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Beyond 2015: Where next for the Millennium Development Goals - keynote address by MOS Joe Costello

Governance, Speeches, Global, 2012
Minister and Guides from the Irish Aid Centre

A keynote Address by Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello T.D called 'Beyond 2015: Where next for the Millennium Development Goals'

Good morning and let me start by thanking Trócaire for organising this event on Beyond 2015: Where next for the Millennium Development Goals? Your presence today underlines the continuing strong Irish commitment to international development, and the fight to end poverty and hunger. It also helps us to focus, in a timely manner, on the major international challenge, in a difficult global environment, of working towards a new framework for global development.

Since my appointment as Minister of State for Trade and Development in December, I have been impressed by the enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism in the development community here in Ireland. It is clear to me that by working closely together, at home and abroad, we can make a lasting positive impact on the lives of women, men and children living in poverty. The Government recognises this, and we have explicitly reaffirmed our strong commitment to international development, as a central element in Ireland’s foreign policy. The allocation for Official Development Assistance for this year is a clear demonstration of our continuing commitment to achieving the 0.7% of GNP target.

The ‘Beyond 2015’ campaign  challenges us to consider how the world has changed since the Millennium Development Goals were first agreed at the turn of this Century and the role of overseas aid in this new global context. It rightly points out that both the substance of any new framework which will replace the MDGs, and the process of developing it, is equally important.
The discussion this morning is timely. Yesterday, I launched the public consultation for the Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid. The Review will examine progress made over the past six years and will seek to identify clear priorities for Irish Aid for the years up to and beyond 2015.  I believe that the discussions this morning will be an important input into this process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The MDGs have led to significant progress in poverty reduction. They have provided the international community with a clear set of targets and goals. They have given a focus to what aid should be used for. And because they are easy to communicate to the public, they have galvanised political support for results in areas where progress must be made.

Development results in the last 10 years have been the best ever recorded. Between 2005 and 2010, the total number of poor people around the world fell by nearly half a billion. Millions of child deaths have been avoided thanks to greater access to vaccines. 40 million more children are going to school today than at the turn of the millennium.

In Irish Aid’s Programme Countries we have contributed to this progress and can see the results for ourselves. Over the last 10 years income per person has doubled in Mozambique. In Tanzania mortality rates in children under five have fallen by about 40 per cent.

In Tigray, in northern Ethiopia last week I saw for myself the impact of our programme.
• Agricultural production of grain more than doubled between 2004 and 2009;
• The number of primary schools has increased - thus helping to reduce class sizes and improve the quality of education;
• And the public service is now better trained – providing more efficient services to the community. 
But while there have been many positives the MDG approach has also revealed flaws.

Global targets and results have hidden inequalities across regions and countries. Vital issues such as sustainable growth, job creation, trade and protecting the environment were not adequately addressed in the MDGs. A ‘one size fits all’ gave the impression that problems and solutions are the same everywhere. Clearly they are not.

In 2012, almost one billion women, men and children continue to be hungry and live in extreme poverty. Maternal mortality levels remains shockingly high. And while there are more children in school, the quality of education is still a major concern. Climate change is contributing to an increased frequency of disasters in affected countries.
While early and comprehensive planning for the post-2015 agenda is vital, we cannot let this distract us from the very real challenge over the next three and a half years, of meeting the commitments we signed up to 12 years ago.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We also need to think beyond aid and critically look at the role of aid post 2015. At the recent international meeting on effective aid in Busan, where Ireland’s Government and civil society delegations worked together very closely, it was recognised that aid, no matter how effective, is only one part of the solution to under-development and poverty. At that meeting, international agreement was reached to move beyond the mechanics of aid delivery, towards a broader focus on the drivers of effective development.
Resources from increased trade, more efficient and fairer taxation, private sector investment, remittances and investments from emerging economies can all have a significant impact on driving sustainable inclusive growth, and reducing dependency on aid.

The new Africa Strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recognises this changing relationship and provides the framework to deepen our engagement with Africa.

Funding from donor countries like Ireland will not create long term sustainable employment. This is the role of the private sector, both local and foreign. Through this strategy we are engaging with the private sector here in Ireland to highlight the potential for investment in Africa.

We are very pleased to date with the response from both our business community and the twenty African countries who attended the first ever Africa Ireland Economic Forum in September 2011.

The geography of poverty has also changed. The Brookings Institute notes that “Today, only 10% of the global poor live in stable, low-income countries; 40% live in fragile and conflict-affected countries and 50% in middle-income countries”. Within these countries the distribution of poverty demonstrates huge inequities across different population groups. Consequently different approaches, goals and targets are needed to tackle poverty in these different contexts.

