Questions over aid commitments

Aid agencies have questioned the Government’s commitment to contributing 0.7% of gross national income towards overseas aid after yesterday’s budget showed no increase in funding for overseas development assistance.

Questions over aid commitments

The commitment is contained in the programme for government, with the additional goal of “seeking to achieve this by 2015”.

Trócaire said the figures indicated that Ireland’s percentage allocation will in 2015 fall below 0.4% — a level it has not been at for more than 10 years.

On a more positive note, Trócaire, Christian Aid, and Dóchas, an umbrella body for 61 NGOs, all welcomed the fact there had been no cut to the Government’s overseas development allocation for 2015.

Trócaire executive director Éamonn Meehan said this was positive news “after disproportionate cuts of more than 34% since 2008”, equating to about €300m.

Christian Aid chief executive Rosamund Bennett said given the Government “felt able to cut 1% of the top tax band, I find it difficult to understand why he could not also announce a plan for a return to our international commitment on our overseas aid budget”.

“It’s 14 years since Ireland promised that we would contribute 0.7% of our GDP to overseas aid. We have repeatedly missed that target and there was no mention in today’s budget of if or when we are ever going to achieve it,” she said.

Dóchas director Hans Zomer said it was calling on the Government to set out a strategy for meeting the UN target. He acknowledged that Budget 2015 “has halted the trend of repeated cuts to the aid budget”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the Government had protected the budget for the aid programme, channelled through Irish Aid. He said it had provided €14m this year for the victims of the Syrian conflict; €10m annually to support the Palestinian people; and last Sunday, he announced €2.5m for Gaza. The Government is also providing €16m in assistance to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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