Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Overseas Development Aid
77. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which Ireland's bilateral and multilateral overseas aid programme continues to meet the needs of the people in the various locations for which it is intended, with particular reference to the need to alleviate starvation and human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22908/22]
This question seeks to ascertain the extent to which Ireland can focus attention on worldwide hunger at various locations, some in war zones, some not, and lead that campaign in such a way as to make it embarrassing for all who cause it.
A Better World, Ireland's international development policy, focuses Irish Aid's work on meeting the needs of the furthest behind first, with an emphasis on those in the world's poorest or most climate-exposed countries, especially women and girls. Delivering on the ambition of A Better World includes a focus on food security and on upholding the rights of those we support. The allocation to official development assistance for 2022 is €1 billion, the highest ever and a 20% increase of last year's allocation.
Ireland, through the Irish Aid programme, has a long tradition of assisting those most food insecure, through humanitarian action and also through investing in developing the agrifood chain in our partner countries. This year, given the increase in hunger due to climate shocks and the invasion of Ukraine, I anticipate we will exceed the €193 million Irish Aid spent last year improving food security. This cannot be separated from interlinked issues of climate and conflict.
Our Irish Aid interventions are augmented by our work on the Security Council on the conflict and hunger file, where Ireland is pen holder, including a high profile meeting last month in New York.
With human rights a key foreign policy priority for Ireland, governance and rights is at the heart of Irish Aid interventions. Through the aid programme, and through our embassies, the Department supports the work of human rights defenders. This is augmented by support to United Nations agencies and our contribution to the work of the Human Rights Council and on the Security Council.
Underpinning Irish Aid's work is a commitment to quality. This has been internationally recognised, including in 2020, by an OECD review which found that Irish Aid "walks the talk", with Irish funding reaching the poor and poorest countries.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The respected international think tank, ODI, has consistently found Ireland to be the most principled donor country.
To what extent can Ireland, as a non-aligned country, focus such attention on the powers that be in whatever location abuses of human rights, hunger and starvation are taking place and seem to take place with impunity? The number of incidents are growing with the number of years instead of the reverse.
There used be a time when the United Nations was revered and highly respected. That is no longer the case. It needs to be born again. To what extent can Ireland influence that rebirth of the United Nations with a view to assisting directly those in greatest need?
It is important to note as a member of the Security Council we are now dealing with a situation where there are, say, 30 files in this area compared to, say, 13 when we were last on the Security Council.
As I noted in my response to the Deputy, we are a very strong contributor in terms of the United Nations, and particularly in human rights. That, I believe, is strengthened through our membership of the Security Council.
The Human Rights Council has a primary role within the United Nations system to promote and protect human rights globally and to address the situation of human rights violations. In 2021, the Human Rights Council, in addition to three regular scheduled meetings, also held five special sessions to address urgent crises right across Myanmar, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israel, Afghanistan, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The recent 49th session of the Human Rights Council included an urgent debate on the Russian invasion of Ukraine adopting a resolution to establish a commission to investigate violations of human rights. Likewise, Ireland's membership of the United Nations Security Council provides an important opportunity to advance our foreign policy priorities, including the protection of human rights.
I thank the Minister of State for mentioning Myanmar, where the Head of State is currently in prison and will be in prison for the foreseeable future. Despite the fact that she was revered once upon a time, she has been condemned to everlasting darkness as far as is visible at this stage. There are numerous other countries - I do not propose to go through them now. There are numerous other cases, including cases where young girls are forced to travel long distances for a basic need - water. A simple thing, it does not need an international convention or anything else. It needs a determination to move in and do something about it in the short term. A small amount of money can do a great deal of good for a lot of people who cannot help themselves.
Specifically, to come back to the Deputy on that particular point, that is a key part of my work within Irish Aid. We fully recognise that. A key emphasis of what we do with our aid programme is tackling gender inequality. In promoting gender equality, particularly for young girls in access to education, one of the key aspects is to put in place systems that enable things such as the provision of water because it is not a simple equation between providing the schools or the education. If one does not provide the structural changes within society and the supports to society, one will not free up the time for young girls traditionally are the water carriers in so many of these countries. It is important to realise that right across our aid programme, which is viewed by most people as one of the most ethical aid programmes there is, we have "furthest behind first reach", and that particularly works in the area of gender equality in areas such as the Deputy mentioned.