Development Aid Programme in Zambia: Discussion.

I welcome His Excellency, Mr. Tony Cotter, Ambassador of Ireland to Zambia, Mr. Gerry Cunningham, head of development at the Irish Embassy in Lusaka, Mr. Seán McMahon, director of programme countries, Irish Aid, Mr. Kevin Dowling, director, Africa section of Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms Angela O'Neill, Concern's regional director for Southern Africa and Zambia, Mr. Paul O'Brien, Concern's overseas director, and Ms Bernadette Crawford, Concern's desk officer for Zambia.

This is the fifth in a series of meetings with regard to our programme countries. The format is simple. I invite His Excellency, Mr. Tony Cotter, to make his presentation. I will then invite Ms Angela O'Neill, Concern's regional director for Southern Africa and Zambia to address the committee before we take questions.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

I thank the Chairman and members of the sub-committee for the opportunity to present Ireland's aid programme in Zambia. I am accompanied by our head of development, Mr. Gerry Cunningham, as well as by my Department of Foreign Affairs colleagues from Dublin and Limerick.

I am pleased that Concern is represented at this meeting because it is important that the sub-committee has the benefit of its valuable perspectives.

I wish to give a brief overview of the country context setting out the rationale for Ireland's presence in Zambia, the challenges we face and the results being achieved.

Zambia is a landlocked country, approximately ten times the size of Ireland, with an estimated population of more than 13 million. The country remains one of the poorest in the world ranked 164th out of the 182 developing countries on the UN human development index. Life expectancy currently stands at 44 years, caused primarily by the HIV-AIDS pandemic. The Zambian economy has performed reasonably well since 2000 with average growth in GDP of 5% to 6% which, however, remains short of the growth rates required to reduce poverty.

Zambia is a democracy which elects its President and Legislature by universal suffrage. In fact, Zambia was one of the first African countries to successfully have a peaceful transition of power following elections. However, as with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia is in its early stages of democratic development and the commitment to fundamental democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance still has some way to travel, despite some real progress. Ireland's long-standing approach has been to strengthen the systems of governance recognising that it is only by working through country systems that real and sustainable progress can be achieved.

Our programme of development co-operation is focused on the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the population and is designed around four mutually reinforcing areas. The first of those areas is around building good governance. We support a programme of reform in the national Parliament which aims to enhance accountability by strengthening the capacity of the MPs and the various committees. As a result, parliamentary oversight has significantly increased with public confidence in the Public Accounts Committee considerably strengthened. We support 15 community radio stations to ensure that Zambians are well informed about national and local issues and are given the opportunity to learn different points of view. For 80% of Zambians, community radio is often the only accessible media in their local language. We complement our support to Government with direct funding for NGOs who are able to articulate a domestic demand for accountability around various issues, including advocacy on the cost of the monthly food basket for poor families.

While recognising the considerable challenges in the governance area, there have also been positive indicators of real progress such as the launch of the new anti-corruption policy and related legislation. The auditor general's office has been substantially expanded and covered more than 80% of all government expenditure compared to 20% previously. Zambia also benefits from having a growing range of civil society and media organisations compared to many other countries in the region.

At the time of its Independence in 1964, Zambia had about 107 university graduates and 1,200 secondary school graduates. Less than 6% of its population had completed primary level education. Ireland's experience illustrates that education lies at the heart of the development challenge. This is also the case in Zambia. I should mention that, as in other parts of the developing world, Irish missionaries have been key service providers of education in Zambia and have left a very proud legacy with many of Zambia's leading citizens having been educated by them.

In 2009, Ireland disbursed some €14 million to the education sector. It is gratifying to see real progress being made in this sector with more than 5,000 teachers recruited and almost 1,500 classrooms built by the Government in each of the past two years. An additional 1.2 million students are now benefiting from basic education compared to 2002 when free primary education was first introduced. Such a significant influx of students is not without its own qualitative challenges related to overcrowded classrooms, shortages of desks and textbooks. In the midst of these challenges we continue to support issues which affect the poorest — ensuring increased government resources for community schools; ensuring particular attention to girl students; and ensuring that HIV-AIDS orphans and children with special needs receive government support.

The third area of our programme — Recognising and Reaching the Poorest — explicitly targets the poorest people in Zambia by promoting social protection, which is a form of social welfare. We also target gender equality; and the issue of HIV-AIDS.

As I speak this morning, many people in Zambia did not have breakfast and do not look forward to having three meals today. In the past six months I have had the opportunity to travel to six of the nine provinces of Zambia and have seen at first hand the dreadful impact of hunger and under-nutrition on men, women and young children. Zambia's recently improved economic performance is not yet sufficiently benefiting the poorest sections of the population.

Among the pilot programmes we have supported since 2004 with the Ministry for Community Development and Social Services is a programme of social cash transfers, consisting of payments of just €8 a month targeting households with young children in areas most severely affected by poverty. I travelled recently to the Southern Province, where my visit was hosted by the country director of Concern and saw at first hand how the social welfare programme had changed the lives of the beneficiaries there, including elderly and disabled people, often looking after orphaned grandchildren. With just an additional €8 per month, they were better able to feed their families, send children to school, buy chickens, goats and other livestock, and because they had cash they purchased their needs locally. It had the added advantage of boosting the wider local economy.

It is now intended to scale up these innovative and effective programmes, with a view to gradually reaching close to 350,000 of the most vulnerable people in Zambia by 2017.

Zambia has suffered greatly from the HIV-AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa. More than 1 million Zambians are estimated to have died from HIV-AIDS since the first case was identified in 1984. Estimates put the current prevalence rate at 14.3% down slightly from 16.4% in 2002. I travelled recently to the Western Province with Concern and in the provincial capital Mongu, the prevalence rate of HIV-AIDS is more than 23%, which means one out of every four adults that I met there had the virus. That is the scale of the problem in Zambia, a sobering thought. About 1 million Zambians are currently infected by the virus. Families have lost husbands, wives and children, leaving orphans in the care of grandparents and other relatives. It is estimated that HIV-AIDS has left about 1 million orphans — 6% or more than 75,000 of these children live on the streets. Industries, businesses, schools and hospitals lose trained and skilled workers, profoundly affecting the social and economic development of the country.

Ireland provides support to the National AIDS Council in Zambia to ensure that the issue is addressed at the highest political levels and to co-ordinate a locally driven broad based response to HIV-AIDS at all levels, including through provincial and district government. We complement our support to the Zambian Government with support to a number of civil society organisations that directly address the needs of more than 30,000 orphans and vulnerable children enabling them to access HIV-AIDS testing and treatment where needed, continue their schooling, undertake vocational training and become independent and productive members of their communities. Since 2004, Irish Aid has, also through NGOs, supported the provision of home based and hospice care for more than 14,000 people living with HIV-AIDS enabling them to have food and to treat infections and manage pain. Today, some 270,000 people, almost 60% of those requiring treatment, have access to free anti-retroviral treatment, giving them the opportunity of returning to an economically and socially productive life. In 2004, this service did not exist at all. More than 850,000 people per year are now being tested voluntarily for HIV-AIDS and, as a result, new infections in children have reduced from 21,000 to 9,000.

