impression, in particular when we consider the effort made by the Irish people to contribute to international aid. I ask the Minister to reconfirm that there will be no further revision and that we will have achieved this objective in full by 2012. Regardless of whatever else may happen, further revision would not be helpful.
One of the major events affecting international aid was the world conference to which I referred but another was the G8 conference at Gleneagles last year, which purported to focus attention on debt relief and the alleviation of poverty as a result, and to address the issues concerning countries which suffer heavily from the burden of debt. Reference was not made to this conference in the Minister's reply because it did not exactly correspond to the issue under discussion, but there is a relationship and it would be helpful if the Minister would comment. For example, certain commitments were entered into whereby large-scale debt write-off would take place on foot of certain other obligations which were to be met. I do not know — I have put down questions in this regard — the full extent to which the countries contributing to the write-off of debt have met their commitments and whether the expected benefits have transpired. For example, have African farmers, who it was expected would benefit, benefited from the package to the extent anticipated or, as has been claimed, have others benefited? The Minister might refer to this question in his response.
I particularly welcome the rapid response proposals, which are in accord with Fine Gael policy as previously enunciated. It is patently obvious that a rapid response unit was the only answer to international catastrophe. Planning could take place on a segmented basis prior to any need and, when the need arose, the response could be made quickly, effectively and efficiently, and could be targeted. It is a particularly welcome development. It will show good results and will greatly enable those who are involved in delivering aid while at the same time being of more direct benefit to recipients.
The White Paper reaffirms the existing policy goals of helping the poorest people, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, principally by focusing on basic needs in education and health. The paper also includes commitments to tackling corruption through good governance. The effort of the international community, the Irish community in particular, in delivering, co-ordinating and directing aid to those most seriously in need is obviously laudable. However, it will all come to naught unless there is the application of good governance on the side of the recipients. We have argued this issue in the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and other fora, as the Minister knows. It is important it is enforced to the best of our ability. That means when aid is being raised and handed over, we should have some knowledge of what the people to whom it is given are going to do with it. We should ensure they do not use it as an indirect subsidy to buy land mines, bombs, guns or shells. While there has been considerable movement in that area recently, there is room for more improvement.
It is proposed to prepare for emergencies, humanitarian intervention, conflict prevention, peace building, policy coherence and public private partnership. That is by way of encouraging groups that have particular expertise in an area into development aid. Private Irish companies have gone into South African townships where they have got directly involved in building houses and have made dramatic strides. They should be applauded for what they have done. They have proved what can be done. They engaged in direct, one-to-one intervention which has been very effective. They are on site and can see the benefits themselves.
Some of the key decisions outlined in the Government paper are that Africa will remain the principal geographic focus for Irish Aid. That is right. Malawi will be designated as a partner country and the number of partner countries will be increased from eight to ten in the medium term. That is a positive development and befits a nation of our wealth. Work in fragile states will be deepened and there will be a focus on Sierra Leone and Liberia. Regional programmes in south-east Asia will be instigated. Regional programmes in southern and west Africa will be developed. There is a series of proposals, which are all positive, well-paced and will be effective.
Decentralisation to Limerick of the aid team here is proposed.
I am not sure if that will be the effective way to do it. I do not know, as I do not have all the information. There are concerns about it. It might be important for the cohesion and delivery of an improved service to try to ensure, in so far as it is possible, to locate the headquarters in such a way as to be accessible and to minimise the amount of bureaucracy and toing and froing that might have to take place.
Over the years we have all put down questions on humanitarian abuses in Africa. I am slightly worried. I note the replies coming from the office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs on places such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are serious human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, hunger, deprivation and the breakdown of society for a variety of reasons. At the same time the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform refuses applicants for refugee status on the basis they can return home in safety. I find it difficult to understand whether we are talking about the same subject. On the one hand the Department of Foreign Affairs readily acknowledges the serious abuses that are taking place in a number of these countries, some of which I have mentioned. Meanwhile another Minister says that for the purposes of determining their refugee status, we believe it is safe for them to go home. There have been some serious cases recently in which people have been returned to Rwanda, where they have no hope of living safely, having fled the country under duress. I hope the Minister might liaise with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with a view to resolving those problems. Otherwise we will find ourselves embarrassed. I do not have time to deal with the rest of the issues but I hope we will have time for a longer debate in the future.
Tradition has shown that Irish people have a great interest in aid and in putting their hands into their own pockets. This is evidenced by the fact that 4,000 copies of the White Paper, which I welcome, have been distributed with 31,000 downloaded worldwide. The Minister should examine ensuring that, whether electronically or otherwise, this document is distributed to all libraries and schools in the country. It would not be a big job. Often the public does not know such documents exist.
In his speech the Minister stated it is important to ensure taxpayers' money goes where it is needed. By 2012 some €1.5 billion should have been spent on this, which is a lot of money. While I do not have any empirical evidence, anecdotal evidence tells me that much of this money goes astray through maladministration. I do not know what audit systems we have in place. As we give more money there will be greater pressure, and rightly so, to ensure this money is audited correctly and reaches its targets. I am concerned that it does not. Many organisations in this country operate on small budgets which they raise themselves. Mr. Terence O'Malley operates in Afghanistan. Deputy Michael Higgins is familiar with him. I am involved with the Umbrella Foundation run by Mr. David Cutler, which operates in Kathmandu, Nepal. On a shoestring budget supplied by its own fundraising here it carries out greater work than many of the officially recognised bodies.
We must ensure our money goes to the correct places. We could do this by looking outside the box. In the last few years we have taken many Filipino nurses into this country. We have drained a poor country of its resources after it invested in educating them. We should examine, for example, the concept of funding medical training or building a training hospital in the Philippines. If we take resources from that country there is an onus on us to put something into it. It would also give us the opportunity to ensure the correct qualifications and standards are in place. We need to examine such projects, put the money in directly and get people to supervise them. We cannot give aid to countries on the one hand and on the other take their best resource, their educated people, out of their system. Our policy is a little two-faced. Deputy Durkan mentioned building accommodation like Mr. Niall Mellon's group does in South Africa. We could examine that and be more pro-active.
I want to deal with the rapid response initiative, which our party advocated for a long time. It is important. Large numbers of people are to become involved, however I have one major complaint: it is under the wrong Department. It should be in the Department of Defence because that is where the expertise is. It is where the Minister will go to store and administer the supplies. While the Minister for Foreign Affairs cleverly latched onto a concept that we pushed for a while, the Minister for Defence was slow off the mark. It should be given back to the Minister for Defence.
I welcome the opportunity to make a few remarks on the White Paper. There is little in its 90 pages of text with which I disagree. I want to raise some issues by way of bringing forward the debate as the Minister for Foreign Affairs has suggested will happen in the next few months. The commitment on Irish aid to be delivered by 2010 will be welcome, however it is important that we do not regard 0.7% as a limit. Countries in Scandinavia have already exceeded 1%. I am thinking of Norway and two other countries. The White Paper's emphasis on real aid is welcome and correct. When one adjusts the Irish figures as a proportion of gross national income, even if one deducts €1.4 billion, which might be strictly separate from development, one would still arrive at a figure of between 0.41% and 0.43%. This is in contrast to the European Union figures as regards aid, which are not straightforward. I shall go so far as to say they are dishonestly presented as development achievements. Some of the strongest economies in Europe count expenditure which is not development related as part of their achievement towards the 0.7%. This is very serious. Take just two items, for example, the Iraq and Nigeria debt cancellations. In the case of Austria it was 52% of what it claimed as its ODA achievement — Germany 32%, UK 31%, Italy 29%, France 19% and Belgium 20%. The figures have to be adjusted back to see what is the true position as regards achieving the United Nations target.
