Significant rise in overseas aid promised


THE Government has pledged to increase significantly its contribution to overseas development and has outlined new initiatives to improve the State's response to humanitarian crises.

The chapter in the White Paper on development co-operation says that public support for such co-operation is high in this country, and that virtually every Irish family has had some involvement with the State's overall aid effort.

In 1996, the Government will spend almost £106 million on development assistance which will represent Ireland's highest contribution to the developing world, according to the document. The Government plans to make further significant increases in overseas development aid in the years ahead, to put Ireland's performance on a par with that of our European partners, with the aim of reaching the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP. It currently stands at 0.3 per cent.

An innovation promised in the White Paper is the establishment of a liaison group to co-ordinate the responses of Government departments and agencies to humanitarian crises. In addition, there will be a "Rapid Response Register" of personnel from the public service and elsewhere, with necessary skills and a willingness to be deployed quickly for, emergency relief operations.

The central aim of Irish Aid will continue to be long term development rather than crisis management. However, the White Paper notes the number of crises emerging, and pledges a renewed focus on the prevention of violent conflict, the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, making aid responses to humanitarian crises more effective assisting societies to recover from war, and responding to the growing number of refugees and displaced people.

Significant resources will be devoted to the rehabilitation of Rwanda and to the development of post apartheid South Africa. Ireland currently has six priority countries which receive development aid. As resources increase, these countries Sudan, Tanzania, Lesotho, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia will be joined by others, and will include Mozambique this year.

Aid for these countries is given directly government to government. Aid to Sudan, however, will remain focused on community level projects until the human rights situation there, improves.

Ireland will play "a constructive role" in the debate on the evolution of a comprehensive and coherent EU policy on development co-operation. The Government also pledges to use its membership of the EU and UN to promote a coherent international strategy on development issues. The Government will strengthen its relationship with UN agencies such as UNHCR, UNDP and UNICEF.