Our work on gender equality is fundamental to tackling HIV-AIDS in view of the fact that women and girls have been particularly affected by the pandemic. More than half of women who have been married in Zambia have been beaten by their husbands and one in ten has suffered sexual violence or rape. In general, women are regarded as subordinate to their male counterparts with less voice, less autonomy, fewer opportunities and lowered self-esteem from childhood to old age.

Ireland supports the Zambian Government's gender support programme which initially is focusing on better addressing gender across five key sectors, including education. We also treat gender as one of our cross-cutting issues right across our programme. In the education sector we support the campaign for female education, an NGO which supports bursaries for poor girl students and advocates for a zero tolerance of child abuse in schools. Our gender programme also supports Women in Law and Development in Africa, WILDAF, towards efforts for addressing gender based violence, including the enactment of legislation against gender based violence.

Ireland has a long history of engagement in Zambia's Northern Province that dates back to 1980. We provide ongoing support to four districts in the province to improve service delivery with emphasis placed on the participation of poor women and men in the planning process. The programme serves as a pilot for national approaches — the breakthrough to literacy programme and the concept of district AIDS task forces were both first piloted by Ireland in the northern province before being accepted by the government and rolled out through the government system.

Ireland has had a long engagement in the water sector in Northern Province. Since 2000 we have funded the construction of more than 4,000 water points, bringing safe water to almost 400,000 people. In line with best international practice, the programme combines water supply with sanitation and hygiene education. For example, encouraging hand washing with soap is regarded as the cheapest and most effective means of tackling the incidence of water borne diseases.

For many years aid efforts by donors were fragmented and unco-ordinated in Zambia as elsewhere. Donors now work much more closely together and with the Government. This enhanced co-ordination and division of work, allied with a focus on results and together with the improvement in economic performance, means Zambia has a real possibility, with the necessary political leadership, of becoming a middle income country in the next 20 years. This would be truly a remarkable achievement.

Zambia has a long way to go but as a result of the combined efforts of the government, Ireland and other donors there is encouraging progress. The 2008 millennium development goals progress report indicates that the 2015 targets for hunger, universal primary education, gender, maternal health and HIV-AIDS are likely to be met in Zambia while the potential exists to meet the remaining targets, with the sole exception of environmental sustainability.

Zambia has weathered the global economic crisis better than many of its peers in sub-Saharan Africa and has legitimate aspirations to become a middle-income country by 2030. In order to do so, the economic performance and improvements in governance will need to be sustained and improved. With its abundance of human and natural resources and tradition of political stability, it has the potential for rapid and sustained growth in the years to come. While mining will undoubtedly continue to play an important role for a long time to come, the Zambian Government must increasingly recognise that diversification of the economy is essential if economic growth is to be sustained and real poverty reduction achieved in the next 20 years.

I am aware that the Chairman and members have a busy schedule but the Zambia country team would welcome the opportunity, if the occasion were to arise, to welcome them to Zambia to show them our programme on the ground.

I thank the ambassador for that. I thank Ms Angela O'Neill for coming and invite her to make her presentation. It is good to see her again.

Ms Angela O’Neill

It is very nice to be here.

Concern started working in Zambia in late 2002 as a result of a drought there at the time. With Zambia being a country ranked in the bottom 40 on the human development index, our mandate would have been to stay there and continue the work after the initial emergency was over, and that is what we have done. Our poverty analysis at that time suggested we should focus our energies on the western province which the ambassador, Mr. Cotter, recently visited. It is the poorest province in Zambia with very poor infrastructure, a lack of investment and very little road infrastructure. We found that the two sectors of critical importance were HIV and AIDS and livelihood security, food security in particular, and that those were the ones on which we should focus. We did that analysis in 2002 and our analysis now is not much different from our original analysis in terms of the continued need to focus on those two sectors.

We have also explored in the past year the possibility of working in some of the urban settlements in the Lusaka. As members will be aware, urbanisation is becoming a huge issue in most African countries and there are quite substantial poverty issues in urban areas.

I can report on the work we have been doing in the western province for the past few years. We currently have a working budget of approximately €2 billion, 48% of which comes from Irish Aid funding. We work with a range of civil society partners, local partners from Zambia and government partners. We work very closely with the Zambian Government in its various ministries at local level in particular. We have a very strong working relationship with the Irish Aid delegation in Lusaka, whom we meet regularly. We have regular meetings to exchange views and ascertain where there are synergies and areas for sharing, learning and collaboration. One such area, which we have spoken about recently, is that of social protection, the social welfare arena, in which Irish Aid and Concern are very interested.

The issues with which Zambians have to cope have multiplied over time. Our analysis is that poverty has very much a feminine face. It is very much women who are more deeply affected by the level of poverty in the country. This trend is likely to continue due to the impact of HIV, the existing position of women which is of a very unequal nature, and some very unfavourable Government policies. Zambia has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world with 1.5 million people living with HIV and more than 1.2 million orphans. In addition to that, on the food security side, 51% of the population cannot meet their food needs on a daily basis. They would have food for part of the year but not all year round. Some 48% of the children in Zambia suffer from stunting as a result of long-term chronic malnutrition. This is not as a result of going without one meal every now and again but due to going without good nutrition on an ongoing basis over a sustained period. Some 48% of the children in Zambia are suffering from stunting, which affects their brain and reproductive development etc and has long-term implications for the health of the nation.

Recognising this and the extreme vulnerability of people even in good years — for instance, the death of a breadwinner in a household as a result of HIV can have a huge impact on a family, as can a short drought in that a family can lose the small crop it may have — Concern is supporting the Zambian Government, through local partners, to put in place basic social safety nets for these poorest families. These people have no other means of living. Concern's support for the implementation of the national social protection policy involves piloting some social cash transfers in three of the districts in which we work, which has so far provided 2,000 households with small livestock which, we hope, will provide evidence down the line, in particular to the government, of how very small inputs can make a significant difference to the lives of people and prevent people falling into negative coping strategies, like having to sell off all their assets or engage in very risky practices such as transactional sex in order to survive. We are also designing an expanded social assistance programme which, if funded, will support social pensions and provide vocational training to some of the poorest households in the districts and hopefully will reach more than 5,000 people in the first instance. Concern Worldwide, DFID, the International Labour Organisation, Irish Aid, UNICEF and the World Bank have been assisting in conducting research and sharing learning as members of the Technical Working Group on Social Assistance.

Some aspects of Zambia's agriculture and food security have progressed very significantly and in some years have had quite a food surplus, but the issue for us because we are focused on extreme poverty is the problem of access to food for low-income families. With the food crisis in 2008, food prices shot up quite considerably and poor households simply do not have the additional income to be able to access that food.

