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Launch of the new Global Citizen Award Website

Tá fíor-áthas orm a bheith anseo libh i nGaillimh inniú chun na míreanna nua digiteacha den Ghradam an tSaoranaigh Dhomhanda a láinseáil.

I am delighted to join you this afternoon to launch the new Global Citizen Award Website. I have no doubt but that the new website will generate a lot of interest and will result in increased numbers of returned volunteers engaging with the award. The new mentor training video and the Handbook for Participants will greatly enhance the development education content of the programme. This is so important in enabling the volunteers to become multipliers in their communities as they encourage good Global Citizenship.

Coming to speak here today made me reflect on the concept of Global Citizenship. Global Citizenship encompasses how we understand the wider world and our place in it. It requires us to acknowledge how our actions impact on others - both in our own communities and across the planet. It requires us to commit to achieving a more equal, fair and sustainable world. Global Citizens are aware that they live in an interconnected world, they are active promoters of a more tolerant, inclusive and sustainable society. The Global Citizen Award recognises and affirms the actions that returned volunteers have taken in order to achieve this.

Working towards this award affords volunteers the opportunity to learn from their host communities and to transport ideas back with them. It gives them the opportunity to share positive stories of resilience and sustainability and to oppose negative stereotypes.

It inspires them to take action against poverty and injustice by promoting sustainable ways of living and changing attitudes towards developing countries in their own communities.

Volunteers are active citizens already through their contribution to the communities they work with overseas. However, we would be missing a huge opportunity if this active citizenship were to be limited to the overseas contribution alone.

As you may know I am the Minister with responsibility for Irish Aid, Ireland’s official aid programme, whose work is carried out by the Government on behalf of all the people in Ireland. We can be truly proud of Ireland’s work in fighting global poverty and hunger and tackling injustice, promoting peace and democracy and safeguarding human rights.

Irish Aid has co-funded the Global Citizen Award since its inception because we believe in the transformative power of development education. Development Education aims to increase awareness and understanding of the rapidly changing, interdependent and unequal world in which we live. It engages people in reflection and action for local and global citizenship and participation.

Development education contributes to the realisation of Irish Aid’s vision for a sustainable and just world, by providing an opportunity for people in Ireland to reflect on their roles and responsibilities as global citizens and by encouraging people to take action for a fairer and more sustainable future for all. I am very pleased to say that funding of €56,000 is being provided this year from the Development Education annual grants to continue our support for the Global Citizen Award.

Irish Aid delivers its development education programme through strategic partnerships, supporting development education practitioners and the integration of development education into primary initial teacher education. We support development education in primary and post-primary schools, in third level colleges, in community and youth groups and online.

In Irish Aid we also support volunteering. The Irish Government’s commitment to building on Ireland’s strong tradition of volunteering abroad is reflected in Ireland’s Policy for International Development One World, One Future. The Irish Aid Volunteering Initiative, launched in October 2013, reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to volunteering and committed to modernising volunteering support.

We have every reason to be proud of our volunteering heritage and the work that so many Irish volunteers have done to make a positive contribution to the lives of others. Our memory of famine informs our values and our solidarity with our fellow global citizens for whom poverty and hunger is a daily reality.

One of our supports for volunteering is the annual Irish Aid Volunteering Fair which is tangible evidence of our commitment to volunteering and which showcases the diversity and availability of volunteering opportunities overseas.

I was delighted to be the keynote speaker at last year's Fair where 35 volunteer sending agencies, many of which I am delighted to see around this room today, showcased their overseas placements.

Irish Aid recently assisted Comhlámh, the association of returned volunteers, to produce their Code of Good Practice for Voluntary Sending Agencies which aims to ensure that volunteering programmes are of a high quality and are driven primarily by the needs of the host communities. Comhlámh have told us that 44 Volunteer Sending Agencies have now signed up to the Code.

Data collected by Comhlámh for 2016, indicates that 1995 Irish people volunteered overseas. It is particularly inspiring to see the high numbers of young people involved in international volunteering. In 2016, over 65% of all volunteers from Ireland were under the age of 30. The data also indicates that there is a move towards short-term volunteering. The provision of quality development education is particularly important so that these short trips will not be viewed as poverty tourism but that they will be opportunities for learning in solidarity with the host communities.

The work of the volunteers complements the model that we follow in Irish Aid where we have achieved considerable success in empowering communities and individuals by directing aid through government departments, through local NGOs, through trade, through strengthening civil society and by supporting human rights defenders.

In our Irish Aid Development Education Strategy 2017 – 2023 we promised to support the delivery of development education training to volunteers on international placements, through an awards programme. The Global Citizen Award fits this aspiration perfectly as highly motivated returned volunteers are trained and supported to engage in local actions designed to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Linking the actions and awareness raising activities to the Sustainable Development Goals is a very positive feature of this award.

In July this year, Ireland will present our Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development. The HLPF meets annually to review global progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. We are currently working on our review, documenting not only the progress that we are making but also how we are assisting other countries to reach their targets.

This government is committed to achieving the SDGs but we all have a role to play. The responsibility lies with all of us and your work in raising awareness of the SDGs and in providing models of good Global Citizenship will help us to achieve the 2030 agenda.

I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to speak to you today and I wish you every success with the Global Citizen Awards this year. Míle buíochas as éisteacht liom inniú agus guím gach rath oraibh sa todhchaí. Go raibh maith agaibh.

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