Irish overseas aid spending has ‘stagnated’, NGOs say

Dóchas says pandemic has seen fragile health systems breaking down across the world

A young girl drinks clean water from a tap in Bamako, Mali. Dóchas says Irish spending on overseas development aid has fallen. Photograph: Getty Images

A young girl drinks clean water from a tap in Bamako, Mali. Dóchas says Irish spending on overseas development aid has fallen. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Irish spending on overseas development aid has fallen and “stagnated” in recent years, with more spending needed to match Ireland’s role as global citizens helping recovery from the pandemic around the world, an Oireachtas committee will hear today.

The Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee will this morning meet with Dóchas, the umbrella group for non-government organisations (NGOs), as well as some member groups, to discuss its pre-budget submissions.

Suzanne Keatinge, the Dóchas chief executive officer, will tell the committee that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the widening gap between rich and poor countries and “for the first time in decades”, threatened gains made in eradicating poverty and progressing towards gender equality.

Covid has allowed some Governments to “roll back” on their commitments to human rights. Dóchas is asking the committee to contact the Government and support its call for more funding for Irish NGOs. It wants the Government to increase spending on overseas development aid to 0.5 per cent of GDP by 2025 and 0.7 per cent by 2030 – which is in line with commitments in the programme for government.

Ms Keatinge will tell the committee that, as a proportion of GDP, Irish aid came in at 0.58 per cent in 2008, but since then assistance spending “fell and then stagnated”. It was just 0.32 per cent of GDP when sustainable development goals were signed by Ireland in 2015, and fell again last year to 0.31 per cent. A cash increase of €30 million this year will bring it to around 0.32 per cent, but Dóchas will tell the committee that Ireland’s level of spending is below the average reached by many other EU member states in the OECD, of 0.5 per cent.

It will point to an OECD review of Ireland’s spending which praised the State’s programme, but “stressed that more needs to be done to match Ireland’s political willingness to reach the internationally recognised target of aid spending”.

Ms Keatinge will ask that committee members “live up to our roles as global citizens, and appreciate the devastating effect this pandemic has had on countries already suffering from hunger, conflict, drought and locusts.

“Quite simply it has become a matter of life and death, with frail and fragile health systems breaking down, and with people having nowhere else to turn.”

Dóchas is asking that, in addition to increasing overseas development assistance, the State ensure additional and targeted finance for climate change assistance for least developed countries and small island developing states, and use its voice at the UN Security Council to champion work by human rights defenders. It is also calling on the Government to advocate for the production of Covid vaccines for “everyone, everywhere” and to “strengthen Ireland’s global leadership on zero hunger”.