As regards the ten newer countries in the European Union, there is not a remote possibility that they will achieve 0.14% by their particular target date. This is not an academic exercise, far from it. There is cross-party support for Irish Aid as non-tied aid, and I welcome that and the fact that we present figures that are transparent. However, I suggest we are not winning the battle at a global level. The millennium development goals do not refer to the elimination of poverty, but rather its reduction. Nor do they speak about the universal provision of certain basic necessities. They speak about their gradual achievement. I would have preferred a strong hinge between the Irish White Paper and the millennium development goals for a reason which I shall make clear. The likelihood at present in terms of the commitments made at international conferences is that they will not be achieved by 2150. A question mark hangs over the European Union achieving its United Nations target by 2015. I am suggesting that there is no difficulty in Ireland achieving its target by 2012. That having been said, the atmosphere in which we are losing the battle against poverty is one in which 3 billion are living on less than $2 a day, 30,000 are dying of starvation every day, 186 million are out of work and 12.3 million are in forced labour. What is happening, too, is that the income divide on the planet is increasing rather than decreasing.
The only academic point I will make is that in 1820 the ratio between rich and poor was about 3:1. By 1950 it was 35:1, by 1973 it was 44:1 and in 1999 it was 74:1. Gross inequality is growing at the same time as poverty is deepening. There have been reductions in the most acute levels of poverty, but the numbers who are condemned to low nutrition, deprived of sanitation and clean water are not becoming fewer. Instead the population push in some of the poorest countries is putting such people at risk. At the moment some 800 million people are starving, 1 billion are without clean water, 2 billion are without access to sanitation, 2 billion are dying of AIDS and 175 million are caught up in international migratory movements and are particularly at risk. There are 940 million people who are illiterate and so forth. The context in which international aid must be assessed is, in fact, getting worse. Equally, I want to express deep disappointment at what has been produced at the level of the European Union, The EU Strategy for Africa, Commissioner Louis Michel's document, published in June 2006, which fails to draw clear conclusions. I have limitations of time, so I must come rather quickly to some of the fundamental points that should be part of the further discussion I hope will take place when the White Paper travels around the country.
It is a matter of disappointment that the White Paper was not able to say that Ireland would have ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. At the moment there are about 27 UN conventions which we have signed but not ratified. The one I ask about most frequently is the United Nations Convention against Corruption, but it is unlikely that it will be ratified in the lifetime of this Government. It is awaiting clearance from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which suggests that there are several different areas in which it has to be examined before we can offer compliance. It will come into effect, however, because it will have achieved the appropriate level of signatures for ratification, during 2006. The White Paper would have been stronger if there was a clear reference indicating that the convention would be ratified in the lifetime of this Government, but it does not say so.
Again as regards corruption, it is important for western governments to take account of the good research that is taking place on the ground. I am thinking of Professor Svendsen's work from Sweden, for example, which showed something very simple in the case of Uganda, namely that if there is publication of the allocations in a newspaper that is read locally, the amount of funds disbursed dramatically increases. In one five-year longitudinal study it went from 23%, which made its way to schools, to 87%. There are practical measures that can be taken as regards getting full accountability.
If one is going to speak about the elimination of corruption, it behoves one to look at the mote in one's own eye. At the moment not one country in the European Union has ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Again, I do not have the time to go into detail but I have shown how the figures give a gloss. The strongest economies in Europe are not meeting their targets as regards development. The Minister of State will be aware of the EU African Peace Facility. That will come out of the development budget. The figures are apparently going up, but they are not actually being spent on development. There is need for clarification, and it would have been worthwhile if there had been a more detailed treatment in the White Paper of the concept of good governance. Good governance is fast becoming a discredited concept. I recall when sustainable development was introduced at the Rio conference on the environment, which I attended. I saw sustainable development as a concept become degraded as it was abused by those who had no commitment to its fundamental character. Equally, in the case of good governance, that has been studied as a single concept, for example, by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, which commissioned a set of scholars to examine exactly what was meant by this concept. If it means, for example, having democratic accountability in African states, that is one thing. On the other hand, if it means offering transparency to international capital À la the World Bank's prescriptions, that is an entirely different concept. The scholarly evidence at the moment is that it is the latter rather than the former and therefore it will be very difficult to hinge this concept into African experience.
I found the debate on development a good deal richer at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s in respect of a number of other issues I would like to have seen treated more extensively in the White Paper, particularly technology transfer. In the 1970s we discussed the difference between, for example, indigenous, appropriate and advanced technology, which was creating high levels of dependency. What we meant by this was that the transitions that were taking place in agriculture, which affected 80% of the population, would have required a simpler technology. At the same time, however, the elites in the capital cities of many African countries, for example, found it easier to be dealing with multinationals in terms of very advanced technology without the follow-on expertise to repair and maintain equipment. Many of us who have been in Africa have seen abandoned pieces of machinery which cannot be repaired without the appropriate technologists, parts etc. Of course, many of these were not aid at all, but hidden exports. A close look at the Italian aid, for example, would tell a great deal in that regard.
I agree with previous speakers that the White Paper — a Government White Paper rather than a Department of Foreign Affairs White Paper — should have been a whole of Government approach. One cannot really speak about the development issue without speaking about aid, trade and debt together. As I have pointed out, the European Union countries have started fiddling figures to show, for example, that Nigerian or Iraqi debt relief can be counted in what is being achieved in development. That is not necessarily so, and it is having a secondary development effect.
With regard to agriculture, issues arising relating to trade are very important. It is unconscionable that there is an export of the terminator technology which is essentially putting genetically modified seed into Africa. People who have worked on the ground, including aid workers, will indicate that it is the pattern in Africa that when the second rains come and preparations are being made, seed is left at the bottom of the sack for planting. That is as we did in Ireland in the old days. This seed will now be infertile, and that is the seed now being dumped into Africa, particularly by US aid. When the product was banned in one country it was quickly moved to another. This is disastrous for African agriculture.
There are negotiations on finished and processed goods. If one looked at the amount of frozen chicken being sent from Germany to some African countries, one would find it is being done in a way that is little less than dumping, with the net effect of stopping small chicken farms coming into existence. Compliance in Africa under newly-negotiated bilateral trade agreements or Doha could have a negative effect. The primary products in Africa have been falling disastrously in price as a result. The figures are over 70%, relating to prices of cotton, cocoa and other basic products.
It is very important we realise that we must not have an imposed single model of development. I believe the White Paper did not deal with that in detail. It begs the question of how there can be different roads to development. For example, many countries will want to move through food security, food surpluses and simple exports, and onward to achieve an export-led form of growth. Although the World Bank denies it, the kind of model being imposed is very much a case of one size fits all.
The figures I have described are true in Africa, and the suggestion that what is needed there is a private enterprise model is nonsense. I noticed a great intolerance whenever I discussed the detail of NEPAD, for example. That requires about 12% seed money from Nigeria and South Africa. If people are living on a dollar a day, with 77 cents being spent on survival, 23 cents will be available for the management of the surplus.
It is one of the worrying features of Africa in particular that the flight of money out of Africa is not being made a matter of comment. Yet it is very real. A previous speaker mentioned that there are more doctors from Malawi working in Great Britain than in Malawi, and that is true. Many Western countries are bleeding very important skills, desperately needed for survival itself, from African countries.
With regard to a number of fundamental principles, when we write a future White Paper, its central piece will deal with water. If I was writing this White Paper or offering advice on it, I would suggest that the next White Paper should be within the framework of human rights. The Norwegian White Paper tried to do this. Human rights in this case means a human-rights informed policy, and a set of guidelines based on human rights practice. At the centre of such an approach would be, for example, the establishment as a universal right to water, or taking the Food and Agricultural Organisation's prescription of the right to freedom from starvation.