Fragile states, for example, - which are home to some 1.2 billion people - are largely off track to meet the MDGs. To make progress here it is recognised that a much greater focus is needed on legitimate politics, people’s security, justice and economic opportunities. Over the coming years, we will need to challenge the way we engage in these situations and redouble our efforts to ensure that people living in fragile states succeed in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

If growth is to reduce poverty, it needs to address inequality. Progressive taxation and spending in the national budget targeted to poorer regions, cash transfers to vulnerable groups and redistributing assets, for example through land reform, can play an important part in addressing unequal access by women and men to opportunities and services. Tackling gender inequality is a key dimension of equitable and fair growth. 
And against this backdrop of inequality and spurred on by high levels of youth unemployment, there is growing unrest with the pace of development and with human rights violations in many developing countries. Protests have increased, often organised by citizens though social media technology.

With the arrival of relatively cheap smart phones, access to the internet in the developing world has grown substantially and will expand further in the coming years. Citizens now have much easier access to information and the focus is inevitably shifting from formal accountability organisations to citizen movements. While the Arab Spring has been the most prominent movement over the past year, protests in other developing countries in recent months all point to the growth of empowered citizens willing to confront perceived abuses of power, inequality and corruption. But these protests alone do not lead to sustainable change.

Empowered women and men must have equal opportunities to engage in decision-making processes at community, local and national levels. A focus on governance, with the citizen at the centre, is important to ensure all resources for development are used effectively.

We need also to anticipate the impact of climate change and the importance of all Government policies supporting, or at the very least, not undermining the attainment of development targets.

The discussions to agree a new international framework, beyond the MDG’s, need to reflect these changes, together with the evidence we have accumulated, and the lessons we have learnt, about contributing more effectively to a reduction of poverty and disadvantage.

In terms of the process for agreeing goals beyond 2015, I believe strongly that we need a fully transparent and inclusive approach. It is particularly important that we listen to the experiences of people who are themselves living in poverty and that the countries that are least developed have a strong voice.
We need to find ways of including independent and genuinely representative civil society organisations, and the media, from the developing world in the process so that they can fulfil their promise to defend the rights of the vulnerable in an unequal world.

It is clear to me that the post-2015 agenda will need a clear accountability framework. Governments, development partners and civil society together must monitor progress, and be held accountable by citizens for their individual and collective performance for delivering real sustainable results. In the coming months the international community will increase its focus on the post- 2015 era.

I am pleased that the UN Secretary General has already committed to establishing a Task Team within the UN to start the preparatory process of formulating a post-2015 development framework. It seems likely that, later this year, the Secretary General will establish a High Level Panel of eminent persons to provide guidance and impetus for the development of such a framework.

In Rio in June the promotion of a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication will be discussed.

The MDG Review Summit, scheduled to take place in the autumn of 2013, will also be an important milestone. It will be an opportunity both to take stock of progress on the MDGs and to give clear direction on the post 2015 agenda.

We will use Ireland’s 2013 EU Presidency to bring to bear our strong thematic focus on hunger and nutrition, and on the growing impact of climate change on the poorest countries and communities. We will focus in particular on Africa, and we will ensure that these priorities are reflected in the MDG Review Summit and the post 2015 process.

The Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid is a unique opportunity for all of us to capture the major changes that have taken place across the world, and in Ireland, in the past six years.

We will consult widely during the Review. We want to hear the views and suggestions from those who own the programme – the people of Ireland. And we want to hear from those who receive its benefits. Through consultation, the Review process will be better informed, more rigorous and more accountable. We are also using social media tools to reach a wider audience and will be holding four public consultations around the country. I hope that you will join us to consider where our priorities should lie, to learn from what works best, and to set out an agenda for Irish Aid up to and beyond the 2015 deadline for the achievement of the MDGs.

Ireland has an honourable reputation in international development assistance; I saw this for myself in Tigray and at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa just last week. At a time of great economic difficulty at home and across the world, I believe we must continue to assist those who are in need overseas and in doing so, ensure our development aid remains relevant and of a high quality.

Our development programme is the right thing to do, and it is also in our interests as a nation in an increasingly interconnected world.
In this context, I welcome the ‘Beyond 2015’ campaign and look forward to continued discussions with  the development community to ensure that Ireland’s position in the process reflects the true values of the Irish people, and our long term interests in a more equal and stable world.
Thank you.

ENDS