Overseas Development Aid: Statements.

Thursday, 26 November 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 157 No. 8

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Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Ms O'Donnell): Information on Liz O'Donnell Zoom on Liz O'Donnell Ireland's record to date on overseas development aid is an honourable one and has been recognised as such for a number of years. Under successive Irish Governments, the Irish aid budget has grown steadily and substantially each year since 1992, from a low [596] base of £40 million in 1992 to £137 million this year. This upward trajectory, I am pleased to report, is set to continue. This is a moral and political imperative in a world where 1.3 billion people live in abject poverty at a time of plenty elsewhere in the developed world.

The difficulty in the case of the budgets for this year and next is in relation to the size of the aid budget relative to GNP. Because of exceptional GNP growth, it has proven difficult to achieve ODA growth targets in terms of that particular measure of aid expenditure. This is the challenge with which the Government has been grappling over the past few weeks. This meant that we had on the one hand a problem with Estimates levels for this year and next but we also had a longer-term problem in terms of reaching our GNP targets for ODA. During the Estimates campaign I could foresee a vista taking shape of a progressive slippage if firm action was not taken to put aid on a more secure budgetary framework.

This debate arises from concerns which I felt obliged to express to the Dáil in reply to specific questions on our capacity to reach ODA targets to which Ireland is committed. As Minister of State with special responsibility for ODA and human rights, I have a moral and political obligation to defend the right to development, which is, in itself, a human right. I am responsible not only for authorising spending on overseas development assistance but also for overall Government policy in the area. My stance, which I articulated some weeks ago, related not only to the 1999 Estimates but to the longer term responsibility to increase the aid programme. This was clearly reflected in the Dáil debate on Hurricane Mitch last week. Deputies on all sides of the House, who are familiar with aid issues and the difficulty in budgetary terms of increasing the aid budget, recognise the problem.

However, today I am pleased to put on the record of the Seanad that for the first time the Irish aid budget has been placed on a firm financial footing underpinned by the principle of multi-annual budgeting. This is a radical departure in budgetary terms and a substantial achievement. It will ensure that Irish aid is taken into the millennium with confidence and security. It will enable us, together with our partner countries in the developing world and our partner NGOs, to plan strategically for the future. It will permit us to speak with a self-confident voice on the international stage on development issues and to be a stronger force for justice, morality and human rights. It is an approach which will find favour with the Churches and the aid agencies who have lobbied for a broad consensus on honouring a pledge to the poor countries of the world. There is in Ireland a broad cross-party alliance of people of faith and moral purpose to work towards poverty elimination in the wider world.

Irish aid levels will no longer be at the whim of variable GNP levels and domestic budgetary restrictions. From now on we will have secure cash increases year on year up to the year 2001 [597] and, if we remain in Government, beyond 2001. This will enable us to move progressively closer to the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP regardless of our growth levels and to our interim target of 0.45 per cent by 2002. The annual Estimates wrangle over aid figures is behind us.

Our overseas development aid budget is composed of three principal budgetary elements. First, we make non-discretionary contributions to international organisations such as the EU, the United Nations and the World Bank. This is a vitally important multi-lateral component of Ireland's aid efforts and allows us to meet our binding obligations arising from international conventions such as payments to the Global Environment Facility, the World Food Programme and the European Development Fund.

The second component of our aid budget is our contributions towards debt relief and the provision of low cost long-term loans to the developing world. We have substantially increased our contributions to assist debt relief and to the International Development Association, which provides loans. Debt relief will from now on be an integral part of Ireland's development aid strategy. Our participation in these multi-lateral institutions gives us a voice which we use to ensure that policies take account of the social, political and economic needs of developing countries.

The third focus of our aid budget is our discretionary spending. This is composed of direct assistance to developing countries through Irish Government funded aid programmes as well as to activities of agencies which are not directly funded by the UN such as the World Health Organisation, the UNDP and UNICEF; funding of the Agency for Personnel Service Overseas, emergency humanitarian assistance and funding of Irish aid agencies operating in the developing world.

Under the new agreement which has been recently agreed by the Government on multi-annual financing, the discretionary spending elements of my budget will be increased by 66 per cent or £62.2 million over the next three years. The total spending on the discretionary element of our budget will amount to £400 million over the next three years. This figure will be over and above the normal increases which allow for inflation and additional to our spending on debt relief and our contributions to international agencies. It is a matter of considerable satisfaction that I have been able to come to this secure form of financial arrangement and to once and for all take the aid budget, as it was said, “out of the push and pull” of annual budgetary negotiations. This new departure in the financial arrangements for the Irish aid budget gives us additional resources with which to strengthen our programmes to eradicate poverty in the poorest countries in the world.

A second new departure in aid policy is our new emphasis on debt relief. I want to stress spending on debt relief is additional to the levels of multi-annual funding for the aid budget and [598] will significantly increase our overall ODA-related spending. Debt relief must go hand in hand with assistance towards poverty reduction. There is no question of diverting money from development activities in poor countries for debt relief purposes. As we will all be aware, the debt level of many developing countries places a crippling burden upon them. Servicing this debt diverts vital resources away from crucial areas such as health and education.

In Tanzania, where 40 per cent of people die before the age of 35, debt payments are six times more than health spending. In Africa as a whole, where half of all children do not attend school, governments transfer four times more to northern creditors in debt payments than they spend on the health and education of their citizens.

The Government recently agreed that Ireland should respond to the debt crisis in the developing world through a comprehensive and forward-looking debt relief package. In addition to mobilising over £31 million for debt relief, it was agreed that debt relief should become an integral part of Ireland's overall overseas development co-operation strategy. We will strongly encourage the international community, both bilateral and multilateral creditors, to take a generous and flexible approach to the heavily indebted poor countries and to take all necessary measures to remove the debt burden on those who are least able to bear it.

The European Union is, of course, also a major provider of assistance to developing countries. Not including the programmes of individual member states, the EU is now the fifth largest donor and directs almost half of its assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. Combined with the aid programmes of member states, the European Union spends the largest amount on development assistance in the world. Ireland is working with other EU member states to ensure that EU expenditure is effective and targeted at those more in need of assistance.

There is a very effective opportunity for advocacy and action on behalf of the people of the developing world from within the European Union, particularly on trade. Ireland has actively participated in the preparation of the EU guidelines or mandate for negotiations on a successor framework to the Lomé Convention. We are working hard to ensure that this framework will strengthen the partnership between the developing world and the EU. These negotiations also present us with an opportunity to be advocates for human rights, good governance and the rule of law in the post-Lomé arrangements.

