Message to Dáil

In accordance with Standing Order 90, the following message will be sent to the Dáil:

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2018: Vote 35 - Army pensions.

Sitting suspended at 11.58 a.m. and resumed at 12.30 p.m.

In part B of today's meeting we will consider a Supplementary Estimate for Vote 27 - international co-operation. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, and his officials for their attendance and assistance in considering the Supplementary Estimate. I also thank the Department officials for providing the briefing material that has been received and circulated to all members.

I use this opportunity to present to the committee the 2018 Supplementary Estimate for Vote 27 - international co-operation. When the Taoiseach launched Global Ireland, our strategy for doubling the scope and impact of Ireland's global footprint and influence by 2025, the Government also committed to achieving the United Nations target for overseas development aid of 0.7% of gross national income by 2030. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Irish people, our economic recovery is now well established and we see real benefits through increased resources to our public services.

For 2019, we allocated €817 million to official development assistance, ODA, a substantial investment on behalf of the taxpayer and a clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to our aid programme. It is also a first step towards delivering on that UN target of 0.7%. Robust economic growth, however, has put a downward pressure on our ODA to gross national income, GNI, percentage outturn. In the recent past, the target fell from a high of 0.59% in 2008 to 0.32% in 2017.
For 2018, we set ourselves a target of 0.3%. As it stands, and based on current projections for GNI and allocated levels of ODA, we are unlikely to deliver on that target. The Supplementary Estimate I propose will facilitate delivering the ODA-GNI percentage target of 0.3% in 2018. That brings the total 2018 budget allocation to Vote 27 to €515 million, which, coupled with ODA from other Departments and Ireland's share of the EU development co-operation budget, I am confident will deliver on that commitment to a target of 0.3% of GNI for this year.
These additional resources will help in the following areas: contribute to Ireland delivering on the target of 0.3% for 2018, to which we committed at the beginning of the year; support delivery on key political commitments, including the Taoiseach's commitment to increase Ireland's contribution to the EU emergency trust fund, EUTF, for Africa; contribute to delivering on Ireland's clear commitments to education and, in particular, education for girls; support effective multilateralism and rules-based international order in response to changing international politics, which has seen the withdrawal of funding from organisations such as the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, UNRRA, and the United Nations Population Fund; and build on a Government priority to increase support for conflict prevention and peace building.
In that context, I will briefly comment on Ireland's new policy for international development which will be launched early in the new year. Our new policy will deliver a fresh approach to the transformative ambition of the United Nations' sustainable development goals. It is defined by our values, reflects current realities and responds to the challenges of the increasingly complex international and development co-operational landscape. It will be built on the foundation of the sustainable development goals, which provide an interconnected international policy framework for action, allowing the space to specialise and sharpen our focus. As has been the case in the past, our primary focus will be on those furthest behind. We will have a central focus on addressing extreme poverty, vulnerability and marginalised groups. We will build on our track record in reaching the poorest and most vulnerable. We recognise there is much to do and reaching those who have been left out of progress to date will be difficult.
We have identified a number of key areas which we are working to flesh out, including reducing humanitarian need, promoting gender equality, strengthening our work to address climate change and strengthening governance. We want to work in a structured and strategic way across these key strategies, such that each reinforces the other. A culture of respect for human rights will underpin all of our work. We will use our leadership and influence in multilateral fora to build collective support for targeted actions in support of interventions in these areas. Conflict prevention and protection will be a key focus, building on our experience at home and responding to the call of the UN Secretary General for the need to focus on conflict prevention. We will seek to reinforce the intersections between Ireland's peacekeeping and conflict resolution work, political engagement, development co-operation and humanitarian action.
I have often said I am passionate about Ireland's development co-operation programme, as is my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, and about ensuring we excel in how we target and deliver our resources for maximum impact in reducing inequality, poverty and hunger. We bring our own authentic experience to this work, delivering a world-class programme aimed at some of the world's most vulnerable and marginalised people, helping to save lives, building livelihoods and bringing life-saving humanitarian assistance to those most in need at times of crisis.
I welcome comments and questions from the committee members.