However, the White Paper is not a rights-based document in many ways. It advocates human rights. In future, as we have the discussion around the country, we should seek to craft it in terms of departing from human rights-based principles as policy and human rights-based principles as practice.
I wish to share time with Deputies Finian McGrath, Gormley and Morgan.
As a contributor to the Third World, Ireland can be seen as one of the very generous nations in terms of finance and our people, both on a voluntary and missionary basis. We have spread right across the Third World, and we have missionaries in the developed world. As a small nation we are punching well above our weight in helping the needy of the world.
However, now that we are expected to give a fixed amount of our GDP, we should reassure the people that they are getting full value for money. They should be assured the money given in donations is hitting the target, that the donations are not being swallowed up by huge administration costs and that the euro given is equal a euro in aid, and not just 10 cent.
The only way we can achieve this is to concentrate the vast bulk of our donations on one country. That is, each developed country should adopt one of the Third World countries. This is the only way we can go forward. Only then will we know and be able to tackle on a long-term strategic basis the water supply to that country, the harvesting and growing of crops, education and the building of schools, houses and roads. We could follow long-term strategies and be in a real position to judge our value for money. It is the way to go, and I advocate such an approach in preference to a scatter-gun approach.
Year after year we have seen inevitable world tragedies, such as the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and major earthquakes. I would like to see us with the ability for a rapid response in such cases. We should not have to sit at home looking at the horrendous pictures and wondering what our Government will do about it. These events happen, and we should be in a position to respond rapidly.
With regard to world aid, I would like to refer to Romanian institutions. There is a policy of institutionalising people in Romania. That is not good enough for us in this country. We have the tremendous legacy of what happened in institutions, and now we as a nation are telling Romania it is good enough for it. I would like to see us adopt a policy of "communitisation", as our policies are diametrically opposed to each other. I would like to see the end of this. Although it is well-meaning, the money going there should be better directed.
This is an important debate. All states have the responsibility to look after their citizens and respect and protect their human rights. One starts dealing with poverty issues in one's own back yard, and then in the wider and international community.
It really gets up my nose when I see and hear former or current colonial powers lecturing the world on poverty and injustice. It is nearly as bad as Bono lecturing us on world poverty when he will not even pay tax in his own country. It is time for these shapers and posers to get off the stage, stop lecturing and get on with finding real solutions to world poverty through foreign aid.
I wish to speak about poverty in our country, particularly the 100,000 children in consistent poverty in Ireland. There are also people forced to live in estates where drug dealing, violence and intimidation are part of their daily lives. This must form part of the wider debate on poverty and foreign aid.
A year ago, a devastating earthquake in Pakistan caused 73,000 deaths and left more than 3 million people homeless. Through organisations such as Concern, the Irish people made a direct response and had a major input into protecting and defending 158,000 people. A year on, we must be more supportive, and we should focus on the long-term work of helping people to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
I wish to use this opportunity to pay tribute and offer my sympathy to the family of former Deputy Niall Andrews, a former Minister and MEP who made a major contribution to fighting world poverty and helping the poor of the world. Niall was a strong light for the poor of the world, and he will be deeply missed by all parties and Members in this House.
Statistics indicate 800 million people are chronically malnourished in a world full of wealth and resources. This is unacceptable in this day and age with the amount of money being spent on armaments, particularly on nuclear weapons and the nuclear industry. A constituent, Mr. Seán Coleman, is involved in highlighting injustice against the people of Darfur. We must speak out about this and I urge Deputies to support aid to the poor and developing countries.
The White Paper has been warmly received by the NGO community and I welcome many aspects of it. During the summer I was in New York with the Taoiseach and the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan. On my return I stated that the Taoiseach's speech had been well received at the UN. Ireland's good work is acknowledged, particularly by those in sub-Saharan Africa. Ireland is playing a major role in aid.
I refer to the comments made by Deputy Michael Higgins. I attended a conference on sustainability in Johannesburg in 2002 and it was clear that we were witnessing the end of history. There is now only one model of development — growth at all costs. Developing countries are taking on board all western values, which is fine as long as a certain number of people can benefit. We are seeing the development of a new elite in the post-apartheid era in South Africa. How long can this be sustained? There are high levels of corruption, wealth generation for a few people and great disparity between the rich and the extremely poor. This is a matter that must be addressed. We must think outside the box but it is not happening.
The matter of climate change is close to my heart but is being ignored. I have tabled questions to the Minister of State, who recognises the importance of the issue for development. The statistics are frightening and if the Minister of State believes there is a problem in Africa now, it will be more severe when the effects of climate change kick in. Climate change will result in hundreds of thousands of ecological refugees, major drought and starving people. There will be a high growth in malaria. By the 2080s there will be an additional 290 million people, a conservative estimate, suffering from malaria. The Government has not tackled this issue on an environmental basis or on a developmental basis. It has not considered the dire consequences for those people in Africa. Development agencies have been slow to consider this and I suggest that the Department of Foreign Affairs should have a climate change ambassador, as New Zealand has. Each member state needs to focus on climate change.
The Minister of State is aware that resources must be provided to Irish Aid. There is no point in farming out projects. Irish Aid must develop expertise, through institutional development, to deal with problems. The decentralisation to Limerick has caused problems but if the necessary investment is provided the White Paper will be implemented.
The White Paper has been welcomed as the first such paper on this issue. It restores the objective of reaching 0.7% of GNP for overseas development aid. A commitment was originally given to reach that target by 2007, but that has been put back to 2012.
While I welcome the restoration of the commitment to 0.7% of GNP, Sinn Féin believes this should be a floor and not a ceiling. A state as wealthy as ours, the second richest in the world, should allocate a minimum of 0.7% of GNP to overseas development aid. We should set a target based on European best practice, namely, 1% of GNP. We should commit to a programme of incremental increases to achieve this objective. Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden have already committed to contributing 1% of GNP to the world's poor.
The paper's commitments to untied aid are welcome, as is the overarching objective of poverty reduction and the focus on the least developed countries and Africa. While the White Paper acknowledges that "the poorest people in the world's poorest countries are those least able to adapt to the impacts of globalisation, increased trade liberalisation and climate change and those who gain least from global progress", the Irish Government has failed to live up to its responsibilities in the fight against climate change and has supported the imposition of damaging trade liberalisation policies on developing countries. As Deputy Gormley stated, climate change is a major concern and is the single biggest threat to long-term sustainable development. The impact is already felt in countries least able to deal with it. Climate change is exasperating the problem of chronic food insecurity in Africa in particular. There is irony in making commitments to help developing countries cope with climate change if we, as a wealthy developed state, are unwilling to combat climate change.
It is disappointing that this paper does not commit the State to work towards reform and overhaul of the world financial institutions, whose policies cause so much harm to developing countries. These institutions are neither accountable, transparent nor democratic. Commitments to overseas development aid without reform will not bring lasting change to developing countries. Sinn Féin demands the overhaul, reform and democratisation of the IMF and the World Bank. At present, every action they take is designed to benefit developed countries at the expense of developing states. They are structured in such a way that subjugates the interests of developing countries to powerful developed states and, in particular, the United States, in whose favour voting rights are stacked. The selection procedure for IMF and World Bank leaders is undemocratic, with the presidency of the World Bank always reserved for a North American. Voting rights in the IMF are based on the entry fee or share purchased by the country when it joins. It is unacceptable that the US has a blocking minority.