The lack of adequate access to agriculture support services, poor road infrastructure, poor marketing facilities and a lack of trained agriculture extension workers, are some of the greatest challenges facing the Zambian agriculture sector. That sector is currently managing with only 50% of the trained staff it needs to roll out agricultural policies. Concern advocates that the Zambian ministry of agriculture implement its national development plans to try to address these challenges, and implement the Maputo declaration under which governments signed up to spend 10% of their budgets on agriculture.

Concern's livelihoods programme is very much in line with the recommendations of the Government's hunger task-force report, focusing on increasing the productivity of small-holder farmers, as well as recognising the key role that women play in agriculture.

I have supplied the committee with copies of a case study undertaken last year by Concern, entitled Unheard Voices — Women Marginal Farmers Speak Out. That report is a small snapshot of the situation facing women in Western Province, particularly women marginal farmers who make up a large percentage of the agricultural community there. They are not able to access government services and do not benefit from inputs, subsidies, training or extension services. For one reason or another, they are excluded from those. In undertaking this case study, we tried to highlight to donors, the government and our own partners, that these are the people who put food on the table for families in Western Province. We need to work with them to improve household food security.

Earlier today, we launched an initiative with Accenture who will fund some of our new work in Western Province around conservation farming. We hope to introduce conservation farming as a methodology to increase yields significantly for marginal farmers, including women. I hope this initiative will substantially change the lives of about 3,500 families in Western Province in the first instance. I hope it will also have a much more significant long-term effect if we can convince the government of the benefit of such an approach. In the long-term, we hope the Zambian Government will advocate this approach as well.

Another aspect impacting on the security of people's livelihoods in Zambia concerns the effects of climate change. We have already seen alternate drought and floods, with rain coming earlier than predicted. In some places the rains last too long, or not long enough in others. Zambia is among the top 12 countries in the world likely to be severely affected by climate change in the coming years. It is predicted that climatic change will have a significantly negative effect on small-scale farmers who are least able to deal with the impact of having to change their ways of working very quickly. Therefore we are working with these communities to develop their capacity to examine risks and see how they can possibly mitigate them.

A practical example of that concerns the long history of canals in Western Province. Thousands of kilometres of canals have provided drainage and irrigation in the fertile plains. Over the years, however, the canals became clogged and overgrown, but nobody repaired them. Over the past year, along with the Barotse royal establishment, which is the power in the area, Concern has helped local communities to clear 1,200 km of canals. This has opened up extensive additional tracts of land for farming. It has also provided drainage during flash flooding, thus providing better protection.

We have embarked upon another initiative involving a partnership with a micro-finance institution, Agora Micro-Finance Zambia, which has recently been registered in Lusaka. The idea is that Concern representatives will sit on the board of this institution. Our role and rationale for being involved in this company is to ensure that it is pro-poor, and will target the most vulnerable people. It will provide small grants to families to enable them to take initiatives on board and deal with difficulties in their lives.

The issue of HIV-Aids is central to what is going on in Zambia at the moment. It is a big factor in Zambia's achievement of many of its millennium development goals, as it impacts across the spectrum in every sector. It leads to enormous financial deprivation for families who are impacted either directly or indirectly by this pandemic. We have already heard about the prevalence rates. In general, the prevalence rate in Zambia has come down slightly in recent years. However, Western Province is one of the only provinces where the prevalence rate has, unfortunately, increased by 2% or 3% in the past year to two. We are still investigating some of the reasons around that increase, but we know it is linked to deep-rooted cultural norms and harmful traditional practices, including wife inheritance and such like. There is also a huge migration from the area, with men having to move elsewhere to find work.

We are responding to this pandemic in several ways, including prevention work. Prevention is still a hugely important aspect of the HIV-Aids issue, as are care and support for communities that are infected and which require services. Concern supports the national Aids council and a number of civil society organisations in Western Province to provide services so that people may live positively with the virus and promoting behavioural change among young people in particular to try to prevent the further spread of the virus. It is also about changing attitudes of opinion formers, traditional authorities and community leaders to look at things differently and improve the situation.

Concern's analysis of vulnerability closely links poverty with HIV. I am sure members of the committee have often heard that the burden brought about by HIV is diverse, covering a huge social and economic spectrum. Observations indicate that there is deepening poverty in households affected by HIV. There is no question about that. The need to address economic vulnerability as a core strategy to address HIV, while at the same time addressing issues of gender inequality, harmful traditional and cultural beliefs and practices including gender-based violence — as Ambassador Cotter also mentioned — is of the utmost importance. This must happen simultaneously with our examination of the economic issues.

There has undoubtedly been significant progress in recent years with 50% of people in need of anti-retroviral therapy now receiving it, compared to only 30% in 2006. Approximately 40% of pregnant women benefited from prevention of mother-to-child transmission services. Nonetheless, in the remoter areas such as the parts of Western Province where Concern works, it is still a major challenge to get coverage of such services. Such services either do not exist, or clinics are very far away from where people live. It may take people more than a day to walk to a clinic. That said, 50% of those who need anti-retroviral therapy are not currently receiving it. We are only half way there but there is a big emphasis on that problem and progress has been made in that respect.

Unfortunately, only 15% of Zambians have presented themselves for HIV testing and counselling. Therefore, only 15% of the population know their status. There are significant human resource constraints at all levels of the system, in absolute numbers of people involved and the capacity to implement change. Challenges persist in the co-ordination and management of HIV prevention activities, to name but a few. Concern is working with these partners to try to improve co-ordination, as well as spending a great deal of time advocating increased access to services, particularly in remote areas. One way of providing services in such remote areas is by using mobile clinics.

The emergence of a much more vibrant civil society in Zambia in recent years, has prompted the government to enact legislation to regulate the conduct of NGOs. Although the Government's argument is that it wants to see sanity in the NGO sector, the move has largely been interpreted as aimed at those NGOs that might challenge government excesses. It is too early to see how this Act will be implemented and if it will be used to control the freedom of civil society organisations. We hope it will not be.

In terms of influencing development agendas, civil society has been engaged with the government and donors. We sit on a number of sectoral advisory groups which seek to influence policy formulation and implementation. We have been involved in putting in position papers for the sixth national development plan which is being formulated currently. Concern has been involved in two such sectoral thematic papers, one on social protection and one on food security and agriculture.

The country is currently embroiled in a heated debate on the formulation of a new national constitution which is expected to govern the 2011 general elections. Recently, the body formulating the proposed new constitution turned down enshrining the right to food, water and shelter as basic rights arguing that it would be an expensive venture. For us, continuing to build the capacity of civil society in the country is of paramount importance to ensure it can continue to lobby the Government, hold it to account and ensure these rights are enshrined in the constitution and upheld, if they are so enshrined.