I welcome the commitment to providing more funding to UNRRA, especially in the light of the US decision to stop funding for its vital work.

The Minister of State mentioned an additional allocation of €2 million for the UN peace-building fund, and that it will coincide with Ireland's membership of the UN Secretary General's advisory group on peace building. Will the money be specifically directed at one peacekeeping issue, or is it pooled funding? Will he provide more details of our membership of the advisory group? How long will the membership be and when will we join?

I welcome the additional allocation of €5.5 million proposed for the global partnership for education. The Minister of State said much of it will be spent on education for girls. Will a specific amount be ring-fenced for girls? How will it operate? We know that girls face a greater variety of significant challenges in accessing education than boys.

On the multilateral assistance, the Minister of State said there will be a €3.5 million increase in the funding for the EU trust fund for Africa. I have expressed concern in the Dáil and elsewhere about this whole project. The EU policy on migration seems to be based on an inherent contradiction. On the one hand, there is acknowledgement of migration as a structural phenomenon with long-term implications, driven by deep development and governance shortcomings. On the other hand, the EU's reaction is for the most part tailored towards the short term. There has been an increased tendency to divert funds formerly allocated to European development co-operation to the task of migration management and border security, which are the elements about which I am most concerned.

The policy weakens the EU action in the realm of poverty reduction and good governance. Dr. Luca Barana, a researcher in the Piedmont centre for African studies in Turin, produced an excellent analysis of this. Libya shows how such short-term fixes largely ignore deeper structural challenges. Despite the chaotic situation on the ground, the EU has invested heavily in border and migration management in Libya. This also includes matters related to the coastguard. There was evidence given to the committee, in both public and private session, in regard to the armed militias, slavery, trafficking and so on. The aim is to prevent people leaving Libya to seek asylum, which is a human right, and to keep them there, despite it being clear that their human rights are being violated. According to current EU data, to date all EUTF contributions in north Africa, particularly Libya, have been devoted to the issue of migration management and control. Is that where the extra €3.5 million in Irish funding will go, or will it go to something else? I hope it will. We should stand against the increased focus on short-term security implications.

The Minister of State also mentioned that some of the money would go towards conflict prevention and protection, which will be focused on building on our experience at home. Will he expand on that? What does he hope to do?

On whether the peace building fund will be specifically targeted, it will be in the general fund. It is an additional funding of €2 million, and it is strongly aligned with emerging priorities in our new international development policy. It will coincide with Ireland's membership of the UN Secretary General's advisory group, of which H.E. Anne Anderson is a member with extensive experience. In that peace-building endeavour, we bring to the table our experience of conflict resolution and peace building. We bring the security of peace that we have in Ireland to an international context, and we have much to offer. This additional funding allows us to come to the table with considerable credibility in our financial commitment and national experience.

On the global partnership for education, GPE, I was delighted to attend the pledging conference for GPE in Dakar a number of months ago, at which Ireland committed an additional €25 million over three years. The Deputy asked specifically about girls in education. Having spoken extensively with the board of the GPE, which coincidentally is meeting in Dublin next week on my invitation, I know that girls' education, rather than being somehow singled out for special attention, pervades all the work it does.

A central tenet of their ambitions worldwide, especially in the countries in which they work, is to ensure that unique focus is placed on getting girls into education, keeping them there and ensuring that when they attend that they receive an exceptional high quality education. I was also very pleased, when I first met with the global partnership for education, GPE, to meet the Nobel prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, who has been a powerful global advocate for girls in education.

On the EU trust funds, the additional €3.5 million is to meet the Taoiseach's political commitment to the trust fund for Africa. As Deputy Crowe observed, it is about addressing the root causes of forced migration. If we are to get to the very bottom of these issues, identify what they are and be credible in attempting to work to resolve them, we must make a significant financial commitment to it. Ireland's total pledge is €15 million and this extra funding, combined with other funds, will mean that we have delivered €8.9 million of that by the end of 2018, and we will pay the balance in 2019 and 2020.

