"That Dáil Éireann notes, with great concern that:
–14 million young children and 10 million older children, and young adults, in developing countries die each year from easily and cheaply preventable malnutrition and disease;
–840 million people in developing countries are malnourished;
–women represent 70 per cent of all pov erty stricken people, followed closely by the elderly in developing countries;
–approximately 79 per cent of the world's population now live in the Third World;
–more than 90 per cent of the 35 million HIV/AIDS infected people live in developing countries, the number having doubled between the years 1990 and 1997;
–life expectancy in the Third World increased by over one third between the years 1960 and 1990, and the infant mortality rate decreased from 76 to 58 per 1000 live births, proving that development aid does work, even though about 1.5 billion people are not expected to survive to 60 years of age, and 340 million women will die before the age of 40;
–2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation; and
noting the pending disaster in the Horn of Africa, where up to 16 million lives are in imminent danger, asks the Government to bring forward immediate legislation to provide for Ireland to meet the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP as a contribution to development aid by 2007, without recourse to the annual Estimates wrangle, thereby ensuring that Ireland maximise its contribution to our famine stricken and poorest neighbours, while equipping ourselves with moral authority in asking other countries to do likewise."
With the permission of the Chair I propose to share time with Deputies Flanagan, Ring and Boylan.
This is a very timely motion given the problems that people are experiencing in the Horn of Africa to which I wish to refer and which were graphically described in the media this morning. This Lenten period we might remember some of our traditions and reflect on the biblical theme of "Who is my neighbour"; on the 14 million young children and ten million older children and young adults in developing countries who die each year from easily and cheaply preventable malnutrition and disease; the 840 million people in developing countries who are malnourished; the women who represent 70 per cent of all poverty stricken people, followed closely by the elderly, in developing countries; the 79 per cent of the world's population who now live in the Third World; the 2.6 billion people who lack access to basic sanitation; the more than 90 per cent of the 35 million HIV/AIDS infected people who live in developing countries, the number having doubled between the years 1990 and 1997; the 16 million people living in the Horn of Africa who are now suffering the effects of famine and drought and whose lives are in imminent danger. We hear much about the global economy. In the global economy these are our neighbours. This morning inThe Irish Times Declan Walsh made the following report:
A small bundle lies inside a dome-shaped hut made from twigs and dirty socks. There is a small toe sticking from the bottom. A young man pulls back the cloth to reveal his four-year-old daughter, Anab, who died hours earlier. "She was losing weight for weeks and couldn't take any food at the end. The only thing was milk and since our animals died, we didn't have any left," says the grief-stricken father, Bishar Sigale, waving flies away from the tiny foot. This is the third child Sigale has lost since arriving at Danan, the town at the heart of the Ethiopian food crisis, four months ago. The family of nine trekked for seven days and arrived with nothing after their donkey collapsed on the way . . . after the failure of rain for the fourth successive year in the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia. They have come in search of food and water and found little of either. On average, seven children die every day in Danan – 300 in the past two months.
Just a decade ago this region was green and food-wealthy, so much so it could send its sorghum surplus across the country. Now it is a harsh brown terrain of withered trees and dust swirls whipped up by the oven-hot winds.
The rough roads leading to Danan are littered with a macabre line of rotting cattle, sheep and donkey carcases. Even the camels have started to die.
This scene from Ethiopia was reported on the front ofThe Irish Times this morning and is repeated throughout the developing world on a regular basis. We can change things and development aid does work. For example, life expectancy in the Third World increased by more than one-third between 1960 and 1990 and infant mortality rates reduced from 76 to 58 per 1,000 live births. The dreadful facts remain that about 1.5 billion people are not expected to survive to age 60, and 340 million women will die before age 40.
The 1996 Foreign Policy White Paper stated:
Ireland's relations with the developing countries form an integral part of our foreign policy. There is a demonstrable interconnection between the economic and social well being of all the nations of the world and the maintenance of international peace and stability. Irish aid and development co-operation are practical expressions of Ireland's foreign policy commitment to peace and justice in the world.
The White Paper also set the objectives of development aid as follows:
To reduce poverty and promote sustainable development in some of the poorest countries in the world; to assist in establishing and maintaining peace in developing countries by fostering democracy, respect for human rights, gender and social equality and protection of the environment; to respond promptly to emergencies and humanitarian disasters, both natural and man-made as they occur, and to support preventive measures so that such emergencies may, so far as possible, be avoided; to contribute to building civil society and social solidarity.
