BUDGET 2016: €40m extra for overseas aid

More than €640m will be spent overseas aid next year, with the Government committing more funding to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Africa.
BUDGET 2016: €40m extra for overseas aid

The €40m extra allocated to the overseas aid budget is the first substantial increase in seven years.

It comes as the Government is developing a greater capacity to deploy Irish personnel overseas, be they military or civilian, in greater numbers because of the skill sets that they have.

An example of this is the ongoing migrant and refugee rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea and it signals a new departure beyond deploying resources to aid agencies working in specific regions.

Many of the migrants being saved by the navy come from war-torn Syria and Eritrea.

The country’s overseas aid had been falling as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) in recent years, but is now increasing in line with GNP growth.

It currently accounts for 0.36% of GNP, but minister of state at the Department of Foreign Affairs Seán Sherlock said the country is committed to working to achieve the UN’s target of 0.7% of GNP.

“We played a leading role in brokering agreement in the EU to recommit to the target, and to reaching it collectively by 2030 in the context of the new global development framework, Agenda 2030,” said Mr Sherlock.

However, the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations gave a cautious welcome to the news, saying that while it was a step in the right direction, the Government “is not making any meaningful headway towards the target of 0.7% of GNP.

“Without year-on-year plans and commitments, the 0.7% target remains as elusive as it was 14 year ago,” said its director, Hans Zomer.

Mr Sherlock said over the past three years the Government has provided more than €300m for humanitarian assistance worldwide in response to suffering caused by conflict and natural disasters — including more than €100m aid for the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

“We have also provided funding for other crises in Africa, from Somalia and South Sudan to the Central African Republic and the Sahel [a corridor of countries extending from Senegal to Sudan], all of which are contributing to the refugee crisis.”

He said the Government will use humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance in a more co-ordinated and linked way to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis and to build the resilience of endangered communities against future crisis.

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