A further measure of our commitment to the developing world was demonstrated last week. Ireland set the tone at the international pledging conference in Copenhagen by substantially increasing Ireland's voluntary contribution to the International Development Association of the World Bank. Other countries followed with increases. The International Development Association provides long-term loans at low rates [599] of interest to some of the poorest countries in the world.

Development assistance and co-operation works. There are still millions living in abject poverty, but more human beings have escaped from poverty in the past 50 years than did in the previous 500 years. Behind the aid figures is a record of solid progress and achievement attained by the Irish aid programme over the years. Not only has extra funding been committed to aid by successive Governments, but the whole area of policy and application has been fine-tuned and made more professional, effective and efficient.

The main focus or core value underpinning the Irish aid programme has been and continues to be a concentration on assisting the poorest of the poor, with particular emphasis on basic health and sanitation and primary education, in a number of priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa. I will give one example in the education area of how the Irish aid input can make a real difference.

In our programme area in Sidama in Ethiopia, school participation has doubled in the past five years and because of new models of community based schools, where schools are localised and closer to communities, 80 per cent of the new intake of pupils are female. In the health sector in Kibaale district in Uganda in 1994, the only hospital catering to 250,000 people was in poor repair and had only one doctor for 100 beds. With assistance from Irish aid, it is now a fully functional facility with a full complement of doctors. The sole doctor we found there in 1994 has just completed an MSc in Public Health at Trinity College and is about to return to Uganda.

For assistance of this kind to be effective it must be sustainable and the best way to achieve sustainability is through forging partnership relations, formalised by bilateral agreements, with the countries concerned. Since the beginning of our aid programme in the 1970s, Lesotho, Zambia, and Tanzania were priority countries for Irish aid. Following the Government's significant commitment to increased aid from 1992 onwards, Ethiopia, Uganda and Mozambique have been added to the list of priority countries and significant programmes are now established in these countries. The programmes in all cases operate on the basis of partnership with the authorities of the countries concerned and are focused on measures to enhance the quality of life and productivity of poor people. In addition. similar programmes are under way in other countries, such as South Africa and the occupied territories in the Middle East.

However necessary and desirable it may be to implement programmes in a spirit of full partnership with recipient nations, we also recognise that real sustainability can only be achieved if local people have the necessary empowerment through an inclusive democratic process which fosters respect for their basic rights and protects the environment in which they live. We work with [600] Governments and civil society in developing countries to ensure that issues, such as democracy, human rights, gender equality and environmental concerns are prioritised. Last Tuesday we had a valuable exchange of views with Irish NGOs, international experts, academics and many individuals working in the field. Our annual National Forum on Development Aid is a direct dialogue with aid workers and experts in our process of evaluation and policy making in Irish aid.

Over the past year I visited one of our traditional priority country programmes in Zambia, a newer one in Uganda and a number of projects in South Africa. I assure the House that funding from the Irish taxpayer is being effectively applied to improving the life opportunities of some of the world's poorest people and that it is being done in a way that fosters long-term sustainability. In other words, this work will have a lasting impact on the lives of poor people.

Members of this House are as concerned as I am about the levels of emergency humanitarian assistance we can offer. Ireland, together with other developed countries, is regularly called upon to address the aftermath of disasters, whether natural or man-made. The recent natural disaster in Central America is a salient example of this.

The delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance is one of the more visible and easily recognised parts of the Government's development co-operation programme. Through the Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Fund, which amounted to £6 million this year, Ireland responds quickly to emergencies, whether natural disasters or more complex emergencies. Sadly, there is no shortage of such emergencies, many of which are so protracted they are called silent emergencies because of lack of attention. The most immediate disasters appear on our television screens at regular intervals.

The effects of El Nin o which culminated in the recent devastation in Central America wreaked havoc across the world but, most particularly, in those countries which were least prepared. It is usually the poorest people who are the most adversely affected. I need only mention Bangladesh, in addition to the countries of Central America, to give an example of the scale of disaster experienced this year. We must follow up emergency assistance with rehabilitation and reconstruction support to help those most affected by these tragic events to recover and resume their livelihoods. To be effective, these programmes of assistance must be carefully planned, monitored and evaluated and, therefore, take more time than the immediate response phase.

Other more complex emergencies are caused by conflict which is then exacerbated by natural disasters. After 15 years of civil war, drought and floods, the people in southern Sudan have almost exhausted their coping mechanisms and are living in the most extreme poverty. Only a massive delivery of food aid is helping hundreds of thousands [601] of people to survive. However, there are still many cases of severe malnutrition and there is a critical need to address food security issues and non-food health related matters, such as water and sanitation. All the aid experts are agreed that resources will need to be provided on a large scale for at least the next 12 months.

We are also being alerted to a potential humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia where the UN is forecasting serious food shortages. This could deteriorate into a major disaster if a sufficient response is not forthcoming from the international community.

In Sudan and the devastated Central America nations we see the major Irish NGOs, together with UN agencies and APSO personnel in some instances, are well placed to put the funding made available by the Government to effective use. On a day to day basis the allocation of grants to the major Irish NGOs is an equally effective way of channelling support to the most needy. I assure Senators that the valuable work done by NGOs will continue to be supported by the Irish aid programme. In the context of our growing aid budget and as we review and monitor the effectiveness of our overall aid programme, the needs and objectives of NGOs will be kept to the fore.

Next year marks the 25th year of Irish Government involvement in development co-operation. This will be an important opportunity for us to reflect on and consider our achievements. In the context of a growing aid budget, I want us to reflect on and develop a strategy on the overall direction of Irish aid and to look critically at our programmes and policies.

In a sense the debate has already begun. Hurricane Mitch and the Irish aid Estimates for spending in 1999 have already stimulated some healthy democratic debate and comment. Issues, such as the value of debt relief and the importance of long-term development strategies, are already being discussed and acted on at international and domestic levels. I acknowledge the vocal support of the NGO community, the churches, many concerned citizens and the unprecedented alliance of the social partners who supported my stance on the Irish aid budget.

I am confident the multi-annual budgetary process, which I announced today, will greatly assist in reaching the interim target of 0.45 per cent of GNP by the year 2002 set in the programme for Government, An Action Programme for the Millennium. That interim target would still leave Ireland short of the UN target for aid of 0.7 per cent of GNP, which, while accepted by all developed nations, has only been achieved by a few countries. These countries, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, have set a high standard in terms of international solidarity and responsibility. We aim to emulate that standard.

