Development aid to Africa

 

Madam, - In his Irishman's Diary (July 29th), Kevin Myers suggests that the only appropriate form of aid to African countries now is through Irish Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Although Mr Myers is not alone in his call for this action it is certainly not something that Trócaire has ever promoted, or, indeed, agrees with.

While the role of NGOs is highly valued in the development process, it is only one part of that process and cannot substitute for others, particularly government aid programmes.

Trócaire's priority, in fact, is that the Government should fulfil its commitment to increase its aid budget to the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP by 2007.

At today's figures this will mean that the aid budget in 2007 will be close to €1 billion. The idea that NGOs have the capacity to spend this volume of money is simply unrealistic.

Given the scale of world poverty, and the commitment of the developed nations to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, which include the halving of world poverty, official overseas development aid from government to government is the only way forward.

Of course there must be safeguards against corruption, and there must be appropriate pressure applied to governments where there are unacceptable lapses in standards of governance.

The decision of Development Co-operation Ireland (DCI) to cease budgetary support to the government of Uganda is therefore to be welcomed.

Given that this has happened after the visit of the Minister, Mr Tom Kitt, to that country I have no doubt that a very strong message has been delivered.

A key aspect of overcoming the governance and corruption issues in Africa and elsewhere is the development of an active and vibrant civil society.

It is in this area that DCI and Irish NGOs can collaborate most effectively in tackling these issues.

It is only when the governments of the developing world are held accountable by their people that these problems will be overcome.

This process of strengthening of civil society and the promotion of real democracy in these countries is therefore a central part of the development process and cannot be achieved by just walking away from the problem. - Yours etc.,

JUSTIN KILCULLEN, Director, Trócaire, Maynooth, Co Kildare.