Migration is probably the challenge of our generation. It demands an international response and I am happy to report that Ireland will be in Marrakesh on 10 and 11 December for the UN conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, where we will be represented by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan.

The Deputy's final question related to conflict prevention. I will ask my colleague, Mr. de Búrca, to answer.

Sorry, but the response must come from the Minister of State.

To what specifically was the Deputy referring?

The Minister of State said there would be extra funding for this. What type of work will be involved? He spoke of security and protection. Does it facilitate meetings? Is it personal protection?

It is about growing the capacity of both Government and civil society in each country where this money is being invested so that they can identify conflict flash points very early on, and work to address it.

Second, much investment and time is being spent in empowering women in conflict zones, recognising the unique skill set they have, which is something also experienced in Northern Ireland, in addressing the causes of conflict and being central to its solution. Those are the key areas on which we are focused. It is about better governance and capacity building. We are investing across 30 different countries, to empower countries right down to community level.

There has been major investment in Colombia. The figures are continually increasing.

Yes, and we were central to that.

Vast sums are being spent in these parts of the world. I switch on my television and see horror and I ask myself where all this money is going and where is the co-operation to tackle this. There is a flood of people leaving Nigeria to go elsewhere. All this becomes frustrating. One could-----

We could throw ours hands in the air and say we can do nothing. One can become disillusioned.

But it is not just that. If we put another €1 billion in annually, if we had it, what would it do? I am not criticising the Minister of State or the officials, but we do not seem to be getting on top of these horrible scenes that we see on television, and the poverty present in various parts of the world. There is a lot of talk. We could have a greater combined effort, say a European combined effort, to deal with these problems instead of us all going off and doing little bits and pieces but that does not seem to happen. That is a bigger issue for me. It is not one of whether we give another €100 million, or whatever. We are dealing with a problem that does not seem to be going away. I like to see that we are doing things and seeing results. We should be attacking this as a European venture, so that we deal with these horrific scenes once and for all, and if we have to pay our bit, then that is fine.

If we want to do individual things of a less serious nature, such as projects in Africa, that is fine. We can do little projects and feel satisfied but we are not going anywhere to deal with the problem of hunger and people leaving their homes, chasing around the world, being chased and looking for a decent living, all while the world is becoming a richer place, by and large. It is richer than the world in which I was brought up 70-odd years ago. It is frustrating. I am not moaning to the Minster of State, merely making the point, but can he tell us if there is a genuine effort to approach this on a European basis rather than us fighting our corner and doing our bit?

Yes, there is. The Deputy is correct to point out that on our own, we are not, and never will be, equipped to resolve this. That is why the new policy, which will be published early in the new year, puts a great emphasis on a collaborative approach and growing alliances, not only in the European Union but across the whole United Nations, in recognition that if we are to solve the problems of this world, it must be done collectively. I am an eternal optimist and always have been. Global poverty has reduced by about 50% in the last 30 years. It is working, albeit very slowly. The Ireland of our grandparents was substantially different from our own.

We are living in luxury.

We are but our grandparents and our great grandparents certainly did not. Where I come from in the west, there was mostly subsistence farming, hand to mouth, and now we produce enough food to feed 11 Irelands. It is an extraordinary transformation.

I am not talking about Ireland.

I know, but I am giving context. One cannot give up on working with other countries to help them embark on the exact same journey on which we embarked 200 years ago. Donogh O'Malley's decision to make secondary education free for all in 1967 was powerful. We can see the impact of that around us. That is why we are investing €25 million in the global partnership for education and why, when I sat in that room in Dakar, I heard education ministers from across Africa say they would roll up their sleeves and use the investment wisely. It is a long process of their education systems evolving and giving them the same strength to empower their young people to have the same successes as our own experience now.

There are 1 million additional young people coming into the workforce annually in Tanzania and 2 million in Ethiopia. By 2050 Africa will be the most dominant economic power in the world. We must ensure those young people have the skills to partake in that economic growth. The trading relationship between Africa and the European Union is unique. Trade between the Continent of Africa and the European Union is 30% higher than it is with China and the USA combined, so the relationship is very special.

