Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Review of White Paper on Irish Aid: Statements, Questions and Answers
Kathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
Like previous Senators I welcome the Minister of State to the House and I apologise that I may not be here for his response because I must attend a meeting of a committee that he used to chair.
Sinn Féin welcomes the strategy and goal outlined in the White Paper. As has been mentioned previously, Ireland has an honourable tradition of providing aid and development. This week my colleague, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, will launch our response with a paper entitled "Honouring our Legacy." The title sums up what we need to do to continue our honourable tradition of supporting development in the global south. My party respects and supports the Government's courage in not cutting the foreign aid budget but there was a slight decrease from almost 0.6% in 2008 to 0.5% now. We all accept that times are tough but can the Minister of State tell me when we will reach our 0.7% target?
Partner countries also have responsibilities to live up to. For example, India must fulfil its commitment to spend 9% of its country's income on health and education. For overseas aid to be truly effective and sustainable the governments of partner countries must play their part. The difficulties facing NGOs operating in Africa must also be taken on board. Laws restricting the role of civil society should not be allowed hamper aid effectiveness. Irish Aid must reach the grassroots to make an impact and it means supporting business related initiatives such as farmers' groups, women's co-operatives, Fairtrade initiatives and local enterprise development. In reality it means community empowerment.
The question of economy partnership agreements dogs the foreign aid debate. Sinn Féin is clear that EPAs should be about aiding developing partner countries and not the EU's strategic or economic interests. I will take this opportunity to commend the excellent policy work of Trócaire in the sector. We support their recommendations for the global south. They consist of an ethical approach to aid with an ethics charter for Irish businesses overseas and full compliance with the OECD anti-bribery convention.
Gender equality and programmes against gender-based violence are as necessary as ever and direct funding of women's organisations should continue. Human rights must be the thread that runs through all of the work carried out by Irish Aid and coincides with the protection of the natural environment. Foreign acquisition of African lands is a dangerous trend because lands are being used to serve the needs of foreign powers and not the needs of the indigenous population. Irish Aid should not encourage the trend.
I wish to raise the issue of displaced people in Colombia. Any Fairtrade deal with Colombia must not dodge the issue.