Ireland failing to pay for world population control - report

Ireland is failing to pay its fair share of the cost of programmes to slow world population growth, according to a report.

Ireland is failing to pay its fair share of the cost of programmes to slow world population growth, according to a report.

It earns an "F" grade, the lowest possible rating, in an international table compiled for the report, published by Population Action International.

With the global effort to curb population growth due to be reviewed at an international conference in The Hague next month, the report finds that most countries are lagging behind their commitments. Support for population control programmes stands at one-quarter of the goal agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.

Ireland ranks 17th out of 21 donor countries for its contribution to population control assistance, according to the report. It first contributed to the United Nations Population Fund in 1994.

"It is very disappointing that the Government is not going to meet its own aid targets but it is also of grave concern that the proportion of aid going to reproductive health programmes is extremely low," said Mr Tony O'Brien, chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association. "There are many people in developing countries with no access to contraception who would like to plan and space their families."

Total population control assistance from Ireland peaked at about £2 million in 1995, but fell off to less than £500,000 the following year. This amounted to 0.41 per cent of development assistance.

Domestic controversies over reproductive health and family planning, combined with the strength of the Catholic Church, kept the Government from active involvement in the area, the report says. However, this policy is changing and Ireland now funds a number of maternal and reproductive health programmes in sub-Saharan Africa and India.

One third of Irish aid funds in the area were used for HIV/AIDS programmes in Africa. Bilateral funds have been used to support a pilot programme for distributing condoms in Ethiopia.

The report, Paying Their Fair Share: Donor Countries and International Population Assistance, says Norway and Denmark lead the way in paying their fair share of the cost of such programmes. The US and Japan are blamed for more than half the shortfall. Although birth rates are declining in many developing countries, overall population is still increasing at 1.7 per cent a year. The number of women of child-bearing age in developing countries increases by 24 million a year.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times