Citizens of developing countries are disempowered as economic policy is decided by the IMF and the World Bank through structural adjustment programmes imposed on indebted countries that dramatically aggravate problems. Structural adjustment programmes force governments to open up economies, export more and spend less. These governments are forced to drastically reduce public spending and open markets. This has had drastic consequences for the local population as living conditions have substantially deteriorated since the introduction of these measures. Overseas development aid and debt cancellation must be accompanied by the end of structural adjustment programmes and the thorough reform of international financial institutions.
I wish the Minister of State well in his responsibilities at a time of great challenge and change in Ireland's overseas development programme.
For too long the debate on Ireland's aid programme was dominated by a row about when we would reach the UN target of 0.7% of GNP, which the international community set over 30 years ago. Only a handful of developed nations, however, have actually achieved or exceeded that target. Thankfully that debate in Ireland is over and this Government has committed Ireland to reach the elusive target by 2012. That political commitment was not achieved easily but the decision had the benefit of cross-party support and that of the social partners, which was important.
When I was Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, I advocated that Ireland would reach the target and said that it was a test of our commitment as a nation to civilised values, and that remains the case. Perhaps because I and others here were so vociferous in advocating this we have a particular responsibility to ensure that the programme is properly managed and is as effective as possible. There has never been a more important time for Ireland, when it is experiencing unprecedented prosperity, to hold solidarity with the poorest communities in the world. Our race memory of famine and our history of colonisation, mass migration and chronic poverty predisposes us to this solidarity.
Our aid programme is a tangible expression of the humanity of the Irish people. Thousands of Irish people, lay and religious, have worked in development for decades and hopefully will continue to make that humanitarian contribution. Our economic success now provides the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the global poor, to allow them take control of their own destinies and improve their lives.
This support is not motivated by a humanitarian imperative alone. A more stable international order has a great bearing on our political and economic interests in the rich world. Apart from being unconscionable, a human set-aside of millions of impoverished people is a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, illegal migration and political unrest in the developing world. We ignore the unmet needs of the global poor at our own peril. A security approach to the problems of fundamentalist terrorism is only one way to deal with these problems. Developed countries must continue to increase overseas aid flows in order to create a more just and fair world order.
Our development policy is central to Ireland's overall foreign policy. In effect, it is now our principal foreign affair, as demonstrated by Vote 39. Our aid policies give substance and legitimacy to other aspects of our foreign policy. A country cannot persuasively urge a moral and humanitarian imperative on others unless its own policies enshrine such values. Ireland can be a more credible actor at the United Nations and another international fora when its statements of concern are backed, as they are, by meaningful action on the ground by way of a world class aid programme.
Now that the argument has been won on the level of Ireland's contribution to global human development it is vital that the focus of this House and of those of us interested in the progression and expansion of the programme moves to the management of that programme and how to ensure best value, best practice, and best quality outcomes in delivering aid. The White Paper sets out, quite properly, to evaluate and show the Irish people how and where their money will be spent.
The overall aid programme has grown rapidly from £40 million in 1992 to a staggering €700 million this year and will rise to €1.5 billion per annum when we reach the UN target in 2012. At that stage the aid budget will probably exceed the combined total of the current marine and defence budgets. With such a level of taxpayers' money at stake there is an absolute imperative to get the management, audit, accountability and effectiveness of the programme right. We should plan for the best rather than simply drift into a massively expanded budget wearing the same clothes as before.
I welcome the addition of Malawi and Sierra Leone as areas of concentration for the programme. This struggling country, Malawi, has been hitting the headlines for the most shallow reasons lately. Malawi will be Ireland's ninth programme country. It is one of the poorest countries with over 65% of the population living below the poverty line and is ranked 165th on the UN human development index. It has enormous needs, with 90% of the population engaged in subsistence farming, and suffers persistent food shortages. A total of 700,000 of its 1 million orphans have lost their parents through AIDS.
In Malawi, life expectancy at birth is 39.7 years, while in Ireland it is 77.7 years. These statistics put into proper context the hype and begrudgery about the adoption of one child by Madonna. I am glad that Ireland is engaging more deeply in Malawi where it has been providing humanitarian assistance since 2002.
I also welcome the development of the rapid response initiative to provide a roster of highly skilled individuals for deployment at short notice to emergency situations. I particularly welcome the establishment of a governance unit to give oversight on this area of the programme. One of the most frequent criticisms made of the overall aid endeavour, in this House and elsewhere, is that in emerging democracies weak and un-evolved governance leaves aid open to corruption. That is no reason to discontinue assistance to a country. Weak governance in emerging democracies and developing countries is part and parcel of the aid challenge. It is the role and responsibility of the donor country to build in robust audit mechanisms and oversight to ensure money is not siphoned off for nefarious purposes or purposes not related to assisting the poor.
I do not, however, buy into the theory that the poorest people should be punished for the inadequacies of their governments. Corruption is not confined to the Third World. As we know from our own tribunals corruption is very much alive and well in the First World. I also welcome the initiative on volunteering to assist and facilitate those of our citizens who wish to work in the developing world. That will go some way to strengthening the people's sense of ownership of their aid programme.
As a former Minister of State with some experience of the programme, its weaknesses and its strengths in the context of the expanding budget, I wish to make one criticism of it. When I was Minister of State I chaired a review of the aid programme related to the Cabinet decision to reach the UN target. We sat for a year and consulted widely with key development actors and stakeholders in a way similar to a White Paper process with the benefit of many submissions. We surveyed the landscape of the programme and its geographical focus and produced a comprehensive policy and institutional framework to guide Ireland Aid through a period of rapid expansion. I see many of the key recommendations in that review replicated in the White Paper but I am disappointed in one aspect of this programme.
My comments are intended to help the Minister of State. There seems to have been little attention paid to the key operational issues relating to staff allocation and staff shortages identified in that review. The OECD and an analysis of management carried out by independent Consultants in 1999, the Cassidy report, attested well to the capacity deficit in Ireland Aid. The OECD noted then that the "development co-operation division has had to improvise and patch together temporary ways of reinforcing staff capacities in HQ and in the field within complex government staffing regulations". It went on to conclude that the management system was "fragile and vulnerable".
Both reports found staff numbers to be widely seen as "inadequate" and recommended their early reinforcement. Both studies were carried out prior to the Government decision to reach the UN target in 2007. The review committee in 2002 noted that a "substantial increase" in staffing numbers was required if there was to be an efficient and accountable management of the current programme, let alone a greatly expanded programme. A comparative analysis of the staffing levels in donor countries which had already reached the UN target indicated that with the managerial burden of 0.7% budget, current staff levels would have to be increased by between 300 and 350 between home and abroad over the period from 2002 to when the target was reached. We said at the time it was of the utmost importance that staff numbers in Ireland Aid keep pace with the expanding budget and that by the time the 0.7% target was achieved the full complement required to administer a programme of this size should be in place.
We recommended this matter be kept under permanent review by the new advisory board for Ireland Aid. We examined the management models appropriate for an aid programme and the strengths and weaknesses of various organisational models. The committee opted for a development co-operation directorate or division in the Department of Foreign Affairs as the most suitable model as opposed to an independent agency. However, we were conscious of the shortcomings of the chosen model, in particular the serious understaffing caused by Department of Finance rules and lack of managerial flexibility. We were also conscious of the need to provide for auditing and involvement of stakeholder interests in the strategic direction of the programme. While plumping for the current model, efficient response and accountable management would not be achieved unless there was an increase in human resources coupled with action to enhance managerial continuity.
I am alarmed at the White Paper's section on management. It is thin gruel and simply a proposal for a review of management. This is a matter of concern. Such management changes simply cannot be postponed, given the scale of public funds involved. The document is discreet and short in detail, but what plans are in place to manage this large budget? The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs should now intervene on the issue and assist the Minister of State if difficulties have arisen with the Department of Finance. It is reckless for the programme to be expanded to the extent that it is planned without these inadequacies being addressed. Organisations, such as Concern, manage much smaller budgets with more staff involved.
