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Ireland falls farther behind on international aid commitment

For a sixth year in a row, funding for Irish Aid was cut bringing it down to €602 million.

An elderly woman waits to be treated in the Goal clinic in Balliet,a village along the Sobat River in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan, Africa.
An elderly woman waits to be treated in the Goal clinic in Balliet,a village along the Sobat River in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan, Africa.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Archive/Press Association Images

IRELAND WILL PROVIDE €602 million in development assistance to some of the poorest people in the world next year.

Budget 2014 saw the sixth consecutive cut in funding to Irish Aid and the €20 million decrease has been criticised by charity organisations.

Since 2008, the amount provided to overseas developing countries has reduced by almost 35 per cent, putting Ireland back down the ladder in terms of meeting international commitments.

“This will have a significant impact on some of the world’s most disadvantaged people,” said David Dalton, CEO of Plan Ireland.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the current estimate of €602 million equates to about 0.43 per cent of GNP next year.

The UN Millennium Project aims for a contribution of at least 0.7 per cent of GDP target. Ireland had bolstered its spend to above 0.5 per cent in 2006 and had maintained those high percentages until 2012, when the contribution dropped to 0.47 per cent.

The downward trend has continued and, last year, the Government allocated €629 million to the aid programme. This year, the corresponding donation was €622 million but, for 2014, that number will drop again to €602 million.

However, junior minister Joe Costello insists the government has stabilised the budget since taking office.

“While the allocation announced today will reduce our spending on overseas assistance by some 3 per cent compared to last year, it still represents a very significant allocation for Ireland’s aid programme,” he said.

“The government’s new policy on international development – ‘One World One Future’- sets out our continuing commitment to achieving the UN target of providing 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product for Official Development Assistance (ODA) when economic circumstances permit.”

The goverment says the reduction will amount to a €14.4 million saving for the Department of Foreign Affairs because of the reduction in the €482.6 million managed through Vote 27 – International Co-operation by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The remaining €120 million is managed through other departments and Ireland’s share of the EU development co-operation budget.

Shying away

Dalton says he is “pretty certain” that Ireland will not reach the 0.7 per cent target by 2015, as promised.

“The government are shying away from that barometer,” he told TheJournal.ie.

Although broadly positive about Ireland’s overseas development contribution, Dalton said the one major criticism that comes back each year is the country’s inability to publicise the programme to the general public.

“It is not coming through that this is a positive for the country’s reputation and that it gives us great reach. There are Irish people working in about 100 countries in the aid sector,” he continued.

It is not one or the other. You can never say a child is more needy in one place or the other – there is room for everyone to receive.

Aid and trade inextricably linked.

Aid can also bring trade, according to the CEO.

“Africa is a growing continent with a growing middle class. They are big buyers of Irish products. For example, Baileys has had enormous success. We need to have more focus – through aid, trade or whatever else – on how the continent can help us, as well as vice versa.”

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