On behalf of ONE's 9 million members, the tens of thousands of ONE members in Ireland and the vibrant active community of ONE's youth ambassadors here in Dublin, an amazing bunch who I encourage the committee to meet, I thank the committee for inviting me to address this historic issue. As can be seen from my Mayo GAA wrist band, which I wear every day, not just for the purposes of this moment, I am a member of the best diaspora in the world, which is Ireland's. We have a stubborn streak in us. This band says never give up and I am sure Mayo will make it next summer. Whether Ireland gets to 0.7% in contribution is more in the committee's gift, although I cannot rely on it for the right result for Mayo on that occasion.
This submission will explore some strategic arguments for Ireland's leadership in global aid and development and outline some specific areas and sectors where Irish aid, expertise and political capital would contribute in a significant way to breakthroughs in global co-operation.
I want to make three broad points. First, despite many pressures on the budget this commitment is affordable. Second, Irish Aid gets massive results. Members should be confident of that, and it