There is broad support across the House for development aid. It is necessary, however, that we generate ideas on best practice and do not repeat ourselves. I have had the privilege of being a member of the development committee of the European Parliament and its rapporteur on the development co-operation instrument which becomes law from 1 January 2007. It will replace 16 regulations in the area of EU co-operation with the developing world. It has been marathon work and a great opportunity for me to learn much about the developing world. Since becoming an MEP, I have had the privilege of becoming vice-president of the ACP-EU assembly, where ideas are exchanged between parliamentary members from both organisations, the respective councils of ministers and commissions on concerns over EU assistance to the developing world.
The EU project is about peace and stability from which flows prosperity. That philosophy should not be confined to the boundaries of the EU. In a globalised world, the EU must have as its priority international peace and stability. The world's population stands at 6 billion people; by 2050 it will have increased by 2 billion. Up to 90% of that increase will be in the developing world. A future conflagration will come from that part of the world if we continue to allow people exist in the dreadful circumstances prevalent there. Every year, 2 million children under the age of five die for the need of vaccines available in the West for the past 30 years. This cannot continue.
It is not just a question of selflessness but also of selfishness. If we treat the developing world with dignity and take it into our sphere of security, it will be our future trading partner. It will not comprise mass economic migrants, terrorism or those who want to fight their corner for justice. We have selfish and selfless reasons for wanting to ensure the issues of the developing world are top of the agenda.
Ireland has a great tradition of missionaries and NGOs working in the developing world. Ireland also has a recent historical experience of famine. When I was a child, I spoke to an elderly lady in Inchicore who had spoken to someone who had lived through the Famine. It is these experiences that give Ireland a special place in the developing world, particularly Africa.
I welcome the general thrust of the agreement on an all-party and social partnership basis that at last we will meet the 0.7% target. Our economy will not continue to grow the way it has in the past several years. There will be moments in the economic cycle when it will be down. In such times, €200 million, for example, will be taken from the budget for the developing world. If we reach the 0.7% target, we may not be able to maintain it. In a policy document, Concerning our Neighbours, which I published when I was the Fine Gael Party's spokesperson on foreign affairs, I argued for legislating for the 0.7% target to be paid directly from the central fund. It would not, therefore, have to come before the House to be voted on annually in the Estimates. As a result of legislation, interest on the national debt and judges' salaries, for example, are paid directly from the central fund. In the case of judges, their salaries cannot be reduced while they are in office because it may amount to influencing them in the course of their duties.
Through our new found wealth, our society is turning in on itself. One only has to look at the suicide rate and increased alcohol and drug consumption. The middle classes are now at this game. There has been a decline in religious practice and volunteerism. When I was growing up, it was a matter of fact that one joined a political party, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul or another organisation. It is time for us to take stock and ask what sort of leadership we should give to our children and grandchildren. It is time the nation's priorities were reoriented so we share our great good fortune with the world's least privileged. If EU member states wish to emulate best practice in development aid, the Irish example should be the one to follow. That will only happen if we take our responsibilities to the developing world and put it at the top of our foreign policy agenda.
What can we do? It is right that we should provide money but that is not all we must do. We should twin Departments and local authorities with corresponding government bodies in Third World countries. I am familiar with Dublin City Council because I was a member for 20 years and served as Lord Mayor. There are council staff who would gladly give of their expertise in engineering, the provision of clean water and so on. We should also twin our hospitals and schools with those in the states to which we provide development aid.
We should make development aid our first foreign policy objective and we can pursue that with credibility. Northern Ireland will always be on the agenda, as will our membership of the United Nations and the European Union. We can, however, credibly give leadership to other states in the area of overseas development aid.
I had the privilege of hearing the Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communications Strategy, Ms Margot Wallström, explain how she planned to communicate the EU's message and the details of the constitutional treaty. I told her not to waste our time. As chairman of the task force on communicating Europe, I know what happens when one tries to get the EU's message across.
If we want people to know what the EU is all about and to influence people in this regard, we must look at what people are motivated to do. There are few people in pubs in Brussels or Dublin talking about the constitutional treaty. On the other hand, many people marched to Gleneagles because of their concern for the developing word. Our young people have goodness within them. They are not all in despair, suicidal or abusing drugs or alcohol. Even those who are in such difficulties are not beyond being given leadership in attaining greater meaning in their lives. We are elected to give them that leadership.
If the European Union is to become relevant to people's lives, we must not abdicate our leadership role to Bono and other well-meaning pop stars. Such persons have made a welcome and useful input but they come and go. We should structure this nation to give back some of the good fortune we enjoy and to commemorate our ancestors who died in terrible famine by making development aid the main priority of our foreign policy and by persuading other members of the EU to do the same.
Given that the scale of our expenditure on overseas development aid is set to increase, there is a case for laying these spending plans before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs each year for advance approval. I notice the Chairman of that committee, Deputy Woods, is in the House. A special procedure should be put in place in regard to government-to-government aid, which should include provisions for accountability and measurement. Any proposed government-to-government aid plans, in particular, should be approved in advance by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
As NGOs are largely funded by a combination of Exchequer and private contributions from the public, the Comptroller and Auditor General should be asked to place a report before the Committee of Public Accounts every two years giving his independent assessment of the effectiveness of this expenditure. There is no point in us taking money from the public and sending it to the Third World not for the benefit of the poor but to be consumed by people earning large salaries. There must be an assessment of who benefits from this money and there is no better person for this task than the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Given the amounts of money involved and to ensure the assessment is complete, NGOs in receipt of Government aid should be obliged to open their books to the Comptroller and Auditor General so that he can report to the Oireachtas matters of concern in regard to duplication of effort or poor use of resources which he believes should be brought into the public domain. When reporting to the Committee of Public Accounts, the Comptroller and Auditor General should critically examine the procedures used for, and the effect of, setting priorities for overseas aid. This type of business-like approach must be adopted in respect of the scale of funding we are committed, on behalf of the public, to spend in these regions.
I am pleased there is at last a strong commitment, on both a cross-party and social partnership basis, to meeting our responsibilities to the developing world. We must not, however, engage in a cosmetic exercise. We must put our strategy on a footing that will not only make us proud because of the support we will provide for our neighbours — a hand up rather than a hand-out — but will be something that is uplifting for the nation. Our efforts should offer leadership to young people in particular and remind them of our responsibility to give something back in view of the good fortune we have enjoyed.
This is an important and timely debate as the publication of the White Paper on Irish Aid represents a landmark in the history of Ireland's development co-operation programme. The significance of the White Paper has been recognised on all sides of this House. It is sharply focused on tackling poverty and disadvantage by working in partnership with countries which receive our aid to achieve long-term sustainable results. Its main emphasis is on health, education, agricultural development, good governance and human rights. It provides us with a roadmap for the future and the money to turn our dreams for Africa into a reality.
The White Paper represents a continuation of our commitment to "untied aid" and avoids the creation of debt. It represents in Government policy the spirit and long tradition of Irish missionaries, NGOs and aid workers, and of the Irish at home who, by generous personal support, have been among the best contributors in the world. Its importance has been noted and welcomed in the press and in the media generally and by the development community in Ireland and beyond.
However, the White Paper has a significance beyond the fully justified warm welcome it has received. It represents more than just a policy statement on how Ireland proposes to plan and run its aid programme over the coming years. At a deeper level, the White Paper tells us about the people we are, our principles and values, the country we have become and what we want it to stand for, our sense of justice in an unjust world, our commitment to our fellow human beings in the developing world — the poorest of the poor — and to the marginalised and those who have been forgotten in the globalisation race.
