I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Government's White Paper. I wish to stress a number of positive points before moving on to others which perhaps could have been covered in greater depth in the White Paper.
The White Paper is important. We have been waiting for it for a while and it has been published in the last 12 months of the term of the Government. Therefore, it is important for and presents a challenge to all parties heading towards the general election in terms of their commitment to overseas development aid. It is important to remember that those who stress the achievement of the figure of 0.7% by 2012 do not regard that as the end point. Many of the Scandinavian countries have already passed the figure of 1%. Four countries have achieved a figure of 0.7%: Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg. The performance of the European Union is regularly compared with that of Ireland in so far as its achievement of a figure of 0.7% by 2015 is looking extremely unlikely. This is a point to which I will return. I pay tribute to the Government for having real figures. It is on track to achieving a figure of 0.7% by 2012. The figure currently stands at 0.41%. If one qualifies the Irish figures by way of what is spent strictly outside development, one would probably remove two tranches of €700,000 but that would not change the percentage of 0.41%.
I very much support the five principles outlined in the précis to the report. I also very much welcome the level of aid provided. I agree with the Minister of State and others who have said untied aid is best. I also very much agree with the new partners we have chosen in regard to Malawi. While I am on that subject, there is a footnote on an important issue which will arise. There are more doctors from Malawi working in the United Kingdom than in Malawi. That raises an issue in regard to health infrastructure in the countries with which we will have a relationship.
On some of the other issues raised, the publications section of the Department of Foreign Affairs deserves credit for the beautiful dividing coloured pages between the ten sections. However, concentrating on the 90 pages of text, a number of issues are striking. There is a very weak reference to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. It is on the Government's list of proposed legislation for 2007 but there is no indication it will be passed in its lifetime. The heads are not ready. On several occasions I have tabled questions to the Taoiseach and various Ministers. I need not go into in detail but the Chairman made reference to my attendance at the meeting in Brussels last Wednesday when I paid tribute, as I have just done, to the White Paper for those positive elements but I suggested the fact that only one European Union country had ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption seriously eroded the European Union's credibility in giving lectures on corruption.
There is very little in the White Paper on the concept of good governance. Several foreign affairs committees of member states of the European Union have addressed this matter. The issue is simple. Are we speaking about good governance in terms of transparency, the transfer of capital investment, for example, according to the concept used by the World Bank, or are we talking about good governance in terms of the methods of decision-making, participation or arriving at decisions on development that might be rooted in people's own experience? The White Paper falls into the trap of imagining that history began in the post-1960s period. On the concept of good governance, it makes reference to these concepts not yet having arrived. I warn against suggestions that good governance can be imposed from outside. I question the notion that there is a scholarship that suggested it was okay for Africa to be looked at through the lens of British anthropologists and seen as a collection of exotic peoples in the 19th century but now when we need anthropology to elicit mechanisms of decision-making that have been in place for thousands of years, cultural arrangements in terms of consultation and participation, the assumption that Africa has no history is a nonsense. That is wrong.
I am issuing a straightforward warning that we need a discourse on what is meant by good governance. If people want it, good discussion documents on the concept should be available to those who prepared the White Paper. For example, it is the subject of a special volume issued by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden. If one wants to compare the White Paper, it should be compared with the Norwegian White Paper, the most complete in addressing issues such as the incorporation of human rights in development. The Norwegian consideration of that issue stops short of giving in but is the best attempt at including human rights in the development discourse. After 23 years of silence in Norway, the human rights discourse was launched nationally and included issues affecting the disabled. It was an attempt to move the discourse towards the area of international development.
The Swedish White Paper is very instructive on the issue. Using good governance as a simple term without it being teased out as to what is meant by it is extremely dangerous. It will be abused in the same way the concept of sustainable development was abused by some of the worst polluters on the planet, including oil companies which regard themselves as lead environmentalists.