Concern hopes to expand its programme in 2010. There is a huge amount to be done. We want to continue to focus on building capacity at local government level and in the civil society organisations for which we work, to address the needs of the most vulnerable, with a particular focus on HIV prevention, to enhance the livelihood of the poor and to provide strong evidence of the value and effectiveness social protection measures can bring.

I am glad senior officials from Irish Aid are here. One of the purposes of these hearings is to inform the public of the job being done. The reason for inviting the ambassador and the head of development in Concern is to explain the advances taking place in Zambia. I would not like to think Irish Aid would not attempt from information provided at these hearings to get that message across. For years, many members repeatedly made the point that a good enough job was not being done to portray or explain the kind of work being done by Irish Aid and people on the ground in programme countries. I hope Irish Aid takes that comment on board. I have had this discussion with other ambassadors and they were, in some respects, slightly disappointed. I hope those from Irish Aid who are here will take that on board and will make a better attempt to deal with the media and to explain the kind of work being done from information provided at these hearings.

I refer to the ambassador's presentation. The statement in regard to Zambia potentially turning into a middle income country within 20 years was pretty significant. If he said that ten years ago, I am not so sure some people would have agreed with him. That was pretty prolific. It was an interesting and powerful statement.

Irish Aid needs to sell the case that Ireland provided €180 million or €190 million over the past ten years and the contribution which the country and missionaries from Ireland have made. I hope Irish Aid gets my point, which is obviously not directed at the ambassador, and takes it on board because it is one which members of this sub-committee and the joint committee have continuously made in recent years.

There has been much comment in regard to Zambia when it comes to corruption. I did some research for this hearing and came upon a very short article from the Lusaka Times from February 2009. It talked about our ambassador making comments in regard to public funds. Our ambassador at the time, Mr. Bill Nolan, urged the Zambian Government to come up with an effective mechanism that would ensure public funds were prudently and transparently used and said that there the Government needed to come up with strategies that would ensure public funds were utilised in a manner that would foster economic development. It further stated that the envoy commented on findings of the auditor general’s report that huge sums of money and public resources were unaccounted for in some Zambian foreign missions. That was written only one year ago. I will give the ambassador the opportunity to comment on what his predecessor commented on and the progress made in this area, if any.

A concern which has, in some respects, centred on Zambia and which commentators have raised — erroneously, in some cases — is that a fair share of the money that leaves the Irish Exchequer does not go where it should go. Perhaps the ambassador will start with that. I will then call Deputy Dooley.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

I thank the Chairman. We very much welcome this opportunity to present our programme in Zambia. Corruption is a challenge in Zambia and in other sub-Saharan African countries. The reality is that if one is involved in development aid in a developing country, including in sub-Saharan Africa, one is, to a certain degree, involved in the risk business. That is understandable if one looks at the context. The principles of good governance and public interest are not as embedded in the body politic as they are in our jurisdiction. One must remember that it took several hundred years for these principles to be developed here.

The human resource issue is very relevant. In Zambia's case, when it secured independence in 1964, it had 107 university graduates and less than 6% of the population had completed primary education, which is a very narrow human resource base on which the run a country or an economy. At that time government systems and the capacity of the people running those systems were comparatively weaker than ours.

The third relevant point is that, generally speaking, patronage still exists to a very large degree. The public service is very bureaucratic and the pay is comparatively low which means there is an ongoing incentive for payments to be made and received to either bypass or reduce bureaucratic delays. That is the reality.

In Zambia's case when it comes to corruption, the picture is mixed. There are positives and negatives. For example, on the negative side, last year in very controversial circumstances, the former President of Zambia, President Chiluba, was acquitted by a magistrate's court of corruption charges. The Zambian Government's line at the time was that the courts are independent of the Executive in the exercise of their judicial functions but there was a widespread perception that improper influence had been brought to bear in that case. Certainly, that case raised a question about the Zambian Government's real commitment to tackling corruption.

However, there are positives. The Zambian Government recently published an anti-corruption policy and a strategic plan to implement that policy. The thrust of that policy is to adopt a zero tolerance approach to corruption at all levels.

Much new legislation has been introduced — whistleblowers' legislation, anti-moneylaundering and legislation to domesticate the UN convention on corruption. A series of Bills have been produced.

To refer specifically to a reference made, Zambia is fortunate at this point in time to have a truly independent and courageous auditor general who for successive years has produced annual reports highlighting issues and gaps in the use of public finances. Her resources have been trebled in the past number of years and she now covers over 80% of the public finances. As a result, there has been engagement by donors with the Zambian Government to strengthen the controls on public finances. Specifically, as we speak, a computerised financial system is being rolled out through the entire public service to computerise and make more transparent, and more available, details regarding how money is being spent and, essentially, to make it more difficult for anybody to divert moneys for inappropriate uses.

In so far as Irish Aid moneys are concerned, we set extremely high standards regarding the audit and financial control of our moneys. We are not engaged in general budget support in Zambia. We carried out our own analysis a number of years ago and unlike in some other countries, we decided not to engage in general budget support in Zambia. Therefore, all our money is in dedicated bank accounts which are independently audited by the auditor general, by external auditors or by our own auditors to give us the level of comfort we require to ensure the money we give to Zambia is used for the purpose for which it is intended.

I thank both delegations for their comprehensive presentations on the work that is done in Zambia. I have not been to Zambia but I have been to Ghana, Kenya and other countries with similar characteristics in terms of their requirement for aid from Ireland.

I agree with the comments the Chairman made at the outset about the necessity, more particularly in the current economic climate here, that the citizens and taxpayers of the State have a better understating of where their taxes are going. The delegations' presence today and their presentations are very much part of that process and it is up to all of us concerned in political life to highlight to the best extent possible the necessity and importance of spending that money.

They spoke of the people not having three meals a day, hunger, corruption and the difficult lives. Scanning through Ms O'Neill's document it is quite moving to see the life of a female farmer and the difficulties such a person encounters. Bad and all as it might be here at present, where we might feel somewhat concerned about our own recession and the economic challenges we face, clearly the moneys we provide to other countries, particularly in the sub-Saharan area, have an impact on providing the most basic human necessities. I continue to support taking moneys from our tax base to support that work.

Ambassador Cotter spoke about the Zambian economy reaching mid-income status by 2020 or 2030. In terms of the other elements of that, clearly, the corruption issue and the gender equality issue, does he see the same effort at Zambian Government level to address these issues as there is to address the overall economic agenda? Ms O'Neill would always say that Concern would like to get more funding. Is there any support other than money that the State could give to the work Concern does in that region?

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

I have been in Zambia for just over six months and the one word you continue to hear there is potential. Zambia has immense potential in so far as economic development is concerned. Briefly, the history of Zambia is linked to the mining industry. It has vast copper and cobalt resources, but its economy is over dependent on the mining industry. When the price of copper is high things are good, but when the price of copper is low, then there are challenges.

