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One World One Future: An Tánaiste Launches Ireland's New Policy

Aid Effectiveness, Speeches, Ireland, 2013
An Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore with Nora Owens and Minister of State, Joe Costello at the launch of One World, One Future: Ireland's Policy for International Development. Photo: Maxwells

An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, launches One World, One Future: Ireland's New Policy International Development.

 

Speech by An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

 

Launch of One World, One Future: Ireland’s Policy for International Development, 2 May 2013

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,  I am delighted to welcome you all to the launch of the Government’s Policy for International Development:   One World, One Future.  This policy is the result of the comprehensive review of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid, which was a commitment in our Programme for Government.  It underscores our continuing commitment, as a Government and as a people, to making a meaningful contribution to the fight against extreme poverty and hunger in our world.

Let me, at the outset, express my appreciation to the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group and its Chairperson, Nora Owen, for the invaluable role you have played in providing external oversight for the review process and the development of this new policy.

I also want to thank Joe Costello, Minister of State for Trade and Development, for his strong leadership of the process and his tireless commitment to the aid programme.

Our changing world

The world has changed dramatically since the publication in 2006 of the White Paper on Irish Aid.  The reality of the changes are felt every day by families in Ireland facing huge economic challenges as we work to restore our economy and rebuild our international reputation. 

Inevitably, aid budgets are under pressure right across the developed world.  But I believe it is important that we recognise the real progress which has been made in the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world as a result of the concerted international effort to fight poverty in the framework of the Millennium Development Goals.

The MDGs set the ambitious target thirteen years ago of halving world poverty by 2015.  It is now clear that this Goal will be met.  I am proud that Ireland has played its part in this achievement. 

It is beyond dispute that international development assistance  - aid - has been critical, even if it has not been the sole element in progress. In recent years, we have seen the emergence of renewed confidence in developing countries, as they generate more of their own revenues, and open up further to the world.  This is particularly true in Africa, which is and will remain the focus of Ireland’s aid programme.  Our aim, and our partner countries’ aim, must be to reduce their dependency on aid.  We are working to empower governments and communities to drive their own development.

However, the picture is not uniformly positive.  Far from it - as we heard very clearly at the hugely successfully international conference on Hunger Nutrition and Climate Justice, which we held in Dublin just two weeks ago.  The global challenges are immense.  The reality is that today, in 2013, despite the progress over the past decade, the lives of a billion people – one seventh of the population of the planet – are dominated by poverty and hunger.  870 million people suffer hunger. That is almost twice the population of the entire European Union.   And seven thousand children under five are dying every day, principally because of under-nutrition.

People in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere on the continent are suffering the impact of ongoing and deep-seated conflicts.  Some 27 million people are displaced within their own countries because of violence and conflict and there are more than 10 million refugees spread across the globe.

This global reality is one of suffering, injustice and denial of basic human rights.  It is also one of cruelly wasted potential of girls and boys who could make a difference in their communities and in the wider world.   We simply cannot afford this. 

It is morally wrong that in the era of technology and interconnectedness millions of people still live in dire poverty and children die of illnesses that are entirely preventable.

This global injustice has to be addressed honestly – for reasons of morality and of self-interest.  We no longer have the choice to avoid the challenge.

As the international community reviews progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and contemplates the new framework that will shape development efforts from 2015, Ireland needs to be clear about the type of world we want to help forge for our children.  And about what we can do as a nation to support those countries that are emerging from poverty and which want a better life for their people.

Our new policy for international development sets out the vision which will guide our efforts.  It is a vision of ... a sustainable and just world, where people are empowered to overcome poverty and hunger and fully realise their rights and potential.

 

Ireland’s commitment to international development

Today’s policy launch is an opportunity to restate in very clear terms what I firmly believe is a core value of our people:  our commitment to, and solidarity with, those less fortunate than ourselves, those who struggle daily to secure the lives of their families in harsh and unyielding conditions.  Our own history of famine, poverty, migration and resilience underscores this solidarity.

At its core, this policy is about Irish values. We are a country that has never colonised or come with invading arms to dominate another people. We have always come to help, keep the peace and give those who need it a hand up.

And because of our own tragic history, we have never been a people that could look the other way and ignore a dying child.

This is what it is to be Irish.

And we have found a number of ways of expressing that. Every time there is a crisis, Irish people put their hand in their pocket. And often it is those with the least who respond by giving the most. We see that sense of solidarity in our own communities and we have seen it expressed it internationally too over several decades through our missionaries – the many nuns and priests who dedicated their lives to the people of Africa – and through our international aid programme.

That is who we are, and that is why our NGOs are the best in the world. We are not just the best football supporters in the world – we are also the best development workers in the world.

It is recognised internationally that we, today, are implementing one of the most effective aid programmes in the world, managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and engaging organisations and communities in every part of Ireland.  I have been struck by the continuing strong support there is for the positive role that we are playing as a country -  through our official aid programme, our development organisations, our missionaries, our volunteers, and schools and communities who are involved in one way or another - in combating global poverty, inequality and injustice.

I am greatly assured that the national consultations on the Review of the White Paper affirmed that there is a strong support base across the country for Ireland’s overseas development assistance programme, even at a time of immense economic difficulty for our citizens.  And a clear understanding of the role we must continue to play in highlighting the fundamental crisis of hunger and undernutrition.


Opportunities from Ireland’s contribution

The consultations also showed that Ireland’s support for international cooperation makes sense not just because it is the right thing to do.

It is also the smart thing to do for a small country, dependent on the global economy, and connected in human terms and by technology with every part of the world.

