Overseas aid and UN development goals

 

Madam, – As an all-party group of TDs and Senators, we urge the Government to uphold its levels of overseas aid spending and to make a public statement to that effect at next week’s United Nations summit on the Millennium Development Goals.

Ten years ago, Ireland signed up to the goals to meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people, and it joined the international community in agreeing that it would no longer tolerate extreme poverty and hunger in the world.

Now, to our collective frustration and disappointment, an unprecedented combination of crises envelops the world’s poor, resulting in continued economic and climactic upheavals. One billion people, almost one in six people on the planet, are now classified as hungry. This is truly a shameful landmark in world history.

According to UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, lack of development resources is the biggest obstacle to achieving the millennium goals. Consequently, Ireland can best demonstrate its commitment to the goals by meeting its international obligation to invest at least 0.7 per cent of national income in overseas aid by 2015, and by setting out annual targets for how it will get there.

It is our opinion that the Irish people appreciate the need for us to respond to this scandal of global poverty, even in a time of great economic challenges at home. Irish people continue to recognise that we are among the wealthiest nations of the world, no matter how fraught our current circumstances.

Despite the economic crisis, percentage aid spending increased in the majority of EU countries in 2009, while Ireland’s was cut by over 20 per cent. In the UK, the government has ring-fenced overseas aid from spending cuts, its international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, commenting that “we won’t balance the budget on the backs of the world’s poorest people”.

Ireland’s partnership with the developing world runs deep and it must continue to do so. We earnestly call on the Government to ensure that Ireland plays a leadership role at the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, and pledges to increase its share of overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GNP by 2015. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN HOWLIN TD; CHRIS ANDREWS TD; Senator DAN BOYLE; PAT BREEN TD; JOAN BURTON TD; TOMMY BROUGHAN TD; JOE COSTELLO TD; Senator MARK DEAREY; JOHN DEASY TD; PAUL GOGARTY TD; Senator DOMINIC HANNIGAN; MICHAEL D HIGGINS TD; MICHAEL KITT TD; TOM KITT TD; KATHLEEN LYNCH TD; OLIVIA MITCHELL TD; DENIS NAUGHTEN TD; DAN NEVILLE TD; Senator NIALL Ó BROLCHÁIN; CHARLIE O’CONNOR TD; FERGUS O’DOWD TD; RORY O’HANLON TD; Senator FIONA O’MALLEY; BRIAN O’SHEA TD; AENGUS Ó SNODAIGH TD; JAN O’SULLIVAN TD; MAUREEN O’SULLIVAN TD; RUAIRI QUINN TD; TREVOR SARGENT TD; BILLY TIMMINS TD; MARY UPTON TD; MICHAEL WOODS TD;

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

Madam, – I note with interest letters in your paper calling for immediate focus on different areas of the UN Millennium Development Goals, namely disability (David McAllister on September 13th) and world hunger (Tom Arnold, September 14th).

While I do not disagree with either letter or issue, I believe there is a much larger problem at stake which must be the focus of the upcoming UN summit – the failure to achieve UN Millennium Development Goal 5b.

This aims to achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare by 2015 and it is the most off-track of all the millennium goals.

As a result, 500,000 women will continue to die in the process of having a child, and no government is willing to prioritise this issue. Yet the Government will co-host an international hunger conference with the US at the summit, which makes Tom Arnold’s assertion that “hunger reduction has failed to make it as a top priority at the summit” ring a little hollow.

One can also make the argument that if women were given proper access to reproductive health services and were allowed the choice to control when and how many children they would have, the number of hungry children would indeed decrease as their mothers would be less likely to die (leaving their children orphaned with little support), or have as many children. – Yours, etc,

LINDA KELLY,

Douglas,

Co Cork.