I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Heavily Indebted Poor Countries" in the second paragraph and substitute the following:
"—welcomes the proposal of the G8 countries to finance 100% cancellation of multilateral debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest countries;
—expresses the strong hope that the G8 agreement will be funded out of additional monies and not through diversion of existing funding;
—calls on the Government to continue Ireland's long-standing commitment to debt cancellation and urges it to support further initiatives to this end;
—recognises that debt cancellation is only part of what is needed to assist heavily indebted poor countries and that targeted and untied aid must continue to be given and significantly increased;
—welcomes the very substantial increases in Ireland's aid programme, which has grown from €96 million in 1994 to €545 million in 2005, which is channelled to some of the world's poorest countries and which has made Ireland the world's ninth largest aid donor on a per capita basis;
—welcomes the fact that the Government has already committed to expenditure of €1.8 billion on Official Development Assistance over the years 2005-2007;
—notes that Ireland, almost uniquely among donors, gives all of its aid untied;
—notes that the recent report by Action Aid entitled ‘Real Aid: An Agenda for Making Aid Work' found that Ireland has one of the highest quality aid programmes among Western donors;
—notes that at the European Council of 16-17 June, 2005, the Heads of State and Government, including Ireland, agreed that the EU member states which have not yet reached a level of 0.51% of GNP should reach that level by 2010, and that they should achieve the 0.7% target by 2015 the ten new member states were set lower targets;
—notes that the Government is strongly committed to achieving the UN target of 0.7% for expenditure on ODA and it will take a decision on this in advance of the UN Millennium Summit in September 2005;
—acknowledges the need for international agreements to control the international trade in arms in order to assist conflict resolution and prevent the terrible costs in human lives and attendant economic costs of such trade;
—calls on the Government to strongly support efforts to bring about an international arms trade treaty;
—acknowledges that the Government is committed to a strong rules-based WTO and multilateral trading system as being the best way to help developing countries to integrate into the global trading system and is working towards a successful outcome to the Doha Development Agenda negotiations and the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in December 2005;
—confirms that as the negotiations on the economic partnership agreements move into a more critical phase, it will be important to have close monitoring and dialogue between the EU Commission and the Council to ensure that the development focus of EPAs remains a primary concern; and
—recognising the increasing convergence between issues of environmental degradation and world poverty, and in view of the fact that the adverse impacts of climate change are, and will be, disproportionately borne by the world's poorest people, supports the Government, in the upcoming negotiations on global action to tackle climate change after 2012, in seeking a fair, equitable and inclusive agreement that will reduce the vulnerability of developing countries through reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases and through assisting developing countries to access the resources and expertise required to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change."
I wish to share time with Deputies Nolan and O'Connor. I am glad of this opportunity to speak and I thank the Green Party Members, despite their comments. I am somewhat disappointed by their attitude to the amendment which the Government and I thought was better-worded and which does not detract from the Green Party's motion's sentiments. I regret that it appears the House might divide on this issue because it is not an issue on which it should.
Nevertheless, the debate provides us with an opportunity. I thank the Green Party for providing the opportunity to have a debate which will embrace the totality of the development agenda, not simply the question of overseas development aid. It offers the House an opportunity to deal with the key issues of aid, trade, the international arms trade and the environment. Each of these topics would merit an extensive debate on its own, never mind combining them in one debate. However, I will attempt to address each of them as comprehensively as possible in the time at my disposal.
I will start with aid. In terms of cash disbursements, Ireland's aid programme has grown enormously over the last decade. It is worth remembering that none of the G8 donor countries provides the same level of aid per capita as Ireland. On average they provide 0.21% of their GNP in aid, just over half the level of aid achieved by Ireland. Since the formation of this Government, the aid programme has risen by €387 million, from €158 million in 1997 to €545 million of taxpayers’ money today. In 1997 we spent approximately €39 for every man, woman and child on our development programme. This year we will spend about €136, an increase of almost €100. Everyone will accept that these are significant amounts. Moreover, they are in addition to the personal donations made by many Irish citizens to the developing word.
In addition, we now have a three-year commitment, which stipulates an increase of €60 million this year. To put that figure in context, the Tánaiste received €70 million to deal with the accident and emergency service issue. It will be increased by €65 million in each of the next two years. In fact, over the three years from 2005 to 2007, the Irish taxpayer will pay €1.8 billion in overseas development aid. Hence, this multi-annual commitment provides an excellent opportunity for careful planning and implementation.