To these we might add a fairer deal at World Trade Organisation negotiations, and insistence that the EU gets its act together. In an article inThe Sunday Tribune on 2 April this year, Dave Cronin wrote the following:
Addressing a conference in Amsterdam Poul Nielsson (EU Commissioner) said that the EU commission has just three members of staff allocated to manage each £7 million of development aid under its control, compared to nine in the national administrations of some EU states. He described the objectives of the EU's policies towards the wider world as "too numerous, too vague and incoherent" leading to "very real inconsistencies" between them. This is especially so, he said, in terms of the relationship between food aid, trade policy in agricultural products, and fisheries agreements with developing countries.
Nielsson did not elaborate on the consequences of such bureaucratic befuddlement. But a recent study by Christian Aid and the Dutch aid group Aprodev presents some stark examples, concluding that the EU is flouting the legally binding provisions of the Maastricht Treaty which require that its policies should help eradicate poverty and encourage economic development of long-term benefit to the world's poorest regions.
More fundamentally, development groups are incensed at how three billion euros £2.34 billion of EU development aid overseen by the Commission each year is not spent within that year, with unused funds being returned to the national treasuries from where they originally came. That amount represents 50% of the total for development aid for which the commission bears responsibility. Eurostep has suggested that it could be allocated to resolving the debts owed by developing countries to EU states.
In Amsterdam, Nielsson blamed bad decisions taken before he became a Commissioner for the poor implementation of programmes. "This has left the new commission with a considerable overhang of unspent resources caught some where in the system between directorate Y and committee X and the unfortunate beneficiary country is left wondering what happened to the aid we promised", he is quoted as saying.
Why has our Minister with responsibility for development not brought this to the attention of the House? Why has she not led the charge in highlighting this outrage at a time of so much pandemic and holocaust? The House should inquire into these matters through the Oireachtas Joint Committees on European or Foreign Affairs and I intend to raise the matter there.
Members are not elected by those who benefit directly from development aid and, therefore, the political pressure will always be to allocate funds to domestic projects, often in response to electoral demands. Peace and justice in the world must become more than a White Paper aspiration. It is as much in our own interests as it is in the interest of the developing world that international peace and security is maintained, as the White Paper stated.
Despite the introduction of multi-annual financing of the discretionary elements of the Government's development budget, the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for development aid is not ever met. No matter how much, or how earnestly, the Government of the day promises this, when future Ministers for Finance seek savings there will not be Members from developing countries to speak up for the hungry or the dying. The development budget, therefore, will come under pressure again in the future. This issue will not be grasped for as long as it remains within the framework of the traditional Estimates procedure.
The Government's target of 0.45% of GNP by 2002 should be stated in law, as should an increase of 0.05% for each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, thus meeting our 0.7% commitment in that year. Fine Gael proposed this in a policy document published last year and has won much support for the legislative approach and this motion seeks to achieve this objective. National debt servicing, for example, is met directly from the central fund by legislative authority. This means the Government does not have to come back to the Dáil each year to meet long-term commitments.
In 2007, 0.7% of GNP could be as much as £600 million and there would still be a domestic budget of £84.4 billion. This breakdown of the allocation of money would still require Dáil approval. Accountability for expenditure of such an amount would be essential and could be enhanced by a new Estimates layout, outlining, for example, amounts allocated to non-governmental organisations and amounts proposed for direct aid to other governments or agencies. The Comptroller and Auditor General would need to report regularly on the effectiveness of such expenditure, including examination of the accounts of those who receive aid. Given that those organisations involved in development work are already funded entirely by public contributions, either from the State or the people, it is time to look at the multiplicity of aid organisations, with replicated administrative and other costs. This needs to be done sensitively.
The debt crisis is draining developing countries of desperately needed resources. The cost of servicing debt has reversed some human development gains made from the 1950s onwards. In Tanzania, for example, where 40% of people die before the age of 35, debt repayments are six times greater than health spending. In Africa as a whole, where half of all children do not attend school, governments transfer four times more to northern creditors in debt payments than they spend on health and education. Ireland is not a creditor state, but if we were to meet our UN target we could give leadership to other states to do likewise and carry greater weight in our desire to persuade creditor states to forgive debt. It is easy for us to ask them to do something, it is not as easy for us to do something ourselves but it is time that we did.
