Remarks by Minister Simon Coveney TD
Launch of Irish Aid Annual Report 2016
26th September 2017
I am delighted to welcome you all to Iveagh House for the launch of the 2016 Irish Aid Annual Report. It is a pleasure to join my colleague, Minister Ciaran Cannon, to highlight the results achieved, on behalf of the Irish people, by Ireland’s overseas aid programme.
I have just returned from the United Nations General Assembly in New York where I met many of Ireland’s multilateral and bilateral partners. I’m delighted on my return to be able to meet so many of our civil society partners too.
The Annual Report allows us to tell the story of the people we are working to help in communities in Africa. We reach many of these communities through the work of the organisations in this room. You are critical partners in delivering Ireland’s aid programme and achieving the results highlighted in the report.
As a nation, we have a unique reputation in the developing world. Where our flag flies, it represents our values; be it through peacekeeping or development. This is a reputation we not only need to protect but we need to enhance and build on.
In addressing the United Nations General Assembly last Saturday, I stressed that Ireland believes a strong multilateral system is the only way to achieve a secure and stable world.
Today’s problems of climate change, armed conflict and migration do not carry passports or recognise international borders. There are no unilateral solutions to these problems – we must work together as a global society.
Ireland played an important role in brokering the negotiations resulting in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I will, in the period ahead, ensure that Ireland continues to play a leading role in implementing the 2030 Agenda, both domestically and through our foreign and development policy.
I believe through the aid programme that Ireland makes a difference in the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people. This is something we can all, as Irish citizens, be proud of. But I am also determined that Ireland should take a leadership role within the European Union in developing new political relationships with the continent of Africa.
While today we mark the achievements of a strong and respected programme of development cooperation, many of the issues with which Africa is grappling have answers which are political, rather than responses rooted in more funding. Whether the challenges are around security, migration, climate change or any number of other issues, we need a new political partnership of equals between the European Union and the African Union – these are issues which affect us all. And it is vital our structures for dialogue and shared action are fit for purpose in terms of the urgency of the challenges we face. This is something I hope to explore in more detail with my colleague Foreign Ministers in the European Union ahead of the EU-AU summit planned for Abidjan at the end of November.
I am also planning to visit the Horn of Africa in November. It will be an opportunity to see first-hand the development and humanitarian assistance programmes being supported by Ireland, as well as to build investment and trade links.
On the global stage, Ireland is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council at the elections to be held in 2020 – I was very much pressing the flesh on this in New York last week! We have presented our candidature because we believe deeply that we should step forward and play our part in support of multilateralism at this time of significant global instability. We are also keenly aware that security is the foundation stone upon which sustainable development can be built.
Humanitarian challenges continue to multiply rather than recede, however, despite our and other best efforts. In response to the unprecedented level of humanitarian need in 2016, Irish Aid provided €194m in humanitarian assistance last year – this was over a quarter of the total aid budget. I believe it is our moral responsibility to ease the plight of civilians caught up in conflict or facing drought and famine.
The crisis in Syria is now in its seventh year. There are children who know nothing other than war and violence. There are children whose potential is being squandered as they have never attended school. That is why we provided more than €25 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria and the region in 2016.
We are conscious too of many ‘forgotten’ and underfunded crises and the need to maintain a focus on ensuring that human suffering, wherever in the world it occurs, is not ignored. In 2016, Ireland continued to provide humanitarian assistance to help people in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Minister Cannon will speak of the Annual Report in more detail, but let me just highlight a few key points. Our programme is focussed on least developed countries. In 2016, Ireland directed 56% of our bilateral aid to least developed countries and 59% to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Ireland’s aid is untied and provided wholly on the basis of need.
In 2016, Ireland provided €724 million overall for Official Development Assistance. This represented an increase of 12% over 2015 levels. This is the second consecutive year of growth in ODA volumes, and is a very clear demonstration of this Government’s commitment to increasing resources to the aid programme as economic conditions allow.
Minister Cannon and I look forward to shaping the future direction of Irish Aid, with all of your help. I now invite Ciaran to speak to you and to join me in launching the Report.