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Minister Cannon T.D. Remarks at the Public Consultations on the New International Development Policy

Good evening

I am delighted to be here this evening in the Model, Sligo for this ‘townhall’ discussion on Ireland’s new international development policy.

This is the third of five public consultation meetings taking place around the country which will inform a new policy – which I hope will engage as many people as possible. Last Thursday evening in City Hall in Cork, the Tánaiste opened up the discussions. At NUIG last night, I participated in an engaging and stimulating conversation.

These conversations flow from the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Ireland meets the UN target for overseas development assistance of 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2030. This commitment is at the heart of Global Ireland, the Government’s plan to increase Irish influence and double Ireland’s global footprint. Today Ireland contributes around 0.3% of our GNI to international development.
While our financial contribution is modest, Ireland has a reputation for quality, which I want us to build upon as we grow the budget.

A new international development policy will help us to map the way forward. Considerable work has been done on developing the new policy, which should be published before the end of this year.

The public consultation process began in July. Representatives of Irish development NGOs, government departments, academics involved in development research, those involved in Development Education, and private sector companies contributing to development – came to launch this important public dialogue.

Since then, we have received over 185 substantial written submissions in response to the public consultation paper and over 10,000 emails expressing support for the work of Irish Aid.

I am greatly encouraged and heartened by this response, and to see how many of you have turned out this evening. Your contribution is essential to shaping the final policy.

I am convinced that Ireland’s international development cooperation makes a difference.

It makes a difference to each of those people whose lives have been saved or transformed by Ireland’s humanitarian and development work.

I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the impact of Irish Aid’s work on the ground. In 2017 I had the honour of launching Africa Code week in Tanzania, a unique initiative built leveraging Irish experience, and reaching millions.

I am also convinced that our work abroad profoundly matters for Ireland: it helps shape and protect our place, our safety and our prosperity in a global interconnected world. It is a statement of who we are as people.

I am extremely proud of Ireland’s role, two years ago, at the United Nations in brokering agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals. Every country in the world has signed up to make this a better planet by 2030. The Goals are ambitious but essential.

At the centre of the SDGs is the concept of ‘Leave no-one behind’, and in particular to reach the ‘furthest behind first.’ This in many ways updates Ireland’s traditional approach to international cooperation, which has been to help the poorest of the poor.

Tonight, though, is about what you think.
What should we prioritise?
How can we maximise our impact?

In our public consultation paper we have set out a number of questions:
The first question relates to Ireland’s impact and track record. Developing a new policy requires, and provides us with, the space to think about what we do and how we do it – to refresh our approach, innovate and change. Our starting point is to build on what we are good at, and be coherent with what we do at home.
We want to know: what should we bring forward?
What can we build on?

The second looks at our rapidly changing world. We need to respond to climate change, and intensifying inequality within developing countries. Unstable politics and changing demographics may challenge the basis for peace and development. At the same time, technology is changing how we grow food, how we work, how we live, where we live. It promises solutions to make better lives for all.
So, what are the implications of our changing world for the new policy?

The third question focusses on our priorities. We are committed to responding to the call to Leave No One Behind. We propose to advance our work on women and girls.
Reducing humanitarian need will also be a central focus. The new policy proposes to strengthen the linkages between different areas of work: humanitarian action, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and long term development interventions.
We will need to do more to address the impact of our changing climate. This will require, in addition to adaptation and mitigation strategies, strengthened governance, fighting corruption and a focus on human rights in all that we do.
I want to hear from you if you think these proposed priorities contribute to achieving our vision of a more peaceful, equal and sustainable world?

The final question: how we can improve delivery of our development cooperation and humanitarian action?
The greatest difference will be in how we do things. We are committed to doing things differently: to better influence, to strengthen coherence, to build our capacity, to learn, to engage.

And while we have posed four questions, can I stress that there is no right or wrong answer – we want to hear your views. And while we have a fifty year record, I want us to look forward, to focus on what we need to do next, to better help those less fortunate than us. In making the world a better and safer place I believe we are also helping make Ireland a better and safer place for us to call home.

I am looking forward to hearing your responses.

Closing Remarks
Thank you for such a stimulating and engaging discussion.

Once again, I have been struck at how engaged, how passionate and how well-informed Irish people are about international development.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. There was real richness in the discussions from which we will learn and draw as we move the process forward.

Irish society is changing, with diverse new communities living in Ireland and changing social and cultural values focused on equality and human rights. We must refresh our narrative to reflect the changing context and express our Irish identity in the new policy. The new policy is part of building a whole of society approach to the Sustainable Development Goals and international development cooperation. This must also bring the relevance and impact of our international development cooperation home to Irish people.

We will produce a summary record of the output from tonight’s discussions. Our challenge is to capture not just your analysis and insight, but to channel your enthusiasm and passion. Voices from Sligo are a valuable input to the new policy and our international development programme.

This is not the end of the conversation: it is part of the beginning. The new policy is a living process. Strengthening public support and engagement with the development cooperation programme is central to our proposals. SDG 17 calls on us to build on all our partnerships for achieving all of the goals, for a whole of society approach.

We need your help to foster stronger public support for development in Ireland. We need to build on existing partnerships and reach out beyond our usual circles. We need your help to carry forward this message, to disseminate the final policy, to be partners in its implementation and to hold us to account.

Can I urge you to please, spread the word about the final two upcoming meetings:

  • On Thursday, at the Strand Hotel in Limerick
  • And on the 2nd October at the EPIC museum in Dublin.

I am extremely grateful to you for giving us your time and energy this evening.

Let me thank you again for taking part. Good night.

Thank you.

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