I do not say this to detract from the UN target of 0.7% in any way, but to show just how much the Irish people currently give to the developing world. On the issue of the UN target, I am the first to assert that we must meet this target. In my work as a UN special envoy, I promote the UN reform package, part of which is a greater commitment to the development agenda and particularly to the 0.7% target. I wish to reassure the House that this Government is strongly committed to achieving the UN target of 0.7% for expenditure on ODA. We need a sustainable, tenable and deliverable target. We will not be rushed because this is serious business. I refer to the Government's amendment, which clearly states that it is committed to achieving the UN target of 0.7% and that it will make a decision on the subject in advance of the UN Millennium Summit in September.
Deputies will also be aware that the European Union recently agreed — again as part of my exhortations as UN special envoy — to set a new set of targets regarding ODA. Those member states which have not yet reached a level of 0.51% of GNP on ODA should individually reach that level by 2010. They have also undertaken to achieve the UN target of 0.7% by 2015. Indeed, when that decision was made, Kofi Annan stated that it would put wind into the sails of the proposals in his reform package, particularly in the development area. Other member states which joined after 2002 have lower targets. The EU 15, in other words excluding the ten newer member states, have also committed to a new collective target of 0.56% by 2010. This means that by 2010, the EU as a whole will disburse an additional €20 billion in aid to the poorest countries in the world. That is a major step forward and I am sure it will be welcomed by everyone who is concerned for the developing world. Naturally, Ireland fully subscribes to these new targets agreed by the European Union.
Cash disbursements do not give the whole picture regarding aid as where and how the funding is spent is also important. In this respect, Ireland has an excellent record. Our aid programme has been highly praised for its value and focus on the poorest of the poor. The last peer review of the OECD in 2003 noted that our aid programme distinguishes itself by its sharp focus on poverty reduction and its commitment to partnership principles. The recent report by Action Aid International entitled Real Aid: An Agenda for Making Aid Work, found that Ireland has one of the highest quality overseas aid programmes among western donors. The report distinguished between "real aid", that is assistance which reaches its target and brings genuine improvements, and "phantom aid", which ties recipients to purchases from donor countries, or is poorly implemented. We must state with pride that irrespective of what political party was in Government, we have never tied our aid. There should be a greater focus on many of the larger countries in respect of this issue. That report put Ireland at the top of the list, noting that almost 90% of Irish aid is "real aid" which benefits poor people in developing countries and that our aid is totally 100% untied. This means we do not link our aid to the purchase of Irish goods and services, as unfortunately do some other countries. Consequently, goods and services provided represent best value and often help to build up local service providers.
Earlier this month, the G8 called on the OECD to set ambitious and credible targets for the indicators of aid effectiveness agreed in Paris earlier this year. It is particularly important to set targets for untying aid, so that more of it can be spent by and in developing countries, thus multiplying its developmental impact.
Ireland's aid programme is focused on some of the world's poorest countries. We are one of only six countries which spends more than 0.15% of GNP on the least developed countries. To cite the recent Action Aid report again, Ireland spends more of its aid, 79%, on low-income countries than any other country, apart from Portugal.
As far as debt is concerned, the provision of aid, though vital, is only one of several dynamics in the relationship between the developed and the developing world. Two other vital factors are debt relief and trade. The recent announcement by the G8 finance ministers that they will finance 100% cancellation of World Bank, African Development Bank and International Monetary Fund debt owed by a group of the world's poorest countries represents significant progress.
For the first time, the most powerful countries in the world, those that effectively control decision-making at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have accepted that many countries should have their loans with these institutions completely written off. This agreement represents significant progress towards solving the thus far intractable problem of Third World debt. Ireland has argued for many years for such a move. Our official policy on debt which was adopted in 2002 by this Government, called for 100% debt cancellation for all heavily indebted countries. The Government felt then and continues to feel that a country's requirement to repay debt must not prevent it from maintaining an adequate level of expenditure on services and investments in health, education, agriculture, water supply, sanitation, roads and other infrastructure.
Without adequate resources for these areas, development and poverty reduction are impossible. I am very glad the G8 countries have come to the same conclusion. For Ireland, the success of a debt relief or debt cancellation scheme is principally measured by how much it increases the money available to the beneficiary government for spending on poverty reduction. It seems clear from the conclusions of the G8 Finance Ministers' meeting that financing of the debt cancellation will be additional to the current resources of the international financial institutions. This means that in overall terms resource flows from international financial institutions to developing countries should be unaffected by debt cancellation and the relief provided should result in additional resources being available for recipient countries.
However, it is also possible that the allocations of funds to the individual beneficiary countries from the international financial institutions will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the debt relief resulting from the cancellation. Perhaps that is the point to which Deputy Higgins refers. Countries may not, therefore, have direct access to additional resources for expenditure as a result of the cancellation. Rather, they will have to compete with other low income countries for access to the benefits of the debt cancellation.