For generations, these values were carried to Africa and other parts of the world by Ireland's missionaries. This work is still being done although to a much lesser degree than in the past because of the decline in vocations. We should never forget that, in one sense, Ireland's first aid programme was the work of the countless Irish missionaries, men and women who spent their lives on the important task of helping to educate the poor in Africa and elsewhere. Much of this missionary work was carried out even before the foundation of the State so there is a long tradition of Irish people's belief in the need to help those in the world who, for whatever reason, were not in a position to help themselves. What is being done now, and what is set out in the White Paper, can be seen as a continuation into the 21st century of a long and honourable tradition of the Irish people's commitment to helping the poor, the disadvantaged and the exploited of this world.
In another sense the White Paper speaks to us about the Ireland of today. It tells us something about ourselves and what this country has become, and what it believes it can and must do as an independent and prosperous member of the international community. I doubt whether the White Paper could have been published in its present form if there had not been such a complete transformation of the economy in the last decade. The plans and financial commitments set out in the White Paper could not have been made without the uniquely strong economic situation we find ourselves in today.
It is against these background thoughts that I wish to speak in more detail about the White Paper. I am pleased to say that as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, I arranged to have the White Paper discussed by the joint committee just three weeks ago. On that occasion, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Conor Lenihan, gave the joint committee an overview of the main contents of the White Paper and the members set out their views on it. Their overall response was one of praise and welcome for what was seen as an innovative and comprehensive statement on how Ireland proposes to manage its development co-operation programme in the years immediately ahead.
There are a number of points in the White Paper which I would especially like to highlight. I fully welcome the decision in the White Paper that Ireland will reach the UN target of spending 0.7% on development assistance by 2012. There has been an enormous increase in our aid spending over the last decade and I note that this year alone Ireland will spend €734 million in aid. I am sure all of us in this House will look forward to the day when Ireland has achieved the 0.7% target. It will put us in a very small club of countries which have achieved this target. It will certainly represent an astonishing achievement for Ireland.
I also welcome the fact that Ireland's development co-operation programme is to be an integral part of Ireland's foreign policy. This is a welcome decision and one which other countries, that have not already done so, could well emulate. More donor countries should place their development co-operation programmes at the centre of their foreign policies. This would certainly increase the likelihood that the scourges of poverty, malnutrition, disease and the total lack of sustained human development in the developing world can be tackled in such a way as to lead to their alleviation, if not their total eradication.
Ireland is setting an example in this respect. This decision will give greater credibility to our foreign policy and to our development co-operation programme. In the European Union, the United Nations and other international organisations of which we are members, Ireland, because of this decision, will be in a much better and a more authoritative position to speak on the major issues and problems facing the countries of the developing world. In a world of plenty, where paradoxically millions still do not have enough to eat, where millions of children die in infancy, where diseases such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria destroy whole generations and societies, it is entirely appropriate that, as a response, we should put these issues at the centre of this country's concern for our fellow human beings.
I am particularly pleased that Sub-Saharan Africa will be the principal focus for Irish Aid and that Malawi is to become Ireland's next partner country in Africa. We in Ireland are only too well aware of the problems of poverty and lack of development in Africa. I do not need to rehearse for Members the human development statistics for Africa. They make grim reading. In almost every category of human development, African countries come out worst. Cycles of poverty, food insecurity, human rights abuses and disease are greatly exacerbated by seemingly endless cycles of war, famine and corruption. Basic human rights in many instances are non-existent.
Malawi is particularly in need of development assistance. It is ranked 165th in the United Nations human development index, with 65% of its population living below the poverty line. Some 90% of its population of 10.7 million is engaged in subsistence farming and it has suffered persistent food shortages in recent years. HIV-AIDS has devastated the country. Reports state that 700,000 of its 1 million orphans have lost their parents through AIDS. I have no doubt that the Government and people of Malawi will welcome Irish Aid as a partner in tackling some of the horrendous problems facing that country.
In my time as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, I and the members of the joint committee took a special interest in Africa and in Ireland's development work there. We visited Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa and saw for ourselves the problems faced by the ordinary people of that Continent. We have also seen the excellent work being carried out by Irish Aid in our partner countries and I am aware from my experience of the high esteem in which Irish Aid is held wherever it has worked. I offer my congratulations to its staff.
Africa and other parts of the developing world are especially vulnerable to sudden and unexpected emergencies of one kind or another. These can be of a truly catastrophic character as in the 2004 tsunami which wrought such havoc and destruction and wholesale loss of life in countries in south-east Asia. Ireland responded magnificently and generously in helping tsunami survivors recover some semblance of normality in their lives after this terrible event. In light of this experience, I am glad to see the White Paper proposes the establishment of a rapid response initiative which will put us in a much better position to respond immediately and effectively to future humanitarian emergencies.
We in Ireland are fortunate in our geographic location in that we are spared many of the natural disasters which other countries unfortunately experience. This is all the more reason, when emergencies occur, we should help as quickly and effectively as possible.
Another initiative in the White Paper which I fully support is the decision to establish a hunger task force. Our history was for many years indelibly marked by our experience of famine. Generations were scarred by it. No other country in Europe has suffered such devastation from famine as Ireland. Our history and folk memory tell us what famines can do and the death and devastation they leave behind. With this knowledge, it is only right that in recent times Ireland has built a proud record of responding to the problems of hunger, food insecurity and famine in poorer countries.
The proposed hunger task force will be a further step in this direction. I am very pleased that the White Paper proposes that the task force will draw on a wide range of experience from within and outside Government and that it will prepare a report within six months of its establishment. As Deputy Gay Mitchell said, there are many people in the community who are capable of co-operating with this drive. He also said he had spoken to someone who had talked to a person who lived through the Famine. I spoke to my great-grandmother at the age of 106 and she too had lived through the Famine. It brings to mind how close these events were.
The decision to open an Irish Aid information and volunteering centre and to provide support for development education in our schools is important. The proposal in the White Paper to establish a unit for conflict analysis and resolution is a very positive one.
There is a proposal that the joint committee should be called the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Irish Aid. That proposal was broadly welcomed by members of the committee and it can be discussed further. I welcome the White Paper and congratulate the Minister and his staff on the excellent preparation that went into it.
I wish to share time with Deputy Burton.
I offer my congratulations to the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, and the Government on the production of the White Paper. If we do not deal with the issue of corruption and poor governance, this money will be wasted. The people in the Visitors Gallery and the taxpayers paying €700 million to €1 billion per year and who find it hard to understand why they cannot get remedial teachers for their grandchildren or children in schools will turn on this whole generation of generosity and say it is a waste of funds. I have examined the White Paper and looked particularly at the part which deals with good governance and so on, but it is not strong enough. The Minister's successors will have great difficulty in times of economic hardship persuading Ministers for Finance to give money if everybody knows it will be wasted.
Obviously, the development aid picture is much wider and more sophisticated than the presentation I will make, but the time constraint forces me to focus on one point. I will send the Minister a detailed paper that I offered in 1999 which was a proposal for the establishment of an institute of democracy. I listened to the contribution of Deputy Gay Mitchell, a person with whom I seldom agree, but he was right in what he said. I went to a school run by Irish missionaries, the Holy Ghost Fathers. I had a direct relationship with men who had come back from Nigeria, Sierra Leone or Trinidad. They had first-hand experience of Africa and carried the marks of it, including recurring illnesses. We owned parts of Africa because of their experience and unless that is transposed into the next generation, we will not build the kind of linkages that are necessary. Every county council should be twinned with an equivalent body somewhere in the designated recipient countries to which the Minister of State referred. There should be an institute for democracy focusing on teaching people how to do the business of Government. We have a long record of mistakes and lessons bitterly learned. The Local Appointments Commission, for example, which got rid of corruption and cronyism, and the evidence from the tribunals points to the fact that nobody is perfect and countries must live and relearn the lesson of clean government in every generation.