The most important challenge for Zambia is to diversify its economy and that is increasingly being recognised by the Zambian Government and other commentators. I will give a number of examples, beginning with agriculture. Zambia is ten times the size of Ireland. Some 64% of its land is arable but only 14% is being cultivated. My colleague from Concern mentioned that as we speak 48% of children under five are stunted and 5% of children under five are acutely malnourished. Those figures are staggering, particularly in a country where there should not be hunger. There is considerable scope for Zambia to exploit its agriculture potential.

The second area is hydroelectricity, the generation of electricity. The reality is there is a shortage of energy, both in Zambia and in the entire sub-Saharan Africa region. The last hydroelectric plant built in Zambia dates from 1963 and was built by the United Kingdom. Fortunately, as we speak, the Zambian Government, in association with China, India and the World Bank, is starting projects to achieve the potential in that area. This will reduce the cost of energy for Zambia but will also generate significant income through exporting this energy to other countries in the region. Third, there is considerable potential for Zambia to grow its tourism industry.

The potential is there. Provided that potential is exploited, provided that the Zambian Government in a determined way diversifies its economy and reduces its dependence oncopper, Zambia has the potential to achieve middle-income status by 2030.

Ms Angela O’Neill

Our programme in Zambia has benefited enormously from the Irish Aid funding under the multi-annual programme scheme. That has enabled us to do our programming because funding for long-term development work, such as what we are trying to do in Zambia, is really quite difficult. It is easier to find money for emergencies, but not so easy to fund what we are trying to do in what would be considered a relatively stable environment, as ambassador Cotter has pointed out.

At the same time, the level of co-operation and collaboration between Irish Aid and ourselves is key to us being able to influence agendas at a national level. Essentially, we are working in one province in a very large country but we would like the evidence and the impact we are having there to be able to play a part in influencing policy agendas at a national level. Irish Aid and the officials in the embassy have a great deal of access to meetings and fora which we, as NGOs, would not necessarily have.

We enjoy a very good working relationship with Irish Aid in the country. We hope we will continue to do so and that we can build on that and maximise that kind of collaboration in terms of policy influence at the end of the day. We can see synergy developing in respect of a social protection-social welfare agenda, which is a high priority for us in the coming year.

I welcome our guests. My first question relates to reconciliation and some of the information with which we have been provided. Ms O'Neill stated that Zambia is severely off track in the context of meeting the millennium development goal, MDG, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. However, the position statement we received yesterday from the Department of Foreign Affairs indicates that this goal is likely to be met. In light of the difference between these two statements, will our guests clarify the exact position? The ambassador said that we are likely to meet the MDGs relating to child mortality and improvement in maternal health. However, the information provided to the sub-committee indicates that we could potentially meet them. Will he clarify the position in that regard?

Unlike the Chairman, I was stunned by the statement to the effect that Zambia could become a middle income country in a couple of decades. I note, from the information provided in the presentation, that it has many natural resources and enjoys political stability. In addition, access to education is increasing all the time. My one concern in respect of Zambia, which is landlocked, is that it shares 75% of its borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe and Malawi, which is extremely poor. With neighbours such as these, it cannot be easy to import and export goods. How is the fact that Zambia is surrounded by these states impacting on its ability to develop its economy?

I thank the ambassador and Ms O'Neill for their presentations. As Senator Hannigan stated, Zambia has many natural resources. It is, however, overly dependent on the copper industry. That said, it enjoys political stability. Why is Zambia in the position it currently occupies? Is it possible to provide a one-sentence answer in this regard? I am of the view that it should not be in the position to which I refer.

The Zambian Government has attempted to regulate the media. There was an option for the media to engage in self-regulation but this may not have been successful. Are there concerns that the media will be overly regulated by the Zambian Government and what steps can we take in that regard?

I read in the military magazine Signal yesterday that the head of the armed forces in Zambia trained in Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many other Zambians came here during that period and were trained by our Defence Forces. Would it be possible to build on the links Zambia has had with Ireland since the late 1960s?

The population of Zambia is approximately 13 million. As our guests indicated, only 8% of the land is currently being worked and 64% of this land is arable. How many countries provide aid to Zambia? It may be a simplistic view, but has any thought been given to matching certain developed countries with developing ones? As far as I am concerned, most of what is required to assist Zambia in its development is already in place. All that the people require is educational assistance. Is it too simplistic to say that Ireland should be paired with one programme country, for example, Zambia and devote all its overseas aid thereto and that the position should be similar with regard to pairing other developed and developing countries? In view of the high level of unemployment that obtains here at present, if such a system were in place we could send a certain number of agricultural and educational experts to Zambia for a particular period. Has consideration ever been given to such a concept?

I thank our guests for their fine presentations. I wish the ambassador well in dealing with the major challenges he outlined. I note the points in respect of social cash transfers and social safety nets across the two presentations. It was stated that the public services in Zambia is extremely bureaucratic and that because those within it are on such low pay, this naturally leads to high levels of corruption. While I accept that Irish aid is administered, controlled and carefully audited, what is the position on the ground with regard to distributing social cash transfers. The ambassador referred to the northern territory, while Ms O'Neill referred to the western territory. Do the Irish Embassy and Concern co-ordinate their efforts or do they operate separately? Is there an overlap between the two?

I wish our guests well. While it is obvious that huge challenges exist, it appears that opportunities are beginning to arise. Reference was made to making a breakthrough in the area of literacy. This would be a great development, particularly if it could be translated into action in the poorest sections of Zambian society. There is also a massive problem with HIV-AIDS which must be dealt with. These are the areas on which we must target our aid funding.

Does Deputy Higgins wish to contribute now or wait until our guests have replied to the questions that have already been posed?

I must apologise. I am not a member of this committee but I always attend its meetings.

The Deputy is always welcome.

I was not free until now and my next engagement is not until 1.15 p.m.

In that event, I will ask our guests to reply and then return to the Deputy.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

I thank members for their questions. We will do our best to answer them.

Deputy Timmins asked if it is possible to indicate in one sentence why Zambia occupies its current position. I do not know if I will be able to limit myself to a one-sentence reply, but I will try to be brief. In 1983, the first President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, remarked that it was cursed to have been born with a copper spoon in its mouth. Mining of copper in what is now Zambia commenced in the 1920s. Since then, the country has been totally overdependent on the copper industry. When Zambia secured its independence in 1964, the price of copper was high. For the first five years, former President Kaunda used the moneys from the industry to provide education and health facilities throughout the country.

In 1969, the first oil crisis struck and the price of copper dropped. The Zambian Government decided to borrow money to continue to provide social services. It did so in the hope that the price of copper would recover. The price did not recover, however, and actually crashed through the floor. Then, with the advent of the second oil crisis in 1973, interest rates rose. In a nutshell, in 1969 Zambia was a middle income country but by 1984 it had become the most indebted country in the world, with an external debt of $7.1 billion. At times, up to 40% of the country's annual budget was used to service that debt. In 2006, the international community reduced the level of the external debt to which I refer from $7.1 billion to $500 million. The events I have outlined indicate why Zambia is in the position it currently occupies.