I am sure Senators will agree that Ireland's place is with the leaders, not the laggards. Today we can confidently say that from now on we will be up there with the leaders. Our aid budget will [602] no longer be victim to the annual round of Estimates bargaining. We can now look to the future in a planned and strategic context.

The debate on ODA spending has fuelled a welcome debate in Ireland about our commitment to civilised values, honouring a pledge to the poor of the world and Ireland's role in the wider world at a time of plenty. It has evoked memories of our famine past, our common humanity and our values as a society. I am grateful for the support of Government and party colleagues, particularly that of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, on her wonderful work on the British-Irish Agreement. Her stance during the negotiations was remarkable and laudable. She had an important input into that major political development.

I am delighted the Minister of State has come before the House today to discuss the overseas aid budget. In the latest Irish aid report she said the Government is committed to providing fast and effective relief to victims and to work to rebuild societies. The news she has delivered to the Seanad is practical proof that she stands by that statement and is committed to it.

She also managed to convert the Government to believe in the necessity to increase aid to the Third World. I particularly welcome her announcement of a multi-annual budget. It is a progressive and positive move that will enable all concerned to plan strategically and to adequately carry out the necessary preparatory work. That will be far more advantageous for the development of the Third World.

It was unfortunate that the Minister of State was obliged to take such a strong stance on the development aid budget. I was more than amazed that her senior colleagues in Government had neither the wit nor the humanity to see their moral and political obligation to deal with this issue during the Cabinet meeting on the Estimates. Despite our wonderful Celtic tiger economy and a revenue surplus, this matter was overlooked at senior level. The Minister of State must be complimented on her stance on this issue. It was courageous and was taken in the interest of the deprived and the poorest people of the world. When one does that one deserves the praise and compliments of all concerned, regardless of one's political affiliations.

This country has always had an empathy with the suffering of people in the Third World. Our people suffered in the last century during the Famine, but we have managed to progress from severe deprivation to having a progressive and developed economy. Ireland, can be used as an example for developing countries. This country benefited from substantial Structural and Cohesion Funds and other supports from the EU since 1973. As a result, it managed to develop to [603] the point where it has one of the most progressive economies in Europe. Ireland is an example of the importance of development aid for underdeveloped countries. Our performance can be repeated in any of these countries if there is consistency of will among the governments of countries who are in a position to contribute to the Third World.

The announcement by the Minister of State of the increase in aid is extremely welcome. Does that include our commitment to increase our contribution to the European Development Fund from £8 million to £14 million? That increase is a legal obligation.

Ms O'Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell Zoom on Liz O'Donnell Yes.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn The overall increase is welcome and the agencies concerned who have voiced strong views on this issue will welcome the Minister of State's announcement. It is highly commendable.

According to the Minister of State, there are three areas where aid is spent. The first is a non-discretionary contribution to international organisations such as the EU, the United Nations and the World Bank. We are bound by international agreements to provide funding to that sector. The second part of the aid budget is devoted to debt relief and the provision of low cost, long-term loans. This is highly commendable and should be pursued strongly at all levels.

I am concerned about underdeveloped countries which are unable to meet their debt repayments. Sometimes their aid is cut off which results in a considerable deterioration in their circumstances. This policy must be closely monitored and I hope the Minister of State will be a voice for those countries and will highlight their difficulties when such a situation arises. If a country cannot meet its international obligations in this respect, it should not be cut off from funding at another level. It is important in such instances that funding at a different level is increased.

The discretionary element of the budget covers a wide area, from officially recognised organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and so forth, to non-governmental organisations. I hope the Minister of State will carefully examine this element in the overall budget and focus a greater portion of the budget on that sector. While the other two elements are important, there is nothing like direct action on the ground, through which the poor can be provided with immediate and specific relief.

The Irish have done a significant job in this area. Irish missionaries were probably the first Irish people to go to these countries many years ago and they have been helping them ever since. They received no official recognition, but they were the pioneers in this area. More recently, non-governmental organisations such as Trócaire, GOAL and so forth, were established and overseas aid is channelled through them. They do a [604] fine job. There should be greater focus on, and more direct dealings with, these organisations because they work directly with the poor in these countries.

There is also a need for a partnership approach between Irish and indigenous NGOs in the developing countries. If a community group in a stricken area is assisted by outside professionals, such as Irish NGO personnel, the combination could yield a greater benefit for the community of the area. Giving funding to governments or official bodies dilutes its effect. A great deal of money is lost through administration and so on, so the benefit in many cases does not reach the people for whom the funding was sent.

A few years ago we were extremely concerned about Rwanda. There were many debates and the Irish Government sent aid. Now we have discovered that the Rwandan Government carried out genocide against its people and that other serious problems have arisen. Nobody, least of all the Minister of State or her Department, would wish to see taxpayers' money directed to a Government that is responsible for genocide. That is just one example of what can go wrong.

It is important that there is a more direct focus on Irish aid agencies as a means of getting relief directly to those in need of it. While I acknowledge our obligations under various international agreements, I urge the Minister of State to direct funding at the poor.

I could say a great deal more on this issue but I am constrained by time. I hope the Minister of State will keep my comments in mind. I am delighted she came before the House today and with the content of her announcement. I compliment her on her courageous stance on this issue and congratulate her on her success with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the other members of the Government. It demonstrates the need for more women in senior positions in the Administration. It would result in more effective Government.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan Zoom on Mick Lanigan I welcome the Minister to the House. I compliment her, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach on the stance they have taken on overseas development aid. I am glad Deputy O'Donnell's public statement was taken up by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We are witnessing the beginning of a concerted effort to provide aid on a regular basis. The people of Ireland are being asked to contribute a very small amount to the overseas development aid budget, which is very minimal given the problems that exist in the world.

So that people are aware of the extent of poverty that exists in the world I will quote an extract from The Reality of Aid — An Independent Review of Development Co-operation 1997-1998. It reads:

Most human beings at the end of the twentieth century live in poverty. The most widely-used estimate of the extent of absolute [605] poverty is that of the World Bank. [I do not generally believe Work Bank statistics.] Its most recent figures state that 1300 million people live on less than US$ 365 a year or less than US$1 a day. Even this seriously underestimates the extent of poverty. The UNDP reports that 80% of the world's population lives on about 15% of the world's total GNP. These figures suggest that about 4300 million people live on an annual average per capita income of around $750, a little over $2 a day.

