I am delighted to meet with you this afternoon to discuss the upcoming High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which will take place in Busan, Republic of Korea next week. But before I start, let me welcome home the Committee Members who travelled to Ethiopia last week. I understand the visit was a success and that you got to see the real impact the Irish Aid programme is having on the ground. And that you had the opportunity to raise all relevant issues with local communities and authorities, and at government level, including the Prime Minister.
Ireland’s aid programme is making a real difference in the fight against global poverty and hunger. It is also building influence for Ireland internationally with countries which in the future will be among our political and trading partners. It is the nature of this sustainable change which we are helping to achieve, and of the transition from aid dependency to locally-driven development, which will be the focus of our engagement at Busan. I am very pleased that the Chairman of this Committee will be a full member of the Irish delegation at Busan, and that he will be able to bring the views and experiences of the Committee to bear on the Forum’s outcome.
The Government is strongly committed to Ireland’s overseas development programme, which is central to our foreign policy and our commitment to rebuild our international reputation on the world stage. Ireland’s aid programme has a rigorous focus on achieving real and sustainable results and provides strong international leadership in making aid more effective. This has been recognised internationally. Two years ago, in reviewing our aid programme, the OECD stated that Irish Aid is a champion in making aid more effective. Earlier this month, the highly respected Centre for Global Development in Washington, rated Ireland in the top three donors in the world for delivery on our aid effectiveness commitments. The other two were the United Kingdom and the World Bank. So when we speak on aid effectiveness internationally, we do so against a background of achievement, and with very real credibility.
Strengthening the impact of aid on the reduction of poverty levels is at the heart of the upcoming Busan Forum.
In the 1990s it became clear that the traditional approaches to development were not having the desired impact. There were too many isolated projects which were not coordinated nor lead by developing countries. This led to a duplication of effort and a waste of resources.
A new approach, based on evaluations and lessons learnt over many years was agreed internationally in 2005 in an agreement known as the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The Declaration commits donors to working more closely together and with recipient governments on programmes focused on reducing poverty, better aligning overseas cooperation programmes with national priorities, using national systems and having a greater focus on results and accountability.
In 2008, in Accra, Ghana the international community reaffirmed their commitments to provide effective aid and broadened the discussion from only donors and developing country executive governments to include parliamentarians and civil society. In Accra, Minister Howlin, representing parliamentarians, was instrumental in ensuring that parliamentarians are brought fully into the aid effectiveness debate.
One of the major changes since the Paris and Accra Declarations has been the increasing number of new donors, emerging economies, private sector foundations and nongovernmental organisations who are all now providing significant amounts of development assistance. Many of these countries and organisations were not involved in Paris and Accra and so do not feel duty bound to implement the commitments made there.
So, the real prize in Busan will be agreement with non-OECD donors, such as China, Brazil and others, on common ground between different traditions of development cooperation. But we need to be realistic and see Busan as the first step in a process of greater cooperation with new partners on development issues which will be further defined and strengthened in the coming years.
Ireland‘s commitment to aid effectiveness is explicit in the White Paper on Irish Aid, and I would expect that this focus will be maintained as a result of the review of the White Paper which I have initiated, and which will be completed next summer, following wide consultation. Ireland has been a strong advocate of local ownership, harmonisation and alignment both at policy and at field level for many years. Irish Aid is also active at the international level in promoting good practice on aid effectiveness. The successful implementation of our commitments to improve the impact of aid from Ireland has been confirmed by the OECD in the latest Paris Declaration Monitoring Survey which placed Ireland among the best performers internationally.. We have clearly made real progress on aid effectiveness and have a legitimate voice to call on others to do more.
In the lead up to the Busan Forum we have consulted widely, at home and engaged proactively abroad.
I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions to discuss the Forum with members of the Oireachtas and I look forward to hearing your views today.
We have also worked closely with our NGO partners in Ireland to ensure that their views and suggestions are included in the Busan discussions. I will meet with their representatives in Busan to take stock on progress and to discuss how best we can make the Forum a real success.
Internationally, we have also actively engaged over the last 12 months in the preparations for Busan. We have engaged with our Programme Countries, we have chaired working groups in the OECD, and worked closely with the EU, the UN and our Nordic colleagues to ensure that Busan delivers an agenda which is ambitious and one which is operational.
I have been working to advance a number of key issues. Our focus is on poverty reduction and on development results, particularly in fragile and conflict- affected states. We are also ensuring that women and girls are prioritised in development. Other priorities for Ireland include strengthening the transparency and accountability of development spending; ensuring civil society can play their legitimate role as partners in poverty reduction and reducing the bureaucracy of managing aid.
The latest draft of the Outcome document includes solid commitments in these areas and on the critical importance of parliamentarian oversight at home and in developing countries. There is a firm commitment to strengthen the capacity of parliamentarians in developing countries to fulfil their role.
I have been asked to speak at the Ministerial session on results and accountability and intend to use this opportunity to raise these priorities. I will also speak on a panel on the important issues of nutrition and hunger and will have the opportunity on a number of occasions to discuss with other heads of delegations global development policy.
While in Busan I will also meet with political representatives of our nine Programme Countries to discuss the White Paper review and the new Africa strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I will explore with them the implications of Busan on the future direction of the Irish Aid programme.
I will work hard to ensure that the Busan Forum is a success and that it places the effectiveness of aid at the heart of development policy. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that every Euro of our aid leads to real and lasting results for people living in poverty. And that there is a clear understanding among the Irish public of how this is being achieved – and why it is in our interests as a people that we continue to engage in this way.
I look forward to coming back to the Committee after Busan, to reflect on the Forum and its outcome and to discuss the possible implications for our aid programme in the crucial years ahead.
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