Furthermore, if the cancellation is financed from existing bilateral aid flows, it could well mean that the debt relief is accompanied by an equivalent fall-off in bilateral aid flows. It is vital that this does not happen. It is important that Opposition parties publicly support our stance on this important issue.
The opportunities for the beneficiary countries to achieve the millennium development goals will only be enhanced if, at the same time as their debts are cancelled, the aid they receive, including the funds allocated to them by the lending institutions, are maintained or increased. Ireland and other non-G8 donors will be expected to participate in the financing of the debt cancellation. For Ireland, which is not a lender and has always provided its aid as grants, every euro we put into debt relief should turn into an extra euro for the country receiving the relief.
I hope that in the process of bringing their donor partners on board, the G8 countries will be prepared to show the flexibility around the objectives and principles which govern the implementation of the initiative that will allow us all to finance it with enthusiasm and hope for its success.
Some proposals for debt relief in the past have turned out to be less generous than originally they appeared. I hope this will not be the case with the latest proposals. Developing countries deserve a fair deal on debt. It must be remembered however that debt relief or cancellation, even implemented in the most favourable manner possible, is unlikely on its own to solve the economic problems of poor developing countries. The G8 agreement is historic and represents significant progress but it is only a part of what is required to make real progress in eradicating extreme poverty.
The yearly value of the debts being cancelled will be approximately US$700 million. Even if all this relief turned into new money in developing country budgets, it would still be less than one fiftieth of the increase in annual aid budgets which the World Bank estimates is needed to achieve the internationally agreed millennium development goals. The volume of assistance to poor developing countries needs to be increased significantly. As I have already mentioned, Ireland's aid budget has grown significantly and will continue to grow.
Trade is a powerful engine for economic growth which can lead to sustainable development and ultimately to poverty reduction. Ireland firmly believes that having a transparent, rules-based global trading system is the best way to help developing countries to integrate into the global trading system. The Government is committed to working towards a successful outcome to the Doha development agenda negotiations and the sixth ministerial conference of the WTO in December 2005.
The most fundamental objective of the WTO Doha development agenda launched in November 2001 is to further the integration of developing countries into the global trading system. However, many developing countries have understandable concerns that a multilateral trading system will have severe negative effects on their economies. The Government believes that the Doha negotiations need to result in real benefits for these countries if their concerns are to be successfully addressed. The Government is working to ensure that the Doha development round will be a genuine development round. Central to our approach and that of our EU partners is a commitment to respond positively to the concerns of developing countries.
As we approach the sixth ministerial conference in Hong Kong next December, we will maintain our commitment to this balance. Preparatory work for the conference is proceeding, notwithstanding the difficulty of some of the problems that need to be resolved. I am confident that the Hong Kong conference will provide the necessary impetus to progress in the final negotiations of the Doha development agenda and that the successful conclusion of the round is now in prospect. Ireland's priority in these negotiations has been, and will continue to be, that the process of trade liberalisation continues in a fair and balanced way and that the WTO continues to provide a stable and consistent framework for the regulation of world trade.
The Government does not believe that trade liberalisation alone, including agricultural trade liberalisation, is a panacea for development challenges, particularly in the case of least developed countries. The integration of least developed countries into the global economy will require not only trade liberalisation measures, it will require measures to fight HIV-AIDS; build trade capacity; attract foreign direct investment; promote agricultural and rural development; support the role of women in agricultural production; and, crucially, increase investment in new technologies.
The EU has a number of preferential trade relationships with least developed countries. The biggest is the so-called Cotonou Agreement with 77 countries mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, but also the smaller Caribbean and Pacific states. This provides access to EU markets on preferential terms for exports from these countries. The latest phase of the Cotonou Agreement has just been concluded by the EU and the ACP states.
Another important trade link is the 2001 everything but arms initiative which grants least developed countries very wide access to EU markets. The economic partnership agreements, EPAs, which are due to enter into force by 1 January 2008, are an integral element of the Cotonou Agreement. The EPAs are intended first and foremost as instruments for development to foster the smooth and gradual integration of African, Caribbean and Pacific states into the world economy. They combine trade and wider development issues in a unified framework while taking account of the specific economic, social and environmental circumstances of each regional group and its component states. This overall approach is welcomed by Ireland and other member states concerned that development and poverty reduction should be the principal objectives of the EPAs. We are, therefore, clearly not talking in the case of EPAs about conventional trade agreements.
I very much welcome recent statements by the EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, that he intends to strengthen the development focus of EPAs. He has announced his intention to establish, with his fellow Commissioners, including the Commissioner responsible for development, Louis Michel, and in partnership with the ACP countries, a dedicated structure to keep the EPA process under close review. This is important not least because the Commission, as the institution competent for EU trade policy, is the body which negotiates on behalf of member states.
