Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Department of Foreign Affairs
Overseas Development Aid
Question 263: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which it is expected to meet overseas development aid requirements in 2010; the way this will compare with 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47139/09]
Question 266: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has set interim targets for achievement of the United Nations target for spending on overseas development in accordance with the programme for Government; and if he will he set out those targets. [47173/09]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 263, 266 and 267 together.
For 2010, the Government has provided a total allocation for Official Development Assistance (ODA) of €671 million. Of this allocation €536 million will be administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and a further estimated €135 million will come from other Government Departments and Ireland's share of the EU Development Cooperation budget. Based on current projections, this level of expenditure will represent 0.52% of Gross National Product (GNP) and means that Ireland will maintain its expected 2009 percentage spend on ODA in 2010. This level is also expected to ensure Ireland will remain one of the most generous aid donors internationally in per capita terms.
Ireland had set itself a target of spending 0.7% of GNP on ODA by 2012 - three years ahead of the EU target date of 2015. This target was set in different times and different economic circumstances. During the recent estimates process a rigorous assessment of our capacity to meet this target was undertaken and it now clear that the current economic circumstances prevent us from achieving our 2012 goal. The Government is now committed, in line with our fellow EU Member States, to meeting a target of spending 0.7% of GNP on ODA by 2015. It is important to point out that Ireland remains ahead of most Member States in progress towards achieving the 2015 target and will exceed the interim target set by the EU of spending at least 0.51% of GNP on ODA in 2010.
The Government's determined decision to maintain aid allocations against the background of enormous budgetary pressures reflects the Irish people's core values of solidarity and commitment to supporting the world's poorest and most marginalised communities. The 2010 budget allocation now needs to be effectively delivered with and through our development partners to ensure Ireland's contribution to development cooperation has maximum impact. Detailed allocations across the programme have yet to be finalised but will reflect the aid programme's core objectives of poverty reduction and aid effectiveness. Hunger and food security will also remain a priority for us in the light of the Report of the Government's Hunger Task Force.
Question 264: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of debt write off agreed by the international community some years ago; the elements that have been concluded in accordance with commitments; those outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47140/09]
In 2005, the leaders of the G8 countries, at their Summit in Gleneagles, agreed to establish the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), with a focus on the cancellation of the heavy debt burden on developing countries. It was intended to supplement the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative which was launched in 1996 to reduce the debt burden of qualifying countries to sustainable levels.
The MDRI came into effect on 1 July 2006, and provides for cancellation of eligible debt from the World Bank, the African Development Fund and the IMF for many of the world's poorest and most indebted countries, most of them in Africa. In 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank agreed to provide similar debt relief to the five poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The overall aim is to relieve these countries from the burden of servicing debt and assist them in making progress on the UN Millennium Development Goals.
In September 2009, the World Bank and the IMF reported that debt relief provided under these international initiatives has substantially alleviated the burden on developing countries, aided by continued flexibility on the part of the World Bank International Development Association, which provides grants and zero-interest credits to the poorest countries. To date, debt relief has been delivered to 26 countries under the MDRI initiative. In addition, eleven countries have made good progress towards qualifying for this relief, and another six have been identified by the World Bank as potentially eligible. Despite this progress, some important challenges remain in order to fully implement the Initiatives. A key conclusion by the World Bank is that long-term debt sustainability ultimately depends on a country's broader success in building the institutions to support sustained economic growth. This must be an essential element in any poverty-reduction programme in developing countries.
Ireland is recognised internationally for the role we are playing in focusing on the reduction of global poverty and hunger and making international aid more effective for developing countries. We have strongly supported initiatives to ease or cancel the debt burden. Importantly, Ireland's bilateral assistance to the developing world is exclusively in the form of grants rather than loans. Ireland's share of the total cost of debt relief provided by the World Bank under the MDRI is €58.64 million. The Government contributed this amount in full in 2006. Ireland has also contributed over €20 million towards the cost of implementing the HIPC initiative.
The Government's debt policy strategy was prepared jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Finance, and was launched in 2002. It supports the total cancellation of the debts of the world's poorest countries. A joint review of the strategy is currently being undertaken by the two Departments and I expect it will be completed within the coming months.