Deputy Timmins referred to the fact that Zambia is landlocked. This presents a challenge but, in some ways, it also represents an opportunity. I referred earlier to the three areas in which Zambia has real potential, namely, hydroelectricity, agriculture and tourism. In the context of hydroelectricity, all of the countries in the region — including South Africa — have significant shortages of energy. Zambia has the potential to grow that industry, reduce the cost of energy for itself, export energy and earn foreign exchange. It has similar potential in the area of tourism. One of the most stunning sites in the world, the Victoria Falls, is located in Zambia and it alone has the potential to earn significant foreign exchange.

I have mentioned agriculture. Some 64% of Zambia is arable land, but only 14% is cultivated currently. Zambia has the potential, with the right agricultural policy, to export food to all its neighbouring countries. The fact the country is landlocked is a challenge, but it also provides an opportunity. With the right policies and political leadership, Zambia has the potential to grow its economy over the next 20 to 30 years.

With regard to regulation of the media, the position on the media in Zambia compares favourably with other countries in the region. There are two government newspapers and one independent newspaper, The Post, which daily contains strong criticisms of the government and government policies. Ireland has made a particular contribution to the media in Zambia through the sponsorship of the development of community radio. We support 15 local stations spread throughout every province. A recent survey acknowledged that over 80% of Zambians get their news coverage from local radio. It is a very powerful instrument and Ireland has been instrumental in developing this base. Last year, the Zambian Government indicated it wished the media bodies to come up with a self-regulation structure or otherwise it would introduce legislation within six months. In recent weeks the media bodies came up with a self-regulatory framework. The initial response from the government is that it is not happy with the media proposal. Discussions are ongoing between the government and the media bodies. This is something on which donors, including Ireland, are keeping a close eye. We accept in principle the need for the regulation of the media but we and civil organisations such as Concern have made it explicit that whatever regulatory framework is introduced, it should not cut across the right of the media to comment independently on political and other topics in Zambia.

Deputy Timmins touched on a very important point, the training of army personnel in the 1960s and the need to develop a positive relationship between Ireland and Zambia. At my St. Patrick's Day function this year, I met a former general and head of the Zambian army who had been trained in the Curragh in the 1960s. That training resulted in this man, who is in a very influential position, having an incredibly positive attitude towards Ireland. This is important. In the short time I have been in Zambia, it has been very noticeable that the people have particular regard for Ireland. When I met the first President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr.Kenneth Kaunda, recently, he mentioned that the first country he visited, after becoming president in 1964, was Ireland. He did that specifically to acknowledge the contribution made by Irish people in the freedom struggle. The first Attorney General in Zambia was a Dubliner, James Stringer.

Our missionaries have also played a significant role. I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions to acknowledge publicly the unique contribution made by the missionaries to development, not just in Zambia but throughout Africa, especially in the areas of health and education. I also acknowledge the contribution of organisations such as Concern. Many Irish non-governmental organisations, NGOs, in Zambia, in their different and unique ways, have a tremendous impact on the lives of ordinary Zambians throughout the country. The result of all this activity and of our contribution means there is particular regard for Ireland and Irish people in Zambia. In years to come, as the Zambian economy grows, the contribution we have made over many years will have a distinct advantage for Irish business people coming to Zambia.

Ms Angela O’Neill

Two specific questions related to the work of Concern. Senator Hannigan mentioned the millennium development goals. I was not privy to the conversation yesterday but it is interesting to hear that it is being said that Zambia is, apparently, on track to meet the millennium development goals. From our perspective we will, at a macro level, meet some of these high level goals but the income inequality and the distribution of resources is still exceedingly skewed. As far as we are concerned, the bottom 10% of the population will not move out of poverty any time soon, nor do I see that happening between now and 2015 given the statistics I mentioned relating to HIV and the number of people who are food insecure. However, Zambia may, possibly, at a macro level, meet quite a few of the millennium development goals, but I am not convinced it will. There is a huge and growing inequality in Zambia between the haves and the have nots and the distribution of resources is not happening in a fair and equal way. Therefore, it may well be the case that Zambia will meet the goals at a macro level, but that will not reach our particular target group by 2015.

That would suggest we need a better way of measuring progress. I thank Ms O'Neill for her reply.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

To comment briefly on the point made by Senator Hannigan, the millennium development goals were introduced a number of years ago and were aspirational but achievable targets. The political thrust behind them was to try to kick-start development in many of these countries. From the political point of view, much progress has been made. The picture across the region is mixed. Some indicators are that significant progress has been made in some areas but not so much in other areas, and in some areas no real progress has been achieved. However, in general, the aim was to kick-start development and that target has, to a certain extent, been achieved. The way different targets are being interpreted is due to the benchmarks. My colleague, Mr. Gerry Cunningham, head of development, may be able to give more specific information in that regard.

I appreciate the opportunity to attend this committee. I join in welcoming both the representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Concern.

With regard to the world millennium development goals, we have had several meetings this week and have had many presentations. The September review will provide an opportunity, if we have good preparation for it, to look at the uneven performance across the eight goals in different countries and within countries and should provide an opportunity for the reconfiguration of the resources committed to enable places and people to improve in particular areas. However, that is a matter for general preparation.

I have been involved in the development area for a very long time and would like to make some suggestions. I am delighted to hear about the 15 radio stations. In some countries in Europe people have ignored some important work in this regard. For example, Professor Svendsen of Sweden's fundamental study on the elimination of corruption, conducted over ten years, showed that the introduction of a radio station was the single biggest instrument in reducing corruption, from 80% to under 12%, in so far as it enabled people in local areas to know the allocations that had been made for their local schools and so forth. That proportion of money unaccounted for, a sum between the global grant and the local spend, was suddenly available. It was a powerful assistance. That southern Ugandan study was carried out about ten years ago but people did not see the significance of it. The local radio stations are a powerful influence, particularly where there is a strong background in oral culture and where the formal education and participation below second level is still quite low. I think it is very good news and it is a very good model.

I have read the presentations. With regard to the millennium development goals, one significant group is being marginalised in the discussion to some extent, the HIV-AIDS orphans in Africa. Millions of youngsters are being catered for by traditional systems in many of the different countries and they comprise a particularly vulnerable group. Many of the goals could be met statistically but very significant and important vulnerable cohorts could be missed. I also liked the Concern presentation. Another issue which may not be as glamorous from an econometric point of view but which is crucial, is the schemes enabling devastated villages and smallholders to replace livestock. Possession of livestock is the first step out of the most abysmal poverty of all. In the last stages of hunger, the sale of assets such as cattle and so forth, is incredibly disastrous because it means the end. Therefore, replacement of livestock is very important.