One clear lesson from we have learned from the economic experience of the past decade is that our independence and sovereignty can only be built and sustained on the basis of our international engagement, including our international responsibilities.  And in the decades ahead, the big challenges will be global.  Whether it is coping with shifts in the global economy, the serious effects of climate change, the consequences of a growing world population or of conflict, insecurity and terrorism – we cannot address them in isolation, and we cannot leave them to others.  Because our own security and our own development depend on the joint, international response.

The old definitions do not hold.  No longer is it about a rich north or a poor south, a first world or a third world.  We have to recognise that we all live in One World, and that the imperative is to forge together One Future for children from Europe, from Africa, from Latin America, from Asia.

This is not simple idealism.  We in Ireland also need to seize this moment and build on the economic opportunities that are opening up in Africa and elsewhere.  Our new policy makes it clear that our positive role in international development, in addition to helping fight poverty and vulnerability, is creating opportunities, which are important also for our own economic recovery.

We are supporting countries to address their own poverty and build their own economies. Stronger economies elsewhere mean stronger global growth. And as a small country on the periphery of Europe, we rely on that global growth to stimulate our own economy; to trade with the world and to have the world trade with us.

The economies of many African countries are flourishing – even if their economic growth is at times uneven. More African countries are at peace and building democratic institutions. Record numbers of children are going to school. The rate of HIV infections have fallen by up to three-quarters. Consumer spending will almost double in the next ten years.  A new African middle class is emerging.

And many countries where our people went as missionaries are now countries where our companies are now going to build critical infrastructure. There is affection for Ireland because of the way we have expressed that solidarity with the poorest people in the world over the years. And now, even at our most difficult time, we must keep faith with the world’s poorest.

Our aid funding will remain untied, and that is a fundamental principle we have long upheld. But as we have outlined in the Africa Strategy which I launched 18 months ago, we will use our strong partnerships overseas to identify trade opportunities and stimulate mutually beneficial relationships. This will be good for the countries that we are working with. And it will be good for Ireland.

That is why international cooperation needs to be central not just to our foreign policy, but right across Government. In assisting those most in need across the world, we are also investing the interests of the Irish people.

 

New policy commitments

The new policy for international development we are launching today replaces the White Paper on Irish Aid and presents a fresh and vigorous agenda for the coming years.

It sets out in very clear terms what our goals and our areas of focus are, and what we want to achieve by using our aid, our voice and our capacity.

This policy builds on the strengths of our existing programme, maintaining our focus on the world’s poorest countries, ensuring all of our aid remains untied, and using a mix of instruments to ensure our aid is delivered safely and effectively.

It affirms the importance of the Government’s expenditure on overseas aid with a determination to maintain it broadly at current levels, even in these difficult economic times. We remain committed to moving towards the 0.7%  of GNP target for our aid spending when circumstances permit.

We are highlighting here areas of particular significance to Ireland in guiding our approach. These include a renewed commitment to addressing hunger and malnutrition; a sharper focus on responding to the impacts of climate change and on working in fragile states emerging from conflict, and an even greater attention to human rights, including gender equality.  These priorities will also be reflected in our policy focus internationally, where we will work for a stronger recognition of the need to end extreme poverty and hunger in a generation, a stronger focus on the role of smallholder and climate-sensitive agriculture, and a much more specific focus on the rights and empowerment of women and girls.

As an indication of our commitment to fragile states, where the needs are greatest and where the means to meet them are least, I am today announcing that Sierra Leone will become a new Key Partner Country for the aid programme, building on and enhancing our work there, and in neighbouring Liberia, as we work with their people to rebuild their lives after appalling conflict.

We are also focusing more clearly on the role of inclusive economic growth, the development of the private sector, and fostering trade in order to enable developing countries to grow and to finance their own development.

We have recognised the need to reflect the changing and diverse relationships that exist in our Key Partner Countries which are benefiting from support through Ireland’s bilateral aid programme. And we will respond to each context according to the needs and opportunities that arise.

A central aspect of our new policy is the strong commitment we are now making to full openness and transparency, to the Irish people and to our partners in developing countries.  We need to be completely transparent on what we do, on how we work, and, crucially, on what we are achieving.

We will be accountable for actions across Government, through the publication of a biennial report to Cabinet and the Oireachtas.  We will also be publishing our aid data under the recent internationally agreed format and standard by 2015.

We will expect all of our partners to adopt the same standards of accountability.  In this way, Irish people will be better able to see where and how their money is being spent, and what results are being achieved.

And, importantly, we will deepen engagement here in Ireland on development, building on the strong foundation of the experience and potential that is represented here in this room today. This means working together to build awareness, develop links, and harness capacities.


Building on our strengths

I want to thank all of you who participated so vigorously in the Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid.   We met with over 1,000 people across Ireland, and in our partner countries.  And 165 groups and individuals went to the trouble of sending us thoughtful written submissions.

We have listened to you, and today we are responding.

We have much to build on:  a world-renowned aid programme; a leading role in the fight against hunger and malnutrition; the unrivalled reputation of our volunteers, NGOs, and missionaries who are at the frontline in even the most difficult of situation; a growing engagement by the private sector.

We have a solid track record in innovation and inspiration which has the potential to change the lives of millions.  We have, for instance, spearheaded new approaches to the treatment of severe child malnutrition, through a remarkable Irish not-for-profit company.

Together, we can continue to inspire, to break new ground and to give a voice to the voiceless.  We can set ambitious goals for ourselves and our partners.  And we can work together to meet those goals.

Ireland’s new policy for International Development is about building One World, One Future.  We start, together, from here.

 

Thank you.