ANN CAHILL: Ireland to maintain development aid target

IRELAND intends to maintain the target of contributing 0.7% of gross national product for development aid by 2015, despite the economic crisis, Jan O’Sullivan, Minister of State for Trade and Development, said.

However, because the country’s GNI has decreased by 30% over the past three years the actual sum drops from €920m to €670m this year.

The Labour minister said she will be working to ensure the public agree with the decision to stick to the spending targets. “We want to ensure we bring our people with us in our own time of difficulty and that they want to spend the money in this way. NGOs are very well supported and it’s not an issue of political conflict. But it is important we engage with people so they understand what we are doing in their name,” she said.

Minister O’Sullivan announced a review of the country’s development aid programme with the aim of having much greater cooperation with non-governmental organisations and being better able to measure what Irish aid achieves.

Programmes will continue to focus on relieving hunger and poverty. “Ireland is recognised as a leader in the area of hunger and the EU is coming to realise that it’s the most central issue”, she said referring to the European Commission’s new policy proposals.

Malnutrition and hidden hunger affects an estimated 2 billion people worldwide and is responsible for 3.5 million preventable child deaths each year.

The Minister said the EU’s proposals mirror Ireland’s approach in some ways, including in focusing on least developed countries. She pointed out that Ireland also has internal and external independent monitoring of how effectively money is spent and ranks high in the OECD list.

Irish officials will travel to South Sudan, expected to become independent on July 9, to see what contribution Ireland can make at the donors conference to be hosted by the US in July or August.

Development ministers at a meeting in Brussels yesterday agreed to provide an extra €200m from the European Development Fund and the EU and members states’ would make a single joint contribution.


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