ALTHOUGH A TOUGH economic climate continues to worry the people of Ireland, the vast majority of the population believe the State should continue to invest in overseas aid.
A new Ipsos/MRBI poll commissioned by Dóchas found that 88 per cent of the public think that Ireland should be proud of its reputation as an international aid donor.
A similar number (85 per cent) rated overseas aid as either ‘important’ or ‘very important’.
However, the research also highlighted that members of the public are increasingly unsure about what kind of difference such investment can make to the lives of those who they wish to help.
Good news from Africa not reaching the public
Less than half of those surveyed believe Africa is better off now than two decades ago. “In fact there is increasing evidence of progress in the continent’s sub-Saharan region where much of Ireland’s public and private aid is spent,” said Dóchas in a statement.
”The poll shows that…people’s perceptions of what aid can do, and what aid is actually achieving, have not caught up with realities on the ground,” added Dóchas chairperson Jim Clarken.
“There are good stories coming from the countries that Ireland provides government aid to. In Mozambique, for example, seven million children are now in school compared to 400,000 twenty years ago. In Uganda, HIV infection rates have been reversed, and there are now more democracies across the region than ever before,” said Hans Zomer, director of Dóchas.
Although most people get their information about Africa from news sources and television, most of what is covered deals with crises, explains Matthias Fiedler of the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA).
“Images of hunger, violence and poverty dominate the news, but the good news stories -of economic growth, creativity, improving education and innovation – are not coming through,” he said.
Ireland has pledged to spend about 0.7 per cent of its national income on overseas aid before 2015. That equates to 70 cents out of every €100. At the moment, the budget is less than that and stands at €639 million, a fall of more than 30 per cent since 2008.
“Irish Aid has been recognised time after time, by independent international observers, as one of the best aid programmes in the world,” said Junior Minister Joe Costello today. “Irish Aid is the Irish people’s aid programme and I am glad that the public takes pride in our role in supporting the world’s poorest communities to tackle hunger and poverty.”
A conference entitled C Cubed focusing on how NGOs can creatively communicate complex ideas about the effectiveness of international aid to the public is being held today.
Commenting ahead of that conference, Costello urged not-for-profits to move away from negative imaging and messaging which portrays peoplein the developing world as passive victims.
Too often the messages and images portrayed in fundraising and communications focus on the negative and the simple. We must communicate the more complex picture of international development and portray people in developing countries as active citizens rather than just victims; as agents in their own political and economic change. It is not only the right thing to do: international research has shown it is what the public wants to see and read.