Ireland is actively following developments in the EPA negotiations. As they move into a critical phase, Ireland, in common with other EU member states, will continue to ensure that there is close monitoring and dialogue between the Commission and the Council to ensure that the development focus of EPAs remains to the fore.
This Private Members' motion raises the very important issue of international trade in arms. I agree with the sentiments expressed and in my amendment to the motion I have proposed only some slight amendments to the original wording. The best and most effective way to control such trade is through international agreements and, therefore, I have added a reference to this effect in the text of the first indent on this issue. I have also replaced the word "restrict" with "control" as the latter is more commonly used and understood internationally in the context of export controls.
My amended wording also deletes the reference to Finland in the second indent, which deals with the proposed arms trade treaty. The treaty was devised and has been promoted by a number of non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International and Oxfam. My understanding is that the Government of Finland, while being very supportive of the treaty, is not the co-ordinator of the campaign for the treaty. The campaign for the treaty has also been supported by other countries. It is for those reasons I believe that rather than singling out a particular country, a more general reference would be appropriate.
On the fundamental issue of the international trade in arms, Ireland recognises the importance of addressing this issue. There are all too many examples of conflicts which are fuelled by proliferation of conventional weapons, especially in developing countries. It has been estimated that approximately 300,000 people are killed each year in violent conflict and war. Global stockpiles of small arms and light weapons amount to an estimated 600 million units. This is especially an issue of concern in Africa where the proliferation of these weapons continues to have a serious negative impact on fragile economies and brings terror, misery and suffering to societies throughout that continent.
The Government supports the principle of having legally binding international agreements on the control of arms exports with as wide a participation as possible. Ireland is committed to working with others to ensure that the international community deals effectively with the illicit trafficking of such weapons. Currently, all exports of arms from EU countries must conform to the EU code of conduct on arms exports which establishes criteria to control such exports. Ireland was actively involved in the establishment of this politically binding code, which was adopted by the EU Feneral Affairs Council in June 1998. The code lists the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to allow an export of military goods, including respect for human rights, the internal situation in the country of final destination and the preservation of regional peace, security and stability. Discussions are ongoing in the EU on the possible reinforcement of the status of the code of conduct.
Over the past two years, Ireland has actively participated in negotiations in the United Nations on an international instrument to regulate the marking and tracing of illicit small arms and light weapons, which I am pleased to note was agreed upon earlier this month in New York. This will assist the international community in its efforts to control such trade in a much more systematic way. A welcome aspect of the international trade treaty proposed by NGOs is that it has the objective of setting out states' existing international legal obligations in the area of international transfers of arms. Once ratified, the proposed treaty would enable the international community to move forward incrementally, by means of subsequent specific instruments, to strengthen international controls on arms transfers. Ireland has taken an active interest in this initiative. During Ireland's Presidency of the EU last year, we placed this issue on the agenda of the relevant working group in Brussels.
The Government fully shares the view that climate change is the most serious threat to the global environment and that poor people in poor countries are most vulnerable to its adverse effects. Such people are least able to cope with extreme weather events such as cyclones, hurricanes and droughts which are expected to occur with increased frequency and intensity due to the impact of climate change. The second Kyoto Protocol commitment period negotiations will be very sensitive.
The Government believes that comprehensive dialogue is essential and must involve the United States, the oil producing countries and developing countries that, up to now, have had no obligation to curb emissions. Together with our EU partners at the United Nations framework convention on climate change meeting held in Buenos Aires last December, Ireland pressed hard for the initiation of these negotiations. Parties to the conference agreed to hold a seminar in Bonn, which took place in a very constructive atmosphere. Negotiations on the next phase should ideally conclude by 2008.
The Government believes the targets set should be ambitious and that responsibility for curbing emissions should be fairly shared. We will work to that end in the months to come and at the first meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which is scheduled to take place in Montreal in November 2005. Under the United Nations framework convention on climate change, a special least developed countries fund was established to help those countries plan for and cope with the adverse effects of climate change. Ireland was one of the first to contribute to the LDC fund and I intend making further contributions in this and subsequent years.
Again, I pay tribute to the Green Party for highlighting the issues under discussion tonight. I am disappointed the party could not accept what I believe is a better motion. Ireland has led the way over the years and we should pay tribute to our own Bono and Bob Geldof and to the representatives of our NGOs, who have been slaving away on this issue for many years. I do not think people realise the amount of effort and the level of funding the Government spends on their behalf, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It is important that we air these issues so that people are fully aware that over the next three years, we will spend €1.8 billion of their money on overseas development, especially in Africa.