Report from the Public Consultation on Irish Aid’s New Policy


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18 September 2018 - Report by Justice Officer, John McGeady. 

On Thursday the 13th September 2018, the Department of Foreign Affairs held a public consultation regarding its new international development policy. Irish Aid’s white paper Transforming Our World was used as a starting point for discussion with input from those gathered drawing on their experiences as NGOs, researchers, and missionaries. The Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles was represented by Sr. Maria Lee, Sr. Philomena Mulligan and justice officer, John McGeady.

The meeting began with an address from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, An Tánaiste Simon Coveney T.D. who asserted that the Irish Aid policy would continue to be underpinned by the Sustainable Development Goals. He acknowledged that Ireland was not meeting its target of 0.7 percent of GNI spending on overseas aid and development, and instead was currently at 0.3 percent. He stated that this was in part due to the pace of economic growth, which the pace of expenditure on development has not matched. The Tánaiste spoke about Ireland’s particular focus on gender equality and hunger, as well as his optimism about the impact new technologies being developed in Ireland will have on so-called developing countries. He also acknowledged that the current global context meant that much aid work was concerned with emergency responses and cited the example of the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, which is occupied by 80,000 people and is likely to be there for at least the next ten years. He also expressed his own keen interest in the need for greater development around coastal and maritime communities and suggested that a greater reliance on the sea will be needed to feed the world in the future.

Following the Tánaiste, those assembled were addressed by the Director General of Irish Aid, Ruairí De Burca, who gave an overview of the process by which Irish Aid would formulate its new policy. He regarded the submissions they had received, and the input they would obtain from the public consultations, to be particularly valuable. He also spoke about the need for Ireland’s policy to be authentic to the Irish experience, and for there to be coherence between Ireland’s domestic and foreign policy.

After both addresses the attendees, seated at round tables in groups of 8 or 9, were invited to discuss a number of questions regarding the direction of the new Irish Aid policy. A host of experiences were discussed including migration, rural development, need for greater efficiency, access to quality water and the use of indicators to accurately assess the quality of water available, as well as coastal and maritime development.

Deborah Chapman, Stuart Warner, and Greg Beechinor of UN Environment GEMS/Water Development Capacity Centre in UCC explained the crucial need for better use of indicators to determine the quality and accessibility of water around the world. They explained that progress providing access to clean water could not be mapped without a proper use of the indicators. They pointed out that there needed to be a stronger emphasis on water policy in Irish Aid’s new white paper; something they considered to be lacking.

An Aid worker described his experience of migration in the Mediterranean. His work involves rescuing migrants-at-sea who make the crossing from North Africa to Europe, getting them out of detention centres, identifying their home countries, returning them and helping them reintegrate. He explained that the largest portion of migrants that they had rescued and returned were from Nigeria. He pointed out that while many of the people making their way to Europe were not living in absolute poverty, they were living in relative poverty and were seeking the opportunity for a better life. He emphasised that it was not enough for development to simply address absolute poverty, but that people had the right to the same expectations as those of us in the so-called developed world, and that we could not simply say to them: “ok, you have enough now stop looking for more.” He further explained that many of those that had been rescued and returned would try to make the journey to Europe again, and so the EU and UN had to deal with the factors driving people to make this dangerous journey rather than simply focussing on repelling them.

Two representatives from the small Irish NGO, Development Pamoja, described their experiences and the work of their organisation. Development Pamoja is a small NGO working in Mogotio in rural Kenya: the project on the ground is run by a Cork man and two Kenyans with fundraising and a board of directors in Ireland. The representatives at the consultation, Rachel and Brendan, spoke passionately about the work being undertaken, including a model farm to teach better agricultural practices, food and medicine being dispensed to the sick and the disabled, and the provision of water. They explained that in Kenya there is great inequality especially between urban centres which are seeing development, and rural areas that suffer abject poverty. They highlighted a lack of infrastructure, a lack of water, and the need to build capacities and self-sufficiency as critical. They pointed out that development agencies are focused in urban areas, but that remote rural areas see none of the benefits.

You can read the White Paper here: Irish Aid White Paper