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Sean Sherlock T.D. at the celebration event for the Mozambique Eyecare Project

Health, Speeches, Africa, Mozambique, Ireland, 2014
Sean Sherlock TD at Mozambique Eyecare Project Celebration DIT

Address by Minister of State Sean Sherlock T.D., at Mozambique Eyecare Project Celebration at DIT

‘A Celebration of Vision’

Address by Minister for Development, Trade Promotion, and North South Co-operation

Sean Sherlock T.D.

at the celebration event for the Mozambique Eyecare Project

Dublin Institute of Technology

25 September 2014

Professor Norton, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking Professor Norton for the presentation of this wonderful Project Photobook.  It is very appropriate on this special occasion that we are able to enjoy and celebrate such a colourful visual record of the achievements of the project. 

It gives me great pleasure to be here today to open this ‘Celebration of Vision’.  I would like to thank the Dublin Institute of Technology for organising this event. Today’s forum provides an excellent opportunity for the institutions from Ireland and Mozambique to present on key areas of mutual learning, to share experience and to exchange knowledge. 

I would particularly like to welcome friends and colleagues who have travelled from Mozambique, South Africa, Canada, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

The presence here today of representatives from the University of Lúrio, from the Mozambique Ministry of Health, and from Mozambican and South African Non-Governmental Organisations, truly reflects the strong ethos of partnership which underpins this Project and the broader relationship between our countries.  I wish all of you an enjoyable and productive stay in Ireland.

It is a pleasure also to see so many representatives here today from the Dublin Institute of Technology, from other Institutions of Technology in Ireland, from the Civil Society Sector, from across Government, including colleagues from my own Department.  On behalf of DIT, the host institution, I would like to offer you all a very warm welcome.

I would also like to thank Mary Kennedy, from RTE our national television broadcaster, for her ongoing support to the Project and for chairing today’s event.

Ireland and Mozambique have been working together on development for 20 years.  We opened an Irish Office in Maputo, now a full Embassy, in 1996.  We have worked with government at the national level, at the provincial level, and with a broad network of Mozambican organisations and Mozambican communities. 

We have built up an engagement in Mozambique, which is now the most significant of all of Ireland's development partners. We were especially honoured to welcome the President of the Republic of Mozambique, Armando Emilio Guebuza, during his State Visit earlier this year.

We have been privileged to work with the Health Ministry and are proud of the role that Ireland plays in representing all development partners in the health sector in Mozambique. 

Ladies and gentleman,

Ireland’s Policy for International Development – One World, One Future – includes a commitment to improving access to essential health services.  We fully recognize that a trained health workforce, to oversee and deliver quality services, is critical to reach those people and communities most in need.  

The Mozambique Eye Care Project stands out as an initiative that has at its core a recognition that blindness, visual impairment and the lack of eye-care services are too often the result of social, economic and developmental challenges. This in turn results in increased vulnerability of the poorest, the people that are at the centre of Ireland’s development efforts.

The Project successfully brings together a critical range of components including access to optometry training; affordable eye care services; collaborative research; strong networks and effective institutional partnerships. 

 The synergies created across these elements have resulted in:

a more coordinated national system for eye care in Mozambique;additional numbers of trained eye care workers;and most importantly, a better quality of life for many Mozambican citizens.

We can anticipate that this project and its impact will potentially deliver even broader social and economic benefits in the years ahead.  It is a project that all of us, committed to sustainable development and improvement in the lives of the poorest people and communities in Mozambique, can be justifiably proud.

 The Mozambique Eye Care Project is one of a number of initiatives supported through Ireland’s Programme of Strategic Cooperation (PSC) managed jointly between Irish Aid and the Higher Education Authority.

The Programme of Strategic Cooperation was launched in 2006 with the aim of providing funding for universities and third-level colleges in Ireland to develop collaborative partnerships with higher education institutions in countries supported by Irish Aid. 

Since 2006 this flagship programme has provided funding of €17 million across fifteen projects for development research, teaching and learning initiatives. This includes €1.5 million to the Mozambique Eye Care Project. 

I am pleased to inform you we plan to evaluate the Programme of Strategic Cooperation next year.  We will build on your own evaluation and evaluations carried out by other partners, with a view to informing a new phase of our relationship with third level institutions in Ireland.  We will place particular emphasis on the role of Institutions of Technology, which we recognise as having a particular strength in applied research and learning. 

At the heart of this partnership is the connection between people. 

I want to warmly congratulate Professor Loughman, his team at DIT and all of the partners in Mozambique for investing energy and commitment in building durable personal and institutional relationships.  The recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Lúrio University and DIT is a reflection of this deepening partnership.

We are also very encouraged by the work that is underway by DIT under a more recent phase of funding through the Programme of Strategic Cooperation.  

This current 3-year programme is building on the lessons from the Mozambique Eye care Project to inform and influence work across 10 other African countries. 

I believe this is an extremely exciting development and I look forward to receiving progress updates over the next 18 months.

Distinguished Guests,

In my previous Ministerial position I had special responsibility for Research and Innovation, areas to which I remain passionately committed. I am therefore delighted that Irish Aid will deliver a key commitment of our International Development Policy and present Irish Aid’s first Research Strategy in early November. This Strategy will guide our work on development research over the next five years. 

 The Research Strategy has three core objectives:

to build evidence on Irish Aid priorities for poverty reduction;to strengthen communication and policy uptake of Irish Aid funded research; andto improve capacity to plan for, conduct and apply development research across Irish Aid partner countries.

You will hear more later this afternoon on how the Mozambique Eye Care Project fits with Ireland’s international development priorities.  It is very clear to me that this Project is well aligned with all three of our research objectives.

Of course contributing to change for poor people and communities on the basis of research and learning is difficult and takes time.  It is critical that we continue to learn, adapt, innovate and share our experience. No one institution, in Ireland or internationally, can go it alone in providing knowledge and learning solutions for today’s complex development challenges.

To make progress we need to harness our efforts collectively.  The Mozambique Eye Care Project is an excellent example of how this can happen in practice.

Ladies and gentleman,

In conclusion I would like to thank you for your warm welcome today.

I wish all of you a very successful and enjoyable event and I look forward to receiving updates on the development and progress of this remarkable partnership. It is with great pleasure that I formally declare ‘The Celebration of Vision’ open.