Launch of the 2014 DAC Peer Review
Tuesday, 2 December 2014, Government Press Centre
Statement by Mr. Charlie Flanagan TD
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a great honour to welcome you all here this afternoon to the launch of the 2014 OECD Development Assistance Committee Peer Review of Ireland.
I want in particular to welcome Erik Solheim, the Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, for travelling to Dublin for the launch of the Peer Review Report. I know he has an extremely busy schedule and I greatly appreciate his engagement with Ireland and our development assistance programme. Welcome also to Ida McDonnell, from the DAC Secretariat, who was a member of the Peer Review team which visited Ireland and Malawi in February.
And I want to thank members of the Oireachtas, officials from other government departments, our NGO partners, members of the Irish Aid Advisory Group, academia and the business community who all took the time to meet with the review team when they visited Ireland as part of the review process.
I would also like to thank the DAC Secretariat and the examiners from Portugal and Austria, and our observer country Lithuania, for their commitment to a thorough and objective examination of our policies and programmes. We are indebted to you for your work, as peers and friends.
This year marks 40 years of Ireland’s official development assistance. Ireland and the Irish people had engaged with Africa and the developing world for many many years beforehand. But it was the vision of Garret Fitzgerald, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, which led to the establishment of the aid programme as Ireland took its place as a member of the European Union. That aid programme is now central to our foreign policy, and supported strongly by the Irish people – because it is producing results.
This OECD DAC Report today, shows that Ireland continues to be a world leader in effectively tackling hunger and poverty and assisting the world’s poorest communities to survive and thrive. All Irish citizens can be immensely proud of this work and the difference it makes to the lives of millions of people in the world.
The Peer Review process offers a valuable opportunity for a structured reflection and stock-taking of the full range of our development cooperation policies and programmes. It is timely that it helps mark the 40th anniversary of Irish Aid. It also happens at a time when we are preparing a new Foreign Policy which will set out Ireland’s goals and strategies for the period ahead.
Development cooperation is an integral element of our foreign policy. I am very pleased that the Report recognises the important role Ireland plays internationally in fighting hunger and under nutrition and how this commitment of the Government and the Irish people is translated into action and results in our partner countries.
The Peer Review team will have seen how this is put into practice during their visit to Malawi in February. In Malawi, we have fostered partnerships and alliances to promote crop diversification and promote nutritious crops like groundnuts and pigeon peas and help people fight the impact of climate change.
Working closely with smallholder farmers and the private sector we have helped build the production of high quality seeds. These programmes not only provide improved diets for poor people but are also a source of income for households as well as helping them protect the environment. They improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and help reduce erosion.
Malawi was one of three countries visited by our President, Michael D Higgins last month on his three country visit to Africa. The other two were Ethiopia and South Africa.
The visit was an opportunity for the President, on behalf of the Irish people, to see first hand the challenges facing the people of the continent, but also the reality and the opportunities in three very diverse African countries.
The visit highlighted the work of Ireland’s development programme over the past 40 years and the very real partnership between Ireland and the Irish people and the people of Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa. With our new Policy for International Development launched in 2013, we are now in a strong position to look ahead to the strengthening and broadening of the Irish-African partnership over the next 40 years.
By design, our development assistance is 100 per cent untied and overwhelmingly directed towards the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Least Developed Countries. Our absolute priority is the fight against global poverty and hunger. Ireland is spending 20% of our development budget on fighting hunger and working hard to galvanise international action to end hunger.
I am heartened that the OECD has recognised the commitment of the Irish people to our aid programme, particularly during the recent extremely challenging economic times . This report shows that the money is spent effectively to fight child malnutrition, increase the number of children at school, immunise against childhood diseases, and provide clean water, basic health care and improved economic opportunities to millions of people.
Despite the very difficult economic circumstances, we have succeeded in stabilising the development aid budget over the past three years. This year was the first time in six years when the Government found it possible to ensure that there was no reduction at all in Ireland’s ODA. This has been a significant achievement, reflecting continuing public support despite the pressures at home, and also reflecting the positive work of Irish Aid and of the NGO community in delivering results for people on the ground.
The Irish Aid programme is key to Ireland’s reputation as a responsible and committed member of the international community. Despite our small size, we have a strong voice. Ireland has long been recognised as an important actor in international development.
During the UN General Assembly in September this year, which reviewed progress on the Millennium Development Goals, I was honoured to co-host a High Level Meeting on Delivering Zero Hunger, and to sign up to the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge. And as we work with the international community to agree a new development agenda for the Post 2015 period, reducing hunger and poverty will be central to our efforts.
2015 will be a critical year in this fight to end extreme poverty and hunger. We have less than 12 months to maximise progress under the Millennium Development Goals and to negotiate a new framework for international development. This new framework must mark an important shift to sustainable development, with clear and ambitious targets which can end extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition in a single generation.
Those goals will entail responsibilities and actions for all countries. They must aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 and to achieve sustainable development at a global level by addressing challenges in areas such as energy, food, water, climate, peaceful societies and effective governance. And they must be adopted in a credible way, with a commitment to providing the resources to achieve our goals, particularly in least developed countries.
Ireland has been to the fore throughout this process both in the European Union and at the United Nations. Ireland led the development of a road map for the process through our EU presidency and our co-facilitation at the MDG Special Event at the UN with South Africa in 2013. And in our work in the UN Open Working Group, in partnership with Denmark and Erik Solheim’s country, Norway.
Last month, the President of the UN General Assembly appointed Ireland and Kenya to co-facilitate the final major international negotiations to agree these new Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations over the coming year. The appointment is a great honour for Ireland, and a great responsibility. The challenge for the two co-facilitators will be to build consensus among the 193 Member States on a very broad and comprehensive agenda to be adopted at a major Summit of world leaders in New York next September.
The establishment of a new development framework post-2015 is of vital importance in shaping the future direction and impact of our shared development work.
And we firmly believe that Sub Saharan Africa has to be a key focus of our efforts. While much progress has been made in the region, it has still seen an increase in the number of people undernourished and an increase in its proportion of the world’s 800 million hungry people.
The Peer Review recognises the importance that Ireland places on directing our development assistance to Least Developed countries, assisting them in this fight against poverty.
I want to take this opportunity to commend the dedication and commitment of Erik Solheim as the Chair of the OECD DAC for his hard work, his personal commitment and his dedication to helping to achieve consensus on the solutions to the global problems defined under the heading of sustainable development. It is not an easy task and Ireland, through our engagement in the various working groups and high level groups chaired by the OECD DAC will support you in your efforts to achieve our common aim to eradicate poverty and hunger and build a better, more just and more sustainable world.
The Peer Review recognises the importance of a Whole-of-Government approach, underlining the need for coherence between our policy on international development and the work of other Government actors, especially in cross-cutting areas such as climate and taxation. Our commitment to a whole of government approach to international development is clearly stated in One World One Future. My Department is working with the Department of Environment and Local Government to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated all of Government approach to the Post 2015 process. And we have stepped up our cooperation and collaboration with other Government Departments, including the Department of Finance.
I will conclude by reiterating Ireland’s commitment to the achievement of a just and sustainable world, where people are empowered to overcome poverty and hunger and realise their rights and potential. Our commitment is based on our common interest as citizens of the world.
The OECD DAC Peer Review of Ireland confirms we have a top class, internationally-recognised development programme.
But we can not be complacent.
Ireland is seeking continuously to improve the quality of our relationship with our partner countries in Africa, and to ensure the effectiveness of our contributions to NGOs, civil society and the global multilateral system.
I look forward to visiting Africa next year and to supporting and strengthening these efforts.