The upcoming new policy for our international development programme will focus strongly on working closely with our EU partners to maximise those trade opportunities so that ultimately our relationship with the African continent will evolve over time from one of aid to one of trade. Ultimately, that is what we are working towards. I am very optimistic. While I know some members of the committee are travelling to the USA soon to meet our diaspora community, many members have also travelled to the African continent to see the work of Irish Aid and the NGOs we support on the ground. When one comes home and reflects on the work and its impact, one can only be optimistic. Our approach to international development has been recognised internationally over and over again as of a very high order. It compares with the best in the world. To an extent, we are leading the way in arriving at solutions, as devised by the officials sitting beside me and my colleagues in the Department, which can have a really powerful global impact when implemented in collaboration with others. While it is easy to get disillusioned, it is important that we do not become so.

I am not disillusioned. I am referring simply to all the effort I have seen in the 37 years since I was elected. I have heard about the very powerful role Ireland plays as a small country. It has done an enormous amount of good throughout the world. I am just saying, however, that when one switches on one's television, one wonders whether we are standing still or making improvements.

We are getting there. We are making progress. There is no question.

I would love if we could at some stage have an open session here to discuss policy rather than just deal in terms of-----

Let us do that when we publish the new policy.

Yes, rather than to deal with it only when the Estimates are before us. A discussion about our role and the things we want to do would be appreciated.

The Deputy is absolutely right to point out that there needs to be a greater focus on that collaborative approach within the EU and, indeed, internationally.

On Deputy Barrett's point, our review on Irish Aid has hopefully played its part in the Department's development of new policy.

It was very much a significant factor in allowing us to arrive at the policy we have.

That is good because we had considerable engagement with Oireachtas colleagues, NGOs and other interested parties. I refer the Minister of State to Yemen. Deputy Barrett noted how dispiriting it is to turn on one's television and to see that there are so many crises throughout the world. I am sure there are crises of which we are not aware to the extent we should be which involve hunger and conflict. I hope the Minster of State will be in a position to allocate some additional funding to help those people who are suffering so much and so bitterly in that situation of famine. While some funding has already been allocated, I hope it will be possible to make a substantial allocation to ease in some way the plight and suffering of those people.

I thank the Chairman. I could not agree more. The situation in Yemen is the world's largest humanitarian crisis with 22 million people in need. Ireland has been and remains absolutely committed to supporting the humanitarian effort in Yemen. We provided €4 million to the country-based pool for Yemen. The fund is a significant contributor to the UN's central emergency response fund which allocated more than €50 million to Yemen. Given the significant risks of the humanitarian situation declining even further, we propose allocating an additional €1 million in 2019 to bring our total funding to €5 million. I referred earlier to conflict resolution. Ireland's expertise in that regard is being brought to bear and will continue to be used to work on the root causes of this horrendous humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

An example of that is the Palestinian conference. Is that one of the examples?

The work that has been done is transformative and it is changing people's lives. AIDS was the major challenge of the previous century and hugely positive work was done. Poverty is being reduced. A lot of this involves man-made crises, which is the frustrating thing for people watching at home and thinking "Here we have another conflict."

That is made by man and it is mainly men who are causing these conflicts. Hunger, inequality and disadvantage are all things which must be addressed. If we are playing a positive role and if Irish Aid funding is not tied to Government policy or anything else, that is key. It is transforming people's lives. Coming up with technologies which can double food production in a particular area is transformative. It changes everything. It is the fact that water is being brought to a village and so on.

Agricultural technology is an area where Ireland has incredible expertise. It is a world leader. Let us have that conversation when we publish the policy. That would be great.

I thank Deputy Barrett and the Minister of State. Representatives from Crosscare, Safe Home Ireland and the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas appeared before our joint committee this morning to discuss issues affecting returning emigrants. We look forward to engaging with the Minister of State on the Indecon report early in the new year.

I am very interested in doing that. I met with Crosscare just two weeks ago. We are working towards the 30 recommendations in the Indecon report with approximately 24 resolved. A few are more difficult than we expected but I would be more than happy to provide the committee with an update in that regard early in the new year.

We appreciate that.