This has led one development academic to write that: “In the poor countries of the world there are no administratively convenient ‘pockets of poverty’. The poor form a majority. They are the peasants and the popular urban sectors. They are the people. The World Bank did not draw this conclusion, however. To do so would have led it to abandon its traditional approach to economic growth and ‘development’”. The World Bank's estimates instead lead it to regard the poor as a special, minority group. [Statistically, the poor are the majority group.]

Whether or not the poverty line is drawn at $1 or $2 a day, it still fails to capture aspects of human poverty that cannot easily be reduced to a dollar figure. Rather than measure poverty by income, the UNDP has introduced a human poverty index (HPI) which uses indicators that reflect the conditions in which people in poverty live: life expectancy, literacy, child nutrition, and access to health services and safe drinking water. The HPI was introduced by the UNDP Human Development Report 1997 to provide a complementary measurement of poverty to those traditionally using income.

It is extremely important that we use conditions rather than income to determine levels of poverty. There are people in the world who live in abject conditions and whose income is not the norm upon which we should base findings.

Sister Stanislaus-Kennedy frequently speaks about poverty levels in Ireland. There is no doubt but that a huge number of people live below what are acceptable norms. However, they do not live in the type of poverty experienced by the majority of people in Third World countries. People deprived of a percentage of their country's income do not live in abject poverty without hope as do the people in the Third World.

I have visited many parts of the Third World where poverty is a continuing fact of life. Whether we increase our aid levels to 0.7 per cent of GNP or maintain them as they are, people are continually living in grinding poverty. Many small aid agencies try to help to alleviate poverty and suffering but unfortunately their efforts fail. The only way they could succeed is if there was a transference of wealth from the first world to the Third World. That is not happening. Poverty in the Third World is increasing every year as prosperity in the first world is growing at an even greater rate. The number of people who are dying as a result of living in abject poverty is increasing.

[606] We have substantially increased our budget in this area over the past couple of years but it will never put a dent in the problems that exist.

Many of the problems in the Third World are caused by natural catastrophes such as happened recently in South America. Equally, man-made catastrophes such as the West's exploitation of “poorer” countries who have huge natural resources has contributed to the problem. An example is the situation of the Ogoni people in Nigeria and the poverty in Angola which have huge oil resources. A combination of bad Government and low oil prices is resulting in poverty in Iraq. Western governments do not want oil to flow out of Iraq because the price of a barrel of oil is down to $10.47. If Iraq were to put three or four million barrels of oil a day onto the market the economies of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Venezuela and Mexico, etc. would suffer dramatically. We can blame Saddam Hussein but we must equally blame Western countries for the way they handle situations.

The Minister mentioned the problems being experienced in the Middle East. There is no doubt but that the rest of the world has contributed to keeping the Palestinian people at an unacceptable level of development. Gaza is a hell-hole of poverty and deprivation. We have to look at the effectiveness of NGOs and United Nations agencies. Unfortunately the United Nations agencies have created a sub-society in many of the countries in which they serve, such as Mozambique and Sierra Leone. If one visits a deprived country the first thing one sees is four-wheel drive vehicles marked with UN, UNDP, UNHCR, probably driven by a native but organised for use by people from the first world who are earning western type salaries and who live in western comfort. These people create a sub-society in Third World countries which does not help the poor and deprived.

Many aid agencies — I will not mention them by name, they are well known — take a bigger share of the cake, earned through advertising such as “sponsor a child in Africa”, than many countries receive. They do not help to alleviate the poverty in those countries but create enormous industries there. The smallest agencies in Ireland — too numerous to mention — do exceptional work. They perform specific jobs of long-term benefit to the people concerned.

I congratulate the Minister on the work she has done to date in her Ministry. Being from Kilkenny, I must also thank the Minister's team.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis We will not mention names.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan Zoom on Mick Lanigan No, we cannot.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis Unlike yesterday evening.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan Zoom on Mick Lanigan The Minister's work in this area is very much appreciated. She must fight as hard as she can for the people of the Third World who [607] deserve and need our assistance. We can afford it even though we may say differently.

Mr. Ryan: I welcome the Minister of State. She adds to my political dilemma of how a party which is so wrong about so many things can have so many nice and good people.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan Zoom on Mick Lanigan The Senator would be all right if he went back to his roots.

Mr. Ryan: A colleague and I explored my roots and discovered that I have at least one grandparent with a Quaker name. Perhaps that is from where many of my instincts come.

I am still not clear about what the Minister of State has achieved. She has achieved significant progress but it would be nice to know how this fits in with the published Estimates. I am not being begrudging but I would like to know. Undoubtedly, the Minister of State successfully fought a major battle and I wish to be as generous as possible to her. She took a brave, worthwhile position and I am glad that it appears to have been a considerable success. However, I am still not clear as to how the cash figures, which are welcome, guarantee a progression towards the percentage of GNP which Senator Dardis has gone to great lengths to explain on many occasions. I do not think he has done so successfully but he has tried hard. However, the Minister of State has not clarified the mechanisms in place to guarantee that the figures will match another spectacular 10 per cent growth in GNP, if it occurs.

I have no doubt about the commitment of the Minister of State and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, on this issue. However, I am less certain about the commitment of the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, and even less certain about the commitment of the Department of Finance. I admire the Minister of State's generosity in thanking the Minister for Finance, beyond which I will say no more.

I compliment the Minister of State's fairly extensive reference to debt relief. The people of Nicaragua are still suffering from the debt incurred, not by the Sandanistas, as no one would loan them any money, but by the Somosa oligarchy. All of the money lent to Nicaragua in those years went to Somosa and his family. It was never repaid or used but the international community still requires the present Government to pay the debt which was squandered, misused and stolen by a dictator 15 years ago. The international community will have to confront the debt issue.

It should be compulsory for every Member of the Oireachtas to visit one of the Irish development projects. No matter whether one believes one is well informed or poorly informed, the scale of the problems and the extraordinary work of our development programmes need to be seen and experienced first hand by Members of the [608] Oireachtas. They need to travel on what are euphemistically described as “roads” in countries that are euphemistically described as “developing”, such as Tanzania. People living in the West do not know about these things. They know about them in their heads but they do not know what the situation is like until they experience a little of it for themselves. One of the reasons for the cross-party consensus on this issue which has been so evident over the past few weeks is the fact that a considerable number of Members of the Oireachtas have seen what we are doing.