With regard to the debate about genetically modified seeds, there is the fundamental argument about intellectual property rights and the invasive effect on cultural practices. It is very like the Irish case of keeping the end of the bag for seed and using it when the rains are appropriate. The idea there would be blind seed at the end of the bag or that people would have to go to a bank rather than a local credit or micro-credit system to get funding to buy and pay for what is, effectively, intellectual property and what one needs to live, is a significant issue. There is a real danger in the international community that people will use the food shortage in a gross sense to try and invade and make a case as a battering ram, for something which would be completely unsuitable.

There is a vote in the House.

I will have to leave the meeting. On a last point, with regard to aid programmes in Africa and Asia, I am in favour of the setting up in the early stages of what I call committees for local wisdom so that people in receiving communities make decisions. It would be a case of combining natural things to achieve certain results. The aid people coming with science do not have a monopoly on science or knowledge. There is an inherited wisdom that is full of knowledge and careful science and good practice which may be as important in agriculture and husbandry as some of the newer ideas arriving from outside and it is also much more democratic.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

Before Deputy Higgins leaves the meeting, I take this opportunity to acknowledge his long-standing interest and support for Ireland's development aid programme which is very much appreciated by the organisation.

Deputy Higgins pointed out the importance of local radio and I agree it is very important and relevant with regard to public accountability. Ireland has made a real contribution to the development of public accountability in Zambia. We supported a programme of development for the national parliament. The role of parliament has significantly increased in recent years. A committee system for each ministry has been established. The public accounts committee is considerably strengthened. This is another area where Ireland has made a very direct and relevant contribution to the whole area of public accountability. Local radio is crucial as more than 80% of Zambians receive their news and views from local radio. Ireland has supported these local radio stations to produce programmes on issues such as governance, HIV-AIDS, gender issues and a range of other important issues relevant to the development of the country.

Deputy Higgins also referred to the issue of reaching the poorest of the poor through our social transfer programme or cash transfer programme, in which Concern is also involved. I had the opportunity to visit Western Province with Concern and I saw the impact of this programme on the poorest of the poor people. In many instances, the sum of €8 a month means that where children were eating only one meal a day, they are now eating three meals a day and children who previously had not been going to school are now going to school. As the Deputy mentioned, these families now have the opportunity to buy goats, calves or chickens, which in turn allows them to gradually move out of extreme poverty.

Mr. Gerry Cunningham, head of development at the embassy, will make a brief comment about the millennium development goals.

Mr. Gerry Cunningham

The MDGs, millennium development goals, have served us well in mobilising resources and in getting the political will to address some of the key issues. In 2002, fees were charged for attending school and health clinics and we have been able to use the MDGs to get rid of those fees and to bring an extra 1.2 million children into school. However, these statistics are not interlinked and it is not exactly how the Government of Ireland or the Government of Zambia would set up its own national development plan as other key areas are being missed out. We have talked about the issues of rural remoteness in Zambia and rural transport is crucial for small farmers to allow them access clinics and other services. Two of the key messages which Irish Aid will take to the meeting in New York in September will be about the need to focus on better linking up, on looking in greater detail at the outputs — not necessarily on getting 500,000 extra girls into school over the coming years but making sure that by the time they do their exams, at least 50% of the girls will achieve the same results as boys, which is a much tougher goal to achieve and much more difficult than simply recruiting teachers and building classrooms.

Because so many of the goals are simply focused on halving the statistics on poverty or on hunger, it is very easy to go for some of the quick wins. There is a real need to focus on the other 50% who are still left after 2015 and how we are going to address real vulnerability.

I will clarify some points. We are quoting data from a report done in 2008 by the United Nations development programme and the Government of Zambia. The report expects the target on hunger is likely to be met because the report focuses on one very specific indicator which is the prevalence of under-weight children who are under five years of age. However, if one studied information on calorie intake, one might come up with very different answers. Zambia is not on target for reducing extreme poverty at the moment but there is the potential to do it, particularly if they could apply better government policy in the area of agriculture.

I wish to highlight the issues to do with statistics. Zambia can quite legitimately claim to expect to be a middle income country by 2030. However, for example, this is based on a simple calculation of GDP per capita. If copper prices keep rising, Zambia can claim it has made that progress; if copper prices collapse, it will not make it. Regardless, it is not benefitting the 75% of the people in the country. Therefore, we need to be very cautious in our use of statistics.

The UN director of the millennium development goals attended the committee yesterday. He made an interesting comment. He said the Zambian Government statistics were more optimistic than others. What does he mean by that?

Mr. Gerry Cunningham

One of the fundamental problems we have had with data in Zambia is that they conduct a living conditions monitoring survey every three to four years. We now have four different surveys that were conducted. None of them was really conducted with the same methodology. One of the issues mentioned by several Deputies and Senators is aid co-ordination. Different donors have come in at different times with different consultants and different methodology to calculate poverty and hunger. So we cannot really compare the figures from 2002 with those from 2006. That work is being undertaken at the moment and we hope it will be done at least by September. There is a real priority because of the meeting in September to have consistent data that will look back over the previous surveys and convert them into a consistent set of trends, including the survey being undertaken this year.

One of the issues both delegates have stressed was the €8 a month and the fund for people suffering extreme poverty to buy assets and animals, and just to feed people. The ambassador characterised it as reform of social welfare. I assume this has occurred in other parts of Africa. From where has this stemmed? I know it is being used because people are experiencing extreme hunger, poverty, and so on. Are people obliged to use that money in a particular way? Are there any strings attached or is it a direct cash payment? Is there scrutiny on spending that money in a particular way?

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

In African terms, the cash transfer programme is a relatively new concept. In 2006 Ireland piloted this programme in Zambia along with the UK development agency, DFID. The thrust of the programme is to identify the poorest of the poor. The programme is targeted at the poorest of the poor in selected districts. The payment is €8 a month. To a certain extent the individuals concerned have latitude as to how to spend that money, but it is monitored. It is monitored by the Ministry, by NGOs and by us. There have been a number of independent evaluations in the past two or three years all of which show that this very small amount of money is really having a very significant and dramatic effect on the lives of these poor people. At the end of the day the Zambian Government must have ownership of its development programme and agenda. It is encouraging that the Zambian Government has decided to upscale this programme to ten other districts in the coming years, which means that by 2015 close to 400,000 people will be involved in this scheme. My colleague from Concern might wish to add to that.

Mr. Paul O’Brien

Considerable work has been done on social protection and particularly the issue regarding transferring cash to people. We tend not to dictate how people spend the cash. We monitor how they spend it. Several years ago we conducted a programme in Malawi. We injected cash into the local economy and monitored how people use it. We started off by giving the money to men and women. From that programme we learned that the women generally used it well for their family and some of the men misused it. So we have changed what we do and we now give it only to women. In recent years we have been using mobile phone technology to transfer cash into people's hands. A key issue relates to predictability. If people know that they will receive something for a three or six-month period, it allows them to plan and be able to do other things. They can spend money in more of an investment way. They will initially use it mainly for food. However, they will also use it to invest in their children's education and things like that. Even in places like Niger we are doing many of these transfers. In some cases we are giving cash in envelopes to people and in others we are using mobile phones to transfer money directly to people. I might get Ms O'Neill to talk about what we are doing in Nairobi. With the Kenyan Government in some slums in Nairobi——

Is there not concern about a potential cycle of dependency growing from this?