There is no point in giving money, either directly to recipient nations or to multilateral organisations which do not have the necessary scrutiny to ensure the money given ends up in the right place. Ghana achieved its independence in 1957 and had a higher per capita income than the Republic of South Korea at that time. However, today the Republic of South Korea produces Samsung televisions, Hyundai cars and many other products. Why is Ghana, which is among the few relatively successful African countries, a million miles behind the Republic of South Korea in terms of the quality of life of its citizens? Why does the gap exist and why is it widening? There is a number of explanations in this regard. The Republic of South Korea was a managed democracy for many years. It was a quasi-dictatorship and the recipient of much aid from the United States of America. For a variety of reasons, which time constraints prevent me from elaborating on, Ghana is the measure of the failure of Africa. The dark continent, as Dr. Livingstone described it, has got darker in my life time. It has gone backwards relative to the rest of the world.
The White Paper proposes to identify and prioritise Africa for reasons I broadly support, although there are other parts of the world which also deserve our attention. However, unless we deal with the issues of governance, corruption, honesty and transparency and link it back to people in Ireland, the current popular support for development aid will not be maintained. When Trócaire was established many years ago by the Irish Catholic bishops, a conscious decision was made to devote a certain percentage of total funds to domestic education and awareness raising around development issues. At the time, a number of conservative and relatively unprogressive people argued that this would be a waste of money. They maintained that all moneys raised should be given to the recipient countries. However, that investment in education and awareness has laid the foundations for the kind of generosity and political acceptability which the Department currently enjoys. If we do not nurture and reinforce it, the arguments from people like Mr. John O'Shea of Goal concerning donating money to Uganda, which has a manifestly corrupt regime, will win out. If the Irish people realise we are funding crooks, they will be outraged and horrified. We believe that because we are giving money to the Third World, we are doing the right thing but we are funding gangsters in some parts of the world and unless we begin to deal with that in a variety of ways we will lose the popular political goodwill we currently experience.
I will not go into the arguments in detail, but the evidence is there, chapter and verse. I am aware that Mr. John O'Shea irritates many people because he is so outspoken but he has a track record to prove he has put his money where his mouth is, or his mouth where his money is, depending on one's viewpoint.
He has a point of view that is worth considering. I agree with Deputy Gay Mitchell that the moneys given to non-governmental organisations should be subject to public scrutiny and transparency. The public should see how their taxes and direct donations are spent.
In recent weeks I had conflicting emotions when I read about Madonna and her adoption of David Banda, but it put Malawi on the map, particularly for young people. Sometime earlier, Ms Angelina Jolie and Mr. Brad Pitt had their baby in Namibia, resulting in that country receiving worldwide publicity. In Ireland, Bono and Mr. Bob Geldof, through Live Aid and Drop the Debt, have made the MTV generation aware of Africa. In that context, the Minister of State's proposal to send a summary of the white paper to every household in the country should be dropped. It will be an absolute waste of money. The amount of interest it will generate will not be sufficient relative to the cost incurred.
I welcome the fact the white paper devotes attention to fostering volunteering again. I spent three years working in Tanzania in the 1980s with Irish Aid programmes and was terribly disappointed when the Government destroyed APSO, at a cost of several million pounds. Now it must reinvest money to try to replace what was already in place.
The Irish Government should be a persuader and an advocate for reform of UN institutions and the IMF. We send blank cheques to many UN institutions. This year we spent €87 million on funding for Bretton Woods and IMF institutions but we do not make our voice heard there about reforms that would help poor in Africa.
The Irish Government should not be a soft touch for corrupt Governments. Unlike many Deputies, I went to Rwanda after the genocide and have been in Uganda. People can say what they like about President Museveni, but he put a stop to the mass genocide in the Luwero Triangle, where 2 million people lost their lives in a killing spree that lasted for 20 years.
The capacity building emphasis of the Irish Aid programme is completely insufficient. Our aid programme was started by a generation of Irish missionaries, nuns and priests and I am proud to say I was friendly with many of them when I lived in Africa and learned a lot from them. They knew how to build capacity in terms of education, the health system and hospitals. The Irish Aid programme must build landmarks. There will be no more useful contribution to the tradition of Irish missionaries and development workers than to follow the lead given, particularly with regard to treating malaria, AIDS and other diseases which are killing children in large numbers.
I wish to share time with Deputy Mulcahy.
I welcome the publication of the white paper and congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, on their work on this document. It is a very worthwhile document and has the capacity to generate debate. While I do not believe it is the be-all and end-all, it is important to reflect that many of the NGOs broadly welcomed it. Today I received correspondence from the 38 member organisations of Dóchas, which indicated the areas where they can strongly support the recommendations and the thrust of policy in the document.
With reference to what Deputies Burton and Quinn said, I also believe there is no quick-fix solution with regard to overseas aid. I also believe there are no quick fixes in the area of development and simply investing money is insufficient. However, the targets set are important and I encourage the Minister of State to advocate the provision of additional funding by the Minister for Finance in order that more can be done.
Ireland should play an important role in promoting good governance and combatting corruption. I have heard President Museveni, both in Uganda and South America, talk about his accomplishments. I have seen some of the work done on the ground in Uganda and there is no point in lambasting him or in asserting that everything he has done is evil or that everything that is being done there is corrupt. When a delegation from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs visited Uganda recently, my main concern was that its members were unable to do enough. Consequently, I welcome the proposal to establish a conflict analysis and resolution body in Ireland. For example, the delegation, which may have included Deputy Michael D. Higgins, visited some opposition leaders in jail, some of whom had been working with the Institute of Public Administration on governance issues. The delegation also met some people who were involved in conflict resolution with the Lord's Resistance Army in the Gulu region of Uganda. An expertise could be developed in Ireland which could be put to good use.
While I may be naïve, I have a soft spot for the African Union and its inherent incipient possibility to be built on in order that Africa can take hold of its own development and opportunities. I welcome the peer review included by the Minister of State in the White Paper as it will be important in this respect.
The rapid response initiative is extremely important, as is the task force on hunger. However, I return to the point I made at the outset, namely, there is no short-term or easy way to build capacity, deliver education or fight HIV-AIDS despite what one is sometimes tempted to believe by television programmes. For example, I have been impressed by some of the initiatives undertaken by members of the construction industry, particularly in South Africa. However, such initiatives will grab headlines unlike painstaking work undertaken in fields such as water harvesting, food security and medical education in locations such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa.
I welcome the White Paper and the enormous potential arising from the fact Ireland is putting its money where its mouth is. As the Government is not above criticism, I welcome the opportunities that will be provided to have regular debates in this House on Ireland's development aid programme. While the work performed by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs is important in this regard, Members must realise that one only makes progress incrementally in this area of development.
I thank Deputy Carey for sharing time. I also welcome the White Paper, which I have read thoroughly once or twice. It contains many good ideas, several of which have already been raised. I wish to emphasise a point that has also been raised by previous speakers. Our aid expenditure will reach €1.5 billion, which constitutes an enormous amount of money, and the public will want to be reassured that it is being well spent. While the issue of corruption has been mentioned, that money must be monitored carefully and all projects must be evaluated.
