I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 to 124, inclusive, together.
Ireland’s new international development policy, A Better World, was published in February, situating Irish interventions within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, their injunction to reach the furthest behind first. Actions to promote gender equality are at the core of A Better World, which provides for a number of new initiatives, including building on Ireland’s strong record of delivery in the health area and in reducing the incidence of, and the effects of, HIV/AIDS.
The Sustainable Development Goals state that achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is essential, with goals 3.7 and 5.6 particularly relevant. Achieving this will transform women’s health outcomes. Evidence and hard data demonstrate the substantial health benefits associated with the provision of services in this area, in terms of decreased rates of maternal mortality and of unintended pregnancies.
Ireland’s existing development partnerships with, among others, UNFPA; UNAIDS - whose work is particularly critical at this time of global challenges related to HIV and AIDS, and where young adolescent girls are most at risk of infection; UNESCO for their work on Comprehensive Sexuality Education with a particular focus in countries in sub-Saharan Africa; and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, provide the platform for Ireland’s delivery of our responsibility to assist others achieve SDG goals 3.7 and 5.6.
Ireland is a consistent and committed supporter of UNFPA’s global efforts. In October 2018, the Tánaiste announced Ireland’s intention to increase the core funding of UNFPA by €700,000 bring the 2018 total to €3.5 million. This total has been maintained in 2019 and is a demonstration of our support for the work of the agency. This funding can be allocated by UNFPA across the key priority areas of its Strategic Plan, which includes addressing Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C). Ireland also provides core funding to UNICEF which, together with UNFPA, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM and is currently focussed on 17 African countries.
2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which took place in Cairo in 1994. At that conference, 179 governments, including Ireland, adopted a Programme of Action recognising that reproductive health, women's empowerment and gender equality are the pathway to sustainable development. This Programme of Action informed the agreement of SDG goals 3.7 and 5.6. The upcoming Nairobi International Conference on Population and Development will mark 25 years since Cairo.
My Department is engaging with UNFPA on its plans for Nairobi, including during the recent visit to Ireland of the Executive Director of UNFPA, who praised Ireland’s work in the developing world and in particular saying that ‘You defend women and girls’. It is intended that Ireland would have high-level political representation at Nairobi.