The total amount of money given by Ireland in overseas development assistance increased last year in monetary terms from €628.9 million in 2012 to €637.1m.
But as a percentage of Gross National Product, the amount fell slightly from 0.47 per cent in 2012 to 0.46 per cent, according the annual report of Irish Aid, the development assistance and emergency response wing of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Launching the report in Dublin, Minister of State for Development Joe Costello said that despite this fractional fall, Ireland's contribution to global aid had "more or less stabilised" in the face of cutbacks elsewhere.
The goal of the United Nations is for all donor countries to contribute one per cent of their GNP to overseas aid, a target met by just three countries: Norway (1.07 per cent), Sweden (1.02 per cent) and Luxembourg (1 per cent).
Ireland is one of the 28 Development Assistance Committee member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. It is ranked ninth in the committee, after Switzerland and before Belgium, in terms of the percentage of its Gross National Income given away in aid.
Mr Costello said that Ireland continued to deliver substantial overseas assistance during difficult financial times in part because of “strong legacy reasons going back to the famine” but also because 1.2 billion people in the world existed on one and a quarter euros per day – “ample reason,” he said, “that we recognise that the greatest evil of all in the world is poverty”.
The report shows how Irish Aid is concentrated in key partner countries – Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Lesotho, Vietnam and Timor Leste (formerly East Timor).
In addition, there are five other, what the report described as “other partner countries” – Zimbabwe, South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Palestine – plus a series of other countries, virtually all of sub-Saharan Africa; Myaanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand and Cambodia in south-east Asia, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan; Iran and Iraq; Papua New Guinea; and several countries in Central and South America – in receipt of lesser amounts of aid.
Ireland continues to deliver aid mainly through non-governmental and civil society organisations, here and in recipient countries, (38 per cent), and government and state systems in recipient countries (20 per cent).
The sector to receive the largest percentage of aid, 22 per cent or €96 million, is health, HIV and Aids. This is followed by emergency recovery and disaster preparedness, at 20 per cent or €84.9 million; and governance and civil society at 16 per cent, or €67million.
Mr Costello said that Ireland was in the “top two or three” donor countries in terms of the depth and intensity of its engagement with NGOs for delivering aid. He defended Irish Aid’s engagement with civil society organisations in recipient countries saying: “Criticism of civil society comes from regimes afraid of human rights and the implementation of UN conventions”.
"Rather than restricting [Ireland's engagement with civil society organisations] we should be encouraging it," he said. The full report may be read at irishaid.ie