I would be the first to praise the achievement of countries such as Sweden, but we should not be too unqualified in our praise. A considerable part of the 0.7 per cent and above which Sweden has achieved is tied to the purchase of Swedish products. Some of these products are not the most appropriate or serviceable for the projects involved. One of Ireland's far-sighted decisions was not to tie overseas development aid to commercial links. There are certain links through APSO, but the fact that we do not tie aid or expect recipient countries to buy our products or deal with our companies, is a generous and sensible decision. The effectiveness of our aid programme can be seen in Tanzania and Lesotho where the aid is singularly and simply focused on development. I am glad that we adopted this policy and that a succession of Governments have resisted what I am sure are occasional lobbies, particularly from Irish manufacturers.

The issue of development includes other areas. As the immediate problem has been solved by the Minister of State, I will mention some of these issues. Like Senator Lanigan, I increasingly wonder whether the World Bank causes more harm than good. It has imposed a succession of plans, requirements and conditions on countries. In Lords of Poverty, Graham Hancock suggests that an internal review indicated that 65 per cent of World Bank-funded projects fail. The Minister of State said that aid does not have to fail. There is considerable evidence that aid works when it is properly planned and implemented in consultation with local people and according to the needs articulated by local people. We cannot have a situation where an international development expert flies in from Geneva, New York or Rome from the Food and Agriculture Organisation, takes one look and decides what is a good project. That is not the way things work and such approaches have done considerable harm.

The last time I checked, there were more people working in the headquarters of the UNFAO than in all its field projects combined. The average salary of senior executives was about $250,000. I have considerable doubts about such organisations. These organisations used to be the way forward. However, I am increasingly a believer in bilateral aid, particularly by small countries with a considerable NGO involvement and with the maximum local involvement in the planning, development and appraisal of projects. [609] The best people to appraise a project are those who are on the receiving end. Such people can carry out a better review than an international agency.

The Minister of State rightly mentioned Sudan. We must deal with and end the international arms industry and trade. There is no such thing as an ethical arms trade. There is only one ethical measure to take in the case of the arms trade and that is to bring it to an end. It is not acceptable for countries to export arms to other countries. I have always said that the difference between the drugs trade and the arms trade is that drugs are made by poor people and sold to rich people while arms are made by rich people and sold to poor people. Arms kill more innocent, non-combatant people every year than the entire drug culture will ever do. Morally we cannot stand back from this issue. All our efforts will be frustrated as they have been in Sudan and in other places if we do not deal with the issue of the arms trade. It is the most fundamental moral issue in the world today.

I congratulate the Minister. I am glad she was successful in achieving an increase in overseas development aid, as she deserved to be.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis I welcome the Minster of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs to the House. I join in the congratulations to her on achieving the very substantial increase in the amount of money made available for overseas development aid in the coming years. I congratulate her particularly on having that allocation placed on a firm basis with multi-annual budgeting.

It is unusual in these Houses to hear people who have nothing being defended, particularly those who have no votes. It is even more unusual to hear in these Houses a defence of people in other parts of the world who have nothing. The Minister is to be lauded for making that defence.

Mr. Ryan: Hear, hear.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis This is the second time in a week that the House has proclaimed the rights of people who are disadvantaged. The first was the defence of the people of East Timor. The record of the House is satisfactory in this regard.

It is important to proclaim the right of everyone to the basic level of nourishment and security on which human dignity is attendant. The adoption of the overseas development aid target is part of An Action Programme for the Millennium which was agreed by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats on the formation of the Government. That programme states that it will be a priority to adopt an interim overseas development target of 0.45 per cent of GNP by 2002 and to progress towards reaching the UN target of 0.7 per cent. Significant progress has been made in recent years. As Senator Ryan has said, I have defended a reduction in that percentage at times when the national economy is growing very rapidly. I also admit that where the [610] national economy is growing rapidly there is a greater onus on us to find the resources to provide this support for people who have little or nothing. It is essential that these targets be met and that we progress towards the 0.45 per cent commitment given in An Action Programme for the Millennium.

Irish people readily identify with those who have nothing, given our own history of the potato famine and the starvation and emigration which resulted from it. We remember how some people stood by while others died. For those reasons we must know our responsibilities in this regard. We are 11th in the list of 21 OECD donor countries in terms of overseas aid. Only the Nordic countries, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have achieved the UN target of 0.7 per cent. Our standing in the international community is satisfactory but now that we have joined the wealthier countries of northern Europe we must accept our responsibility to achieve the UN target. It is a matter for celebration that we have achieved the level of prosperity of the wealthier European nations. That prosperity is light years away from the misery which prevails in other parts of the world.

We farmers complain about weather, bad harvests and poor prices. Those complaints are legitimate but when we see TV reports from Honduras and Nicaragua our own problems are placed in stark perspective. There we see not poor harvests but entire farms being washed away. As a farmer I can readily identify with that circumstance. This identification by Irish people is reflected in our very good record of raising money on a voluntary basis and distributing it to less well off parts of the world. There are more elements in this question than the obligations of Government, although they are serious. We also have obligations as Christians and as individuals to do something.

Overseas aid must be targeted correctly. I favour channelling funds through NGOs to targets identified by those organisations so they are not absorbed in some huge international bureaucratic system. Bilateral aid, channelled through NGOs and targeted to specific projects is essential. It is much better to help people to help themselves than to provide them with food aid. Emergencies occasionally arise, such as the current emergency in Central America, when food and supplies must be sent immediately. Our long-term target must be the provision of technology to people in disadvantaged areas so that they become self reliant. Breeding dwarf wheat in Mexico led to the alleviation of famine in the Indian sub-continent. Wheat bred on one side of the world was of practical help to people on the other side. That example sends a message to all of us.

I welcome the Minister's statement on the burden of international debt. Bankers often take a more lenient view of debt default by wealthier countries than by very poor ones. It is clear that poverty is being accelerated by the degree of debt in underdeveloped countries. The Minister [611] quoted the example of Tanzania where six times more is spent on servicing the debt than on health spending. The Minister said this matter is an integral part of Ireland's development aid strategy and I welcome that comment.