In recent years, Ireland's growth rate has been four times the European average, the fastest growth rate in the OECD. Managing our success has become a challenge. We were in great part given tools with which to do the job through EU transfers and access to the Single Market. Over the coming decade, as we plan the share out of this success we should remember our own sad history and set about giving leadership to the world in giving those in greatest need the tools with which to survive.
We need to be realistic in approaching this matter and try to do what is practicable. Long after the Minister for Foreign Affairs and myself have passed through the House we should be able to look back and say that when we had the resources we grasped the nettle, legislated and gave leadership. If we do that we will meet the 0.7% target and we will be able to ask other countries to forgive debt because we will have made our contribution.
I refer to two other issues, one of which is the question of human rights and security. When some people, for example, witnessed the scenes in Kosovo, Somalia, and East Timor in more recent times, they said that somebody should do something about it. Ireland sent peacekeeping troops to these countries in difficult times and the Irish Rangers are in quite a dangerous situation in East Timor. However, the same people who referred to the humanitarian crisis and our moral authority in the world often do not face up to the truth in regard to common defence and security policy issues. If security is to be ensured in regions where there is terrible mayhem, it is not a policy to fight to the last Dutch, Belgian, British or American soldier. We must have an ethical policy.
Law and order in Ireland is a social justice matter. If there is a breakdown, old people, women and children suffer disproportionately. Children cannot be sent to the corner shop to pick up a message for their parents. The same is true of international security because when there is a breakdown the weakest members of society suffer and the bullies survive. We cannot say that we stand for social justice and adopt a hypocritical stance whereby somehow our so-called high moral ground neutrality will influence somebody somewhere to do something about it. There is a changing vista in the EU. It is time that there was more honest debate about it in Ireland and it is also time that we participated in the structures which ensure that there is stability and security and that humanitarian aid can get through. These are vital elements of any policy if we are truly concerned about the plight of our neighbours.
It is crucially important that considerable effort and resources are concentrated on education and development issues. We will not be able to spend the money we want to on development aid if we do not bring people with us. Every Member is already aware of the questions asked about immigrants in the community, such as "why are they getting this or that?". It will only take a short step before people ask why are we spending money on these people. If we take the time to educate the public, particularly the younger members, to bring them with us, they will, through their sense of justice, be the strongest advocates of meeting our UN commitments.
Many NGOs have raised with me the need for greater support for the vital development education work which is taking place throughout Ireland. Quality development education for both children and adults in Ireland should be a priority. If we are to take our share of responsibility in relation to development issues, public opinion which is informed and concerned will be needed. According to submissions made to me by NGOs, when asked how they could most effectively help the people in the Third World, 52% of young people in a survey said it would be helpful to educate people here to change things and an additional 38% of those surveyed said it would be of some help; those figures are from a justice and development issues awareness and attitudes survey carried out by DEFY.
Development education in Ireland has made tremendous progress over the past five years. This is evident, for example, in the proliferation and quality of groups and projects throughout the island in both the formal and non-formal sectors of education, the growing official recognition and promotion of development education at Government and non-governmental levels, the local and community groups which now make links between local and global justice and human rights issues and, importantly, in the heightened level of awareness and informed debate in the media and in Irish civil society overall.
An educated public is essential to ensuring support for an expanding Irish aid programme and development education has a primary role in ensuring such support. This issue has been raised with Fine Gael by a number of NGOs. They have recommended that funding for development education should be increased to 5% of the bilateral aid programme in a staged series of increases with an interim target of 3% to be allocated by 2002.
While Irish bilateral aid has increased, the share to development education has remained fairly stagnant since 1995. Between 1995 and 1997, development education's actual share of the bilateral aid budget decreased from 1.1% to 0.8%. We must ensure that trend is not only arrested but that it is reversed.
There are no votes inside or outside this House for the motion before us tonight. It is not about party politics. It is not about one-upmanship. This is about concern. I started by saying we are in a Lenten period. I happen to believe that there is still a large number of people who believe in the old traditions, for example, of alms giving during Lent. The Minister could make a significant contribution to a change in foreign policy – I said that to him on the first day of his appointment. If anybody can do it, he can. I ask him to legislate for this. We will support the legislation. We will not make a party political issue out of it. We will not embarrass him. The situation is grave and it is such a holocaust and a pandemia that we have to take those special steps.
I ask the Minister, before this debate concludes tomorrow night, if he is not in a position to say so now, to take on board this proposal to legislate. We will never meet that 0.7% unless we do so.