Tuesday, 3 November 2015
Overseas Development Aid Expenditure
107. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his proposals to reach the United Nations target of 0.7% of gross national product for overseas development aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36929/15]
Ireland has a long-standing and internationally respected tradition of contributing overseas aid in various forms, as peacekeepers, mediators and through the work of missionaries, medical and nursing personnel. The contributions of this country through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through other Departments and statutory agencies and, in particular, through Irish Aid in untied overseas aid have repeatedly received international praise.
The Government commitment in 2011 to provide 0.7% of GNP for ODA has not been reached, although I welcome the increase for 2016. Will the Minister indicate the particular proposals he has to reach 0.7% of GNP, given this has been outlined once again by the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Flanagan?
The Government is strongly committed to Ireland’s overseas aid programme and to its place at the heart of our foreign policy. “One World, One Future”, our policy for international development, clearly articulates the Government’s commitment to the UN target of providing 0.7% of GNP for official development assistance, ODA. This commitment was reiterated by the Taoiseach at the UN Summit in New York in September which adopted a new set of sustainable development goals to guide international development policy and action for the next 15 years.
Our track record in support of Ireland’s aid programme is clear. Over the past four years, we have protected and stabilised budget allocations at a time of extraordinary economic difficulty. In that time, we have provided over €3 billion for ODA. We have stated that we would make progress towards the 0.7% target, once economic conditions allow. Now, as our economic recovery gains momentum and becomes more widely established, we can begin to make good on that commitment. On budget day, the Government announced the first substantial increase in the aid budget in over seven years. For 2016, we have provided a total of over €640 million in ODA, an increase of €40 million or almost 7% on the 2015 level. We estimate this will entail a small increase in our ODA-GNP percentage from a projected 0.35% in 2015 to a projected 0.36% in 2016, so we still have a long way to go. The challenge now is to ensure Ireland continues to play a leading role in the comprehensive response to the unprecedented humanitarian crises throughout the globe, especially in Europe’s broader neighbourhood, while ensuring our aid programme remains effective in addressing the root causes of poverty and hunger.
I thank the Minister of State. The 0.7% of GNP target is proportionate, whether we are in good or in very challenging economic times. The highest level of assistance provided at any time was €920 million in 2008, which was 0.59% of GNP at that time.
Very respected non-governmental organisations, such as Trócaire, GOAL, Oxfam and Dóchas, have been advocating very strongly on the need for the Government to outline the roadmap to achieve the 0.7% target. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. We are aware the Irish commitment to overseas aid has widespread public support and a survey last year indicated that more than 75% of the public were very strongly in support of increasing ODA, if at all possible.
Is the Minister of State satisfied that ODA is going to countries where there is proper accountability and that the programmes are reaching the people most in need in the many countries where there are crises and disasters and where people are in need of practical, day-to-day assistance?
We continue to maintain a very strong relationship with the NGOs, which are partly funded by the taxpayer through Irish Aid. The issue the UN and the multilateral organisations are trying to grapple with at present is the major challenge of how, globally, governments are going to be able to fund the commitment into the future. To answer the Deputy's question, one of the issues we are now looking at is that of how we manage the dynamic between long-term development goals, such as the eradication of poverty and hunger, and the numerous humanitarian crises that are breaking out, for example, in the Mediterranean, as well as how we manage the interoperability between long-term development goals and humanitarian crises. There is also the question of how we leverage the opportunities within the global private sector. The private sector has a role to play and, within the Department, we are trying to get a greater degree of traction in that relationship which goes beyond mere corporate social responsibility. At the multilateral level, through the UN and other organisations, Ireland has an important role to play.
As the Minister of State knows, our aid has always been classed as untied aid, which is very important. A substantial part of ODA goes to international agencies such as the UN, the World Health Organization and so on. I read a report recently which suggested that GOAL was able to use the funding provided by our State as leverage to draw down very substantial funding from the British Government, the United States Government and other global players. As a result, there was an exceptionally good return on the seed funding the State provided to GOAL. Is the Minister considering giving momentum to that type of policy and perhaps reducing the assistance we give directly to the international statutory organisations?
We would openly encourage organisations to interact with each other. We would really like to see a greater degree of consolidation of effort and we do not want to see any duplication of effort. Irish Aid has a track record, through its relationships with organisations like GOAL, of providing the seed funding that then allows GOAL to leverage the opportunities, such as in its response in Syria. If we can encourage a greater degree of that kind of leveraging effort and bring in the private sector, as I said, beyond mere corporate social responsibility, then I believe that pitches Ireland onto a greater global stage. We advocate that policy and we are working towards trying to get a greater degree of traction in that regard.