As a developed society and a member state of the EU we must consider the matter of surplus and famine. The production of surpluses of grain, meat and other produce which, for purely financial reasons, cannot be distributed to areas in need is an obscenity. I understand why this happens but I do not condone it. If one gives a person a fish one feeds him for a day, but if one teaches him how to fish you feeds him for life. That must be our philosophy in dealing with countries less well off than ourselves.

I agree with the Minister of State with regard to encouraging democracy and the protection of human rights and the environment in many of these countries, but aid should not be conditional on those targets being achieved. If the need is greatest, that must be the priority. While the objectives are desirable and should happen, aid should not be conditional on the achievement of same. I again thank the Minister of State and congratulate her on what she has achieved.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman Zoom on Mary Jackman I, too, welcome the Minister of State. I am delighted she had the courage to take a strong stance when the ODA budget was not increased. When she raised this issue she caught the imagination of the Irish people who sometimes need to be prodded — not in relation to their voluntary contributions — but in regard to what a Government is committed to doing about reaching the 0.7 per cent target. I am glad she got it on the agenda.

I was interested in the expression she used during the Estimates campaign. She said: “I could foresee a vista taking shape of a progressive slippage”. I am sure her statement will be recorded in the annals as a pun on the Progressive Democrats. She meant progressive slippage would happen if firm action was not taken. Despite the fact that there might have been some difficulty in relating the budget issue, the size of the aid relative to the GNP, we do not have a problem when it comes to screaming for Objective One status. We are well able to go to Europe and demand to look at figures and seek a regionalisation change to fit into the requirement for EU funding. If we are able to do that for Objective One status, when our economy is doing so well we should be able to ensure our aid budget is appropriate.

Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have been mentioned. In relation to how far we have gone as regards our growth rate, I would like to know the figures for other countries, particularly donor countries in the EU. I am sure I could have got the information on Italy, France and Germany who are not as generous as the Nordic countries and despite the fact that Senator Ryan did mention that they have more aid, some of it is bilateral aid. Ireland also [612] receives some bilateral aid, but we tend to be more giving because we want to and not because of an economic spin-off.

Now that the heat is off due to the success of the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, we should monitor the matter to ensure we reach our 0.45 per cent target, regardless of whether the current rate of economic growth continues. We have given a commitment to the 0.45 per cent target. As members of the UN we have been part and parcel of the development of that figure and regardless of whether we have unprecedented economic growth and Exchequer surplus, we should not renege on our commitment. We should not whine if the rate of our economic growth slows down because we have given that commitment. Trócaire recommended that we provide £40 million this year which would gradually bring us closer to the 0.45 per cent target to be reached by the year 2002.

Interestingly, the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, referred to our last president Mary Robinson who now works to promote human rights. Ireland is viewed as a country with a strong sense of human rights, but the most basic human right is the elimination of poverty. There are enough resources to feed every person in the world and we have a moral duty to ensure nobody dies of poverty. That should be, and is, the priority of our Irish aid agencies.

I would also like to refer to education for women. I am glad there has been an improvement in the situation in Ethiopia. During the mid-1980s when the Ethiopian crisis was at its worst, I travelled there with a number of teachers. Senator Ryan suggested that Members should spend some time in developing countries. I wrote a book along with other teachers and Trócaire personnel about creating awareness in the education system for development education. Unfortunately, it has gone slightly off the agenda. The title of the book is Food Matters and there is a pun on the title. My trip to Ethiopia made my geography classes at junior and senior levels more relevant. I could explain to them what I had seen and I think they were intellectually and emotionally cut-up. It is extremely important that we emphasise the importance of development education within the primary, secondary and third level curricula. Such a measure would make the Minister of State's brief much easier in catching the imagination and the commitment of the Irish people.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher I welcome the Minister of State to the House. We have sought a debate on the ODA for some time and I supported requests from all sides of the House for such a debate.

When I was a Dáil Deputy I chaired the sub-committee on overseas development which was part of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. It was clear from most of the proceedings of the joint committee and all of the proceedings of the sub-committee on development co-operation that Members from all political parties, [613] including the Independents, supported the idea that the amount of money given by the Government through its Irish aid budget and the other contributions it makes to international development should be increased to the highest possible level.

The 1980s was a time of great financial stringency in this country. During that time the health, education, overseas development aid and other areas were viewed as soft targets. They were not soft. The Irish have always given generously to emergency humanitarian appeals and long-term development which is undertaken by some organisations. The views of the Irish people were evident from 1993 onwards in the cross-party support for the measures the Government took to try to redress the imbalances and reductions which had taken place in previous years.

I have no doubt about the Minister of State's commitment to her responsibilities and her brief, her understanding of the issues or her commitment to raising these issues at Government level and getting a response. Therefore, I was shocked to see that this year's Book of Estimates showed a reduction in overseas aid and that the commitments we gave to the world to meet UN targets were not going to be adhered to.

Can Members of the Cabinet tell me why the Minister of State's commitment to this area was not carried through in the Estimates battle? I have no doubt that, because of the furore that was created, the concerns expressed in both Houses, by the NGOs and the wider community that something will be done in the budget. That is not good enough because the Estimates are a statement of what the Government intends to do. The Government has stated it intends to renege on commitments regarding overseas development aid.

I also believe we should support the Minister of State in her ongoing battle to have this matter addressed by the Cabinet and by the Minister for Finance especially. Given his recent statement on how he intends to limit the rise in spending to 4 per cent, it is difficult to see how the targets to which the Minister of State is committed and to which the Government says it is committed can be met, even on budget day. I appeal to the Government to recognise the mistake it has made, to recognise that the public supports whatever needs to be done to put financial resources in place to meet our international obligations and to give a commitment commensurate with what Irish people donate in voluntary contributions. I hope the Minister of State is successful and that our support will assist in eliciting the required response from the Minister for Finance on budget day. The lesson must be learnt from this mistake and the Book of Estimates in subsequent years cannot show that the Government is weak on this issue and intends to break its commitments.

The second area to which I refer is our interaction with development issues through our contributions and support for agencies, be they at EU level, at the level of the World Bank or of the [614] International Monetary Fund. The IMF is discredited and I debated this matter at the last meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs with Deputies O'Malley and Dukes. The IMF has proved in the case of Russia, Indonesia and Korea that, whatever role it has in terms of monetary control and intervention, it has no brief for wider economic development. I do not want to see the Government reverse the decision taken by its predecessor and introduce legislation which means we will contribute to the enhanced structural adjustment facility, something the IMF seeks. Why are we revisiting this issue? It was decided following pressure from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and NGOs to reverse the decision taken by the then Minister for Finance, now the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, to contribute to the enhanced structural adjustment facility. I acknowledge the support which the Minister of State's predecessor, Joan Burton, gave me in my role as Chairman of the Sub-committee on Development Co-operation in persudading the previous Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, reverse that decision.