I am aware of a proposal to change the title of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Irish Aid. While I am not opposed to this measure, it is inadequate. A separate Dáil committee on Irish Aid development should be established. Its sole function should be evaluating projects, deciding on policy and so on, because of the enormous sum of money involved. If this issue was incorporated into the work of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, only a portion of the latter's agenda would be devoted to it. Members must consider this carefully. The Minister of State is aware of the Sub-Committee on Development Co-Operation of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is chaired excellently by Senator Kitt. It does much good work and the priority should be to enhance it to place a singular focus on Ireland's development aid.
I wish to praise the work carried out by non-governmental organisations and volunteers such as Deputy Burton, who have travelled to Africa and elsewhere and have given up some years of their lives. While I have discussed this issue with the Minister of State previously, I call for an awards or recognition system for people who went to the Third World as volunteers. It is high time Ireland recognised their contribution in some form. While this might simply take the form of a certificate, the good work carried out by volunteers should be recognised formally by the State.
In addition, there should be much greater co-ordination at EU level. There is no point to having Ireland, Sweden, Germany or wherever duplicate their efforts. Such efforts should be co-ordinated, particularly in Africa, on a country by country basis to ensure the avoidance of an overlap. A sponsoring system could also be adopted in which Ireland could take particular responsibility within the EU for a single country, Germany could take another country and so on. This would lead to the development of a singular expertise regarding the country.
I also wish to raise the subject of pensions for missionaries. The Minister of State is aware of and is working on the issue. Many Irish priests who went to Africa in the 1950s and 1960s did not receive any social welfare stamps and consequently are not entitled to a pension, contributory or otherwise, from the State. I am not prepared to allow bureaucracy stand in the way of this issue for much longer. The people involved are Irish citizens and there is enough money in the kitty to give these people, many of whom are in their 70s, 80s or 90s, some form of payment for the remaining few years of their lives. Only a few hundred people are involved. It is a shame this has not been done. While EU laws may prohibit such payments, where there is a will, there is a way. I ask the Minister of State to put the issue of pensions for missionaries who have served the world and Ireland at the top of his agenda.
On behalf of my party, I support the publication of a White Paper on development aid. However, I am also my party's Dáil spokesperson on enterprise, trade and employment and a centrally important message should be sent to the Minister of State and the Government. Ireland cannot give with one hand while taking away with the other. This is an accurate description of Irish policy regarding trade, particularly with African and other less developed countries. Effectively, Ireland takes the wealth from such countries by exploiting its better trade conditions arising from its membership of the European Union, while simultaneously trying to assist the development of such countries with its aid funding.
It is scandalous that on the one hand, Ireland has an aid policy that seeks to develop such countries, while on the other its trade policy only considers its own short-term self-interests. The continued use of that self-interest in the promotion of practices such as export subsidies for agricultural products, which do huge damage to the same agricultural economies that we try to develop, cannot be justified. If the issue of development is to be taken seriously, it will not simply be a matter of providing 0.7% of Ireland's GDP in aid. It will also concern amending our trade policies to have a proper balance in this respect.
I look forward to a future Government that will consider innovative ways to combine these two briefs, which might involve the establishment of a single ministry. Instead of having a Minister with responsibility for trade and development who might take one line while the Minister responsible for aid takes another, both roles could be combined into one to ensure aid and development, rather than trade and self-interest set the national agenda.
While I would like to agree that the trade and aid briefs should be integrated, I do not wish to say so, in case it sounds as though I am outlining a self-interested position.
I thank all Members who have contributed to this debate on the White Paper. As Minister of State with responsibility in this area, I am proud to have delivered this White Paper, within two years of taking up this brief, as a road map for the future expansion of the aid programme. I am also very proud as a Minister of State to have delivered the largest cash and percentage increases ever received by the Irish aid programme. It is reflective of our confidence and ability as a people and our affluence that we can afford to make these large volume cash and percentage commitments. It is a clear sign that the Irish people are willing to take up this challenge and springs, as many speakers in this debate have noted, from our history of conquest, colonisation and famine. I am very proud to stand here as a Minister of State and state that there is broad cross-party consensus on development issues in this House.
The clear challenge is how we can expand this programme with a view to ensuring we achieve maximum value for money from the perspective of our taxpayers and also ensuring our aid programme delivers for the people whom we claim to be helping. This is a significant issue, which is perhaps why I am the only Minister to come before Oireachtas committees and this House to ask for more Dáil scrutiny of Irish aid. More scrutiny is good news for the taxpayer, the people whom we claim and wish to help and this House.
I was very taken with submissions made in the course of this debate by Deputy Gay Mitchell and the former Labour Party leader, Deputy Quinn. I emphasise that we are not and will never be a soft touch for people who wish to purloin Irish aid and pervert it for other purposes, self-aggrandising or otherwise. However, we are very well evaluated. In the last two years, I have secured 20 additional staff for the purposes of evaluation and audit within my Department. This was achieved against a background of a Civil Service embargo on such recruitment so I have delivered in that respect. I am determined that the medium-term needs of this particular programme as it expands, particularly in respect of staffing, will be addressed. One of my predecessors, Deputy O'Donnell, made this point. She is correct in stating that we cannot continue to deliver this massive expansion in the programme with current staffing. Following recent discussions with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, I am confident we can achieve an increase in staffing and I will insist that expansion is accompanied by staff increases that match the significant amounts of money now being committed to the cause.
Deputy Gay Mitchell's contribution was marked by his willingness to bring new ideas to the table. Some of these ideas, such as volunteerism and twinning our local authorities, are already being implemented. For example, twinning is being implemented through South Dublin County Council's involvement in Ethiopia. We want to see more people in this House participating and involving themselves in scrutinising our programme but we also want to leverage more of our new institutions which can be involved in development, be they local authorities or hospitals. We must be careful, as Deputy Eamon Ryan argued, that we do not give with one hand and take away with another. We must be careful we do not spend millions of euro on combatting AIDS in Africa and commit funding to doing so and at the same time rob Africa of its medical and health professionals. We have already taken action in this regard. The Health Service Executive is a signatory to what was loosely termed internationally as a non-poaching agreement and has committed itself to not aggressively recruiting health workers from particular countries in Africa where health personnel are leaving in droves. We are in line with international best practice with our aid programme and the practices we allow under the auspices of the aid programme.
Deputy Carey correctly noted that there is no quick fix for development. Many people become fixated about corruption in Africa and forget about civil disturbance and the chronic food shortages, insecurity and underspending there. These are significant long-term issues which, thankfully, are being addressed through the international community and our own efforts. I am not making any excuses for African regimes, corrupt or otherwise, but many of them were used as playthings by superpowers during the Cold War at a period when they should have achieved what economists politely term economic take off or lift. They were robbed of this take off so one cannot, as Deputy Quinn attempted to do, make comparisons between countries in Asia and countries with lesser outcomes in Africa. They are different parts of the world with distinctly different histories and economic experiences.
We remain committed to helping the developing world. This White Paper, of which I am extremely proud, provides us with the road map. I acknowledge that it does not contain everything. I note that many speakers, including Deputy Michael D. Higgins, would have wished for the inclusion of other measures. I wish to be very clear in respect of Deputy Quinn's comment about corruption. We will not tolerate corruption on our programme and will be as tough as anybody else in the world in terms of protecting the basic integrity of our Irish aid programme, our taxpayers' money and our approach, which is undeniably motivated by the good wishes of the Irish people. We will ensure this money goes to the right people and is not purloined.
This is a central part of the White Paper. It is also a growing issue in respect of the concerns of the international donor community. It would be criminal for us to sanction significant volume increases in aid without these increases being properly scrutinised and properly subjected to the stress testing which we apply to our domestic spending.
We will ratify the convention, a measure which Deputy Michael D. Higgins is most keen we should take. I will make this point very forcefully to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who, as Members are aware, always listens to contributions from this House.