Mr. Paul O’Brien

We are monitoring the multiplier effect and whether it creates inflation within a local economy. When talking about dependency, we could ask how the long-term unemployed in Ireland would survive if they were not receiving social welfare. We are talking about targeting money to people who live on less than $1 a day.

I am aware of that.

Mr. Paul O’Brien

If they are dependent, they will be dependent for several years until they get on the first rung of the ladder towards development.

Does the public service implement this programme or is it done through NGOs?

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

In our context it is through the ministry of community and social development. However, as I said all the money is regularly monitored and there are independent evaluations to ensure we are satisfied the money is being well used. All the independent evaluations to date indicate that this small amount is having a dramatic and very significant impact on the lives of the poorest of the poor. As Mr. O'Brien mentioned these are people surviving on less than $1 a day.

Ms Angela O’Neill

At the moment, Concern is piloting projects to show the government how it can be done. We are also working with the ministry of community and social development to build the capacity of the Civil Service so that it has the ability to know how it should work, what controls need to be in place and what the targeting methodology should be. We are doing that in Zambia and in Kenya, with the programme Mr. O'Brien just mentioned. In Kenya we have just signed a big agreement with the Kenyan Government. We will help it to roll this out. There is a level of scrutiny we can bring to bear by working alongside it in the coming years.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

I wish to comment on Ireland's contribution to development. Ireland has piloted several programmes that have now been rolled out throughout Zambia. Ireland piloted a breakthrough to literacy programme, which essentially meant that for the first few years children should be taught in their own language rather than in English. That initiative proved very successful and was rolled out through the entire education system in Zambia. With Concern we have piloted the cash transfer programme. As I mentioned the government decided to upscale the programme and wishes to develop it. The long-term aspiration is that it should be rolled out throughout the country.

Ireland has also made its own unique contribution in the area of HIV-AIDS. Deputy Higgins mentioned the importance of working with local communities and seeing how programmes are being implemented or are not being implemented on the ground. Several years ago in the Northern Province we concluded that the Government's approach to HIV-AIDS on the ground was not sufficiently well co-ordinated or implemented. We piloted the establishment of a district HIV-AIDS task force which brought together on a committee all the representatives of the various ministries to better co-ordinate and implement HIV prevention, care and treatment policies. These committees have now been rolled out throughout the entire country. In its own way Ireland has made a unique contribution to development, which I believe is recognised.

Ireland's involvement with Zambia goes back for a century. I think Mr. Cotter has met Mr. Kaunda, who has been mentioned. Zambia really started to develop in the 1970s and 1980s. What kind of trade links are there between Ireland and Zambia at present? Are those links growing or are they stagnant? Is there much potential there for the future? I have spoken to the director of Irish Aid about this issue. There is public expectation that we should start looking at our trade links with countries with which we have had an involvement for decades.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

Interestingly, in Limerick yesterday I met two businessmen who are interested in getting involved in construction in Zambia. I suppose a number of points can be made about the current level of trade between Zambia and Ireland. We export approximately €1 million worth of goods to Zambia each year. When it comes to Zambia, the incredibly important factor to consider is its potential. As we speak, there is potential for business in Zambia. I keep coming back to the three areas of potential I mentioned — agricultural processing, including fish; tourism; and hydroelectricity. Zambia, like other countries in the region, can present a difficult operational environment for businesspeople. It is making progress and is committed to reducing the bureaucracy associated with doing business. It has significantly improved its position in that regard. The potential for Ireland in Zambia will increase, hopefully, as the Zambian economy prospers over the next few years. There will certainly be some opportunities. We make ourselves available on an ongoing basis. In the past six months, I met several Irish businessmen who are interested in coming to Zambia. The potential that exists will grow in the future.

I have heard the same thing from Ireland's ambassadors to Mozambique, Uganda and other countries. They have told me that although great potential exists in sectors like tourism, the administrative environment within Government systems is difficult. I hear the same thing about southern Africa again and again. We need to transmit the message to the governments of countries where Ireland has had a presence for many decades that improvements need to be made. They need to streamline their governmental processes so that outward investment can be facilitated. We need to get that across a little more strongly.

H.E. Mr. Tony Cotter

Yes. That is part of the ongoing dialogue between donors and governments. I have mentioned the international principle to the effect that ownership of development in a country has to be vested in the country itself. The message that is consistently given to the Zambian Government and other Governments is that they are responsible for taking the necessary measures to ensure the facilities are available to enable businessmen to invest in such countries. Zambia has made some progress in that regard. For example, it was ranked 90th of 183 countries in the World Bank's 2010 Doing Business report. That marked an improvement on its 99th position last year. Zambia is making progress in this regard but it has a long way to go. When I met the Zambian minister for commerce approximately three years ago, he told me he is determined to reduce the bureaucracy involved in establishing businesses and facilitating direct foreign investment in Zambia. He has already abolished 70 licences and is maintaining this policy approach. Although progress is being made in Zambia, it will continue to be a difficult operating environment in the short term. In the medium to long term, however, Zambia will offer increased opportunities for businessmen from Ireland and elsewhere to invest in countries like Zambia.

It has been a great experience to listen to Mr. Cotter giving us some useful background information.

We have been here for almost two hours. I have taken enough of Mr. Cotter's time. I remember having a conversation in Maputo with Ms O'Neill with regard to the Irish Aid budget. We made some progress after that, thankfully, and the last cut was not that bad. We may be in the same situation again. I support Irish Aid. It is fair to say that Senator Ormonde does too. In November, the political reality may be that more cuts need to be made. We need to do more to sell what our ambassador to Zambia has referred to as Ireland's "unique contribution" in this regard. He gave some examples of things Ireland has done. We facilitate these meetings because, as members of an oversight committee, we ask questions about where Irish money is going. We also use these meetings as an opportunity to sell what Irish Aid and the non-governmental organisations do abroad. I would not like to think there is a nonchalant approach or an attitude of inevitability about the cuts that may be coming down the road. We need to sell Irish Aid better to the Irish public. The political reality that needs to be acknowledged is that we may be facing, as we faced last year, a massive cut across the board in the Irish Aid budget. The delegates understand what I am saying. I represent members' opinions in this regard. I thank the delegates for attending this meeting. I thank Senator Ormonde. At our next meeting, on 17 June, we will discuss the Irish Aid programme in Lesotho.

The sub-committee adjourned at 1.20 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Thursday, 17 June 2010.