Overseas aid drops for third year as percentage of GNP


THE GOVERNMENT has begun a review of its overseas development aid policy, expected to be completed by July next year.

The review comes as Ireland’s overseas aid contribution drops for a third year in a row as a percentage of gross national product (GNP).

Some €675 million was spent last year on assisting predominantly African countries, and more than €9 million this year on the famine in the Horn of Africa.

The €675 million, 0.53 per cent of GNP, is down from 0.59 per cent in 2008 and 0.55 per cent in 2009. The 2011 budget is expected to be €659 million, a drop of €16 million on 2010 and a reduction to 0.52 per cent of GNP.

Launching the 2010 annual report of Irish Aid, the Government’s overseas development aid programme, Minister of State for Trade and Development Jan O’Sullivan insisted the Government was “ensuring that we maintain our plan to reach 0.7 per cent of GNP by 2015”.

She said a White Paper on official policy on aid was drawn up in 2006 when there was “plenty of money”. But the world and Ireland had changed hugely and “we have to re-evaluate what we’re doing to make sure we’re spending money well”.

Development aid “is very money-focused, whereas maybe we have to find other ways of working where we achieve the same results for less money”.

A consultation process with partner countries, non-governmental organisations, the public and all stakeholders will take place from November to March, and the review process will be completed by July.

Ms O’Sullivan said there was an “urge among African countries to get out of dependency and to move towards self-sufficiency, and therefore to be much more open to help them to trade”.

Some 15 per cent of overall funding goes to humanitarian crises, and Ms O’Sullivan warned the situation in the Horn of Africa was a crisis of huge proportions.

Stressing the theme of the annual report that “development aid works”, Ms O’Sullivan said it was “absolutely crucial” to focus on long-term development programmes.

“When you see the way Ethiopia and Kenya are able to respond to essentially the same climatic difficulties that they have in Somalia, a lot of that is largely due to long-term development programmes in terms of irrigation in those countries that are working.”

The Minister highlighted successes in some of the nine countries in which Ireland has long-term development programmes.