It is a pity that the big development issues staring us in the face internationally did not receive more attention in, for example, the rights section. Does the Minister of State agree there is a universal right to water? Where would we stand in regard to the same French multinational selling water to black people in Los Angeles, South Africa and a number of Asian countries? There is enough clean water on the planet to meet all our needs but its distribution and ownership is the single biggest issue in international development but it is not discussed in the White Paper. Similarly, there is no reference to the work of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations or its conference and no discussion on the right to be free from hunger, a major proposal that emanted from the UN discussion. The context of the White Paper is one of 800 million people starving, 1 billion people living without clean water, 2 billion without sanitation, 2 million dying of AIDS and so on. We might have expected these themes and issues in the White Paper, but I am listing the others for the sake of time. This is one of our rare opportunities to list the issues.
I agree with previous speakers regarding technology. The White Paper does not discuss the technology transfer matter, which is an issue of the first moment. If the application of technology to agricultural production generates food security and local surpluses that lead to regional surpluses, giving the possibility of regional commerce, where do we stand in respect of the critique made by the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries of the EPAs that are being negotiated between the European Union and different regional representatives? These issues are too important to overlook.
I have made many negative remarks, but I want to say something regarding what I meant about the Irish figures being real and the EU not achieving its 0.7% target by 2015 in any truthful way. The latter's figures are being rigged. Included in several countries' 0.7% figures are what they spend on foreign students, assisting refugees and debt relief. These comprise 52% of Austria's 0.7% reported figure, 32% of Germany's, 31% of the United Kingdom's, 29% of Italy's and 19% of France's. Some of the strongest economies in the EU are counting three items that have nothing to do with development directly as part of their 0.7% achievements. Some of the figures are interesting upon examination of their proportions. For example, Iraqi and Nigerian debt cancellation makes up 52% of the Austrian figure in 2005. The figures are unreal, but I will pay tribute to the Irish figure. If one adjusts it and takes off €1.4 million at gross, 0.41% would still remain, which is an important point to make. I would have welcomed the rest of it.
The EU's discourse suggests that the days of pledged and lodged money but unspent funds are over. This is nonsense and is untrue. During the preparations for the White Paper, there was a long set of discussions that led with what was called the declaration of Ministers in December 2005, which is one of the weakest statements ever issued in the area of development. I refer to the statement of the EU's Heads of State and Government under the authorship of Commissioner Louis Michel. It is a very mild document that fails to integrate accurately the connection between aid, trade and debt. Some 1% of trade lost to Africa is seven times the entire aid figure for a particular year.
There is reference in the report to talks with other Ministries, but there is not much reference to what one might call a whole-of-Government approach, that is, when moving towards any of the eight world millennium development goals, one should test Departments regularly and ask where agriculture, trade, enterprise and so forth fit in. This approach is missing.
There is little reference to something that is missing from all European papers on this matter and is a significant flaw in Scandinavian White Papers, that is, the enormous contradiction in the spread of armaments to countries and regions that are recipients of aid. There is a welcome reference in the White Paper to the scandal of child soldiers and so forth.
I will end with a specific question. Last year, the Minister of State opened a conference in Trinity College at which he gave the opening paper. He had Professor Bjorn Lomborg and other such people speaking about the Copenhagen Consensus which ranked particular priorities, etc. While I would like to know where the Minister of State stands on that, there are particular problems associated with ethnic and disadvantaged communities within national boundaries, and the issue of how one really begins to approach that problem is not really discussed. For example, it has been suggested — I am not in a position to contradict this or say it is true — that the dire shortages of water and regular starvation of the 3.5 million Somalis who live in the Ogaden Desert within Ethiopia are manipulated by the Government which has responsibility for them. That is what I mean by intra-borders and difficulties that arise, and these are real issues.
I am in favour of a development approach that has an entirely different discourse. It has been the experience for decades that multinationals, governments and even the headquarters of non-governmental organisations are comfortable speaking to the representative elites in the capitals of different countries. The significant transition that could take place should be based on food security, creation of local surpluses and regional markets. I refer to genuine regional markets, not artificial regional markets imposed by the European Union.
I make these points by way of being constructive. As I have said, I acknowledge what has been achieved but I also feel impelled to note what is not being discussed.