It is wrong to contribute to ESAF because it does nothing for people in those countries and only reinforces the cuts in basic social services, such as health and education, which the IMF imposes on them, the effect of which I have seen in African countries. Instead of a small number of officials in the Department of Finance wishing to be part of the club at international meetings by virtue of our contributing to this IMF fund, why not support the small, local credit schemes of which the Minister of State is aware and with which the Irish aid programme works, in places such as Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda? That is how we should be contributing directly in financial terms to alleviate poverty and deprivation in those countries, not by supporting discredited IMF policies which reinforce the suffering of those people.

I appeal to the Government to desist from its stated intention of introducing legislation allowing us contribute to ESAF. It would be a small step in financial terms but a large one in reinforcing the public impression, especially that of the NGO and development community, that this Government, while strong on principle in relation to international development, is weak in practice.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole I thank the Minister of State for attending and for addressing herself to the motion we asked to be debated. It is regrettable her party colleagues in the House would not agree to it. I compliment her on addressing a motion her colleagues on the Government side were afraid to have discussed. I thank her for her courage in doing so, which is much appreciated.

This debate is a crucial part of the political responsibility of every elected person. The image of politics is one of people always taking the short cut and making a deal for a local person with a problem. That is important in its own way but is [615] only part of political responsibility. Another part is examining topical issues, a third is examining national policy and a fourth and hugely important part is international and global affairs. No public representative can be comfortable in discharging his or her responsibility without considering that aspect of their work. It strikes a chord in that there are many politicians, like me, whose entry into political life was intermingled with concern and involvement with various groups, be it support groups for El Salvador, Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua or Bhutan.

The Minister of State's recent stand must be admired. I cannot interpret the figures given to me but I know an increase when I see one. There is a significant one in this case and it is welcome. In terms of how it should be used, I, like Senator Gallagher, worry about money being lost in a number of ways. One is where most of it is spent on travel and administration, two is where it is spent on groups such as the one mentioned which may not do exactly what we want of them, and three — often overlooked — is where it is lost through corruption in the country towards which it is directed. Therefore, I was delighted to see the recognition given by the Minister of State to NGOs, which are hugely important because they ensure the money is spent in the right areas. It worries me and should concern everyone that so many groups are involved in directing aid to the developing world. I hope a Minister at some future stage will be able to broker agreement between all the worthy groups of which there are so many.

In terms of the world economy, the argument has not been made that the only wealth available to us, globally or nationally, is that of our people. It is in the intelligence and creativity of our people that investment must be made. If people do not have the basic necessities, they cannot develop. The basic necessities provided by much of the overseas development money become a prerequisite to the development of education, qualification, contribution and participation, a growth in world wealth, to put it in pure and crude economic terms. The longer we are greedy and less generous towards the developing world, the longer it will take to sort out the problems and share in what they have to contribute. There is a huge lack of understanding that we can be enriched and improved as a society by our interaction with the developing world.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I echo everything said about the Minister of State. She should know how much her role in public life is valued and I will not spend any more time speaking on that because I take it as read and time is very brief.

I was going to raise in my speech the many concerns expressed to me by Trócaire, Concern, Afri, etc., but the Minister of State seems to have met most of those concerns in her speech and that is very welcome. However, in her speech she said, “The difficulty in the case of the budgets for this [616] year and next is in relation to the size of the aid budget relative to GNP”. She went on to say, “Irish aid levels will no longer be at the whim of variable GNP levels”, so there is a type of severance.

I assume we are still committed to our target of 0.7 per cent of GNP. I assume it also means that if we continue to have this astonishing growth we will continue to try to meet the increased targets and that it would never be used to go downwards. That would be very welcome.

All the agencies contacted me about multi-annual funding. The Minister of State has achieved that, which is very welcome indeed. I will not talk about figures specifically because there is not enough time and anyway I am not any good at it. I find it difficult to tease out the implications of all these matters. It seems to me, however, that we have a very positive situation and I congratulate the Minister of State on it.

There is a real debt crisis which we now appear to be doing something about. I welcome that very much. It is appalling that we should extract money from the poorest people on earth.

I also congratulate the Minister of State on organising the national conference on development aid that was held recently in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. It was a fascinating and worthwhile event which was well attended, although not as well attended by Members of the Oireachtas as one would have wished. I asked whether there were representatives there from the Department of Finance because I felt they should see how excellently the budget is being spent. I was surprised to find that there was nobody there from the Department of Finance. I hope that in future somebody from the Department will attend such events to see how wisely the Minister of State's Department has been spending the money.

The contribution of Dr. Makumbe was fascinating. He spoke about targeting aid directly and the difference of perception between northern area NGOs and those of the southern area. That information was very useful, but time does not permit me to put it all on the record. He made it clear that he felt it was good to get money directly into these agencies and to allow them some small degree of profit making and investment in building resources and personnel. In the north we are sometimes too prim about these matters.

We must also recognise that we are donor recipients. We spoke about achieving a target of 0.7 per cent, but we actually receive about 4 per cent of our budget as grants from the European Union. Because we are recipients of aid we should also be conscious of the need to continue our aid programme in the manner the Minister of State indicated.

We should examine what aid we are putting into Central America. The plan was to give £450,000 to APSO and Trócaire, which represents about seven hours of debt repayment. I presume they will revise the budget again to give the original [617] amount of humanitarian aid, but even if they had kept it at that, it only comes out at 0.075 per cent of the Exchequer surplus of £1.34 billion. The sum of £1 million would only represent 18 hours of debt repayment in Central America. The situation is quite astonishing.

I will address briefly the question of structural adjustment funds which have a serious question mark over them, including the enhanced structural adjustment facility through the IMF. I hope we will find further ways of giving money directly to these countries, thus avoiding the IMF criteria which involve people in financial repayments that are damaging to local economies.

After the hurricane in Nicaragua, for example, landmines were dislodged, so the situation is far worse there now. For the soil to be used again, the landmines will have to be cleared.

As regards the multi-annual funding system there seems to be a move away from the stop-go policy of aid funding. The Minister of State has done a very good job on this.

It comes as a great pleasure to me to find that I am able to agree with their lordships, the bishops of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, who have written a series of splendid letters. They even joined other people in writing them, including Archbishop Walton Empey of Dublin. There was a very good letter to the Sunday Business Post about a week ago in which the bishops made the point, with regard to structural readjustment, that:

It may be theoretically good practice to insist on these criteria, but it is like giving strong medicine to an already weakened patient. If you deliver too sharp a shock to the system it can actually kill the patient.

I wish there was more time. The Minister of State deserves the hearty congratulations of the House.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry I add my congratulations to the Minister of State who has done a splendid job. I realise we have international obligations to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but I hope that if any areas will be kept short it will be those. Emergency aid and non-governmental organisations are far more important.

I visited West Africa this summer where I saw the Volta dam, which we in the west insisted upon being built 30 years ago to supply electricity. The whole dam is silted up so that for a considerable part of the year many West African countries have only four hours of electricity per day.

At the same time oil is being exported from Lagos and Port Harcourt. Nigeria is awash with oil which is going to America, but there is no pipeline to other West African countries. Indeed, there is no electricity supply line to neighbouring countries from Nigeria where it could be produced by oil-fired generators. There are numerous examples like that all over the underdeveloped world where we insisted that certain plants be put in place which have been disastrous for [618] those economies. I support those who say that aid should be planned much more on a local level.

While debt relief is important, Senators have made the point that such debts were often incurred by Governments that did absolutely nothing for their people. They, in fact, removed a considerable amount of the money from their countries to other locations.

The Minister of State mentioned the education of women, which is incredibly important in the developing world. I am a member of the International Medical Women's Association which has found that the greatest influence on infant mortality is the education of women. The infant mortality rate decreases as women are better educated. If women in developing countries receive a few years of secondary school education the infant mortality rate can be as good as in much of the developed world. That requires clean water among other things, but they understand how important and necessary such items are.

Simple things, such as helping to produce more efficient stoves, are extraordinarily important for women. Some 90 per cent of the energy consumed in the poorest countries is spent on trying to cook food. This leads to terrible deforestation because brushwood, saplings and mature trees are cut down for such use. In Africa, I saw deforestation which was caused by people trying to gather enough fuel to cook their dinner.

Women make an incredibly important contribution to agriculture in developing areas. Some 80 to 90 per cent of the food in many developing countries is produced by women. Therefore, there is little point in sending tractors when what they need are hoes. All such aid should be user friendly so that local people can make the best possible use of it.

I was struck by the extent of air pollution in large African cities. We could do an enormous amount about that because most of the cars there are supplied from Europe. We could help by insisting that cars' exhaust emissions must be tested before they are exported to Africa. In that way, they would not pump fumes into the air of African cities — something that is not allowed in Europe. In addition, photovoltaic fridges could be used in tropical countries to prevent vaccines from going off. That problem has caused epidemics because people thought children had been properly vaccinated.

I thank the Minister of State for all she has done.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly Senator Quinn has approximately one minute.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn Zoom on Fergal Quinn I have heard of being brief, but one minute is very brief. However, I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I will make just one point. Some five or six years ago I had the opportunity of visiting Chile where I saw a women's co-operative in the slums of Santiago. The co-operative was being supported by a wealthy Belgian who had put a small amount of [619] money, from his point of view, into the project. I was impressed by what a little money could achieve, when used in the right way. It acted as a catalyst to develop so many self-help groups of ten or 12 people who got together every week. One person wanted enough money to buy lettuce leaves, another wanted to buy a spade and a third wanted to buy some chickens. When the money was provided, they were able to improve their lives.

We must learn that the challenge is not insurmountable once we manage to use money in the correct way. Everyone remembers the old Oxfam posters which stated “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day, teach the man to fish and you will feed him for life”. We must learn to use this money in the right way. I welcome the Minister of State's dedication and determination and I congratulate her on her success in bringing about the developments she outlined earlier. I am glad that this debate took place because it gave us an opportunity to witness what the Minister of State has achieved through her determination.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly The time ordered for these statements was 90 minutes. That time has now been exhausted. However, with the agreement of the House, the Minister of State may make a brief reply. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Ms O'Donnell): Information on Liz O'Donnell Zoom on Liz O'Donnell I thank Senators for their contributions and for providing me with an opportunity to make this announcement which has resolved the situation. It is clear that many Senators are familiar with the issues involved, particularly the role of NGOs, the need to direct aid to where it will be most effective and the need for sustainability in our aid programmes.

Senator Ryan inquired about the nature of the multi-annual approach announced today. This approach will ensure, from a practical point of view, that enormous benefits will flow from the introduction of what will be a guaranteed multi-annual funding programme. Aid providers who work at the coalface can be confident that there will be predictability of funding in the future. The growth in the aid budget is extremely important but predictability of funding is equally important. Predictability will allow my officials, the stakeholders in Irish aid provision, the poor people of [620] the world and their governments and the aid agencies to make medium-term plans in respect of their programmes.

There will be a firm commitment by way of guaranteed minimum cash increases on that sector of my programme relating to direct aid. In other words, the programme is not concerned with multilateral institutions or debt relief because those areas are being catered for separately. The problem which existed in respect of our funding has been resolved by way of focusing substantial guaranteed minimum cash increases on those subheads during the next three years. As a result, there will be a predictable level of funding.

My original concern stemmed from the fact that we might fall away from the upward trajectory necessary to reach the international target of 0.45 per cent outlined in the programme for Government. I am confident that we remain on that trajectory and that the aid budget will not be the subject of an annual wrangle involving competing domestic requirements and rates of GNP. Our ODA will continue to be linked to GNP but, regardless of whether GNP increases or decreases, I will be able to obtain guaranteed minimum cash increases up to a ceiling of £62.2 million during the next three years.

My officials are delighted with the outcome of this matter. I hope the broad alliance of social partners, aid agencies and churches which came together to support me will be glad to know that we can, with confidence and security, proceed for the next three years on an upward trajectory in respect of funding, the levels of which will now be predictable.

I thank Senators for the many interesting points raised. There was a great deal of correlation in that regard and Senators primarily expressed confidence in NGOs and a hope that these bodies will receive increased funding. Irish NGOs are famous worldwide for their commitment and expertise and that will be taken into account in terms of the partnership we will be fostering with them during the next three years to ensure the proper use of this money.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis On Tuesday next at 2.30 p.m. The Seanad adjourned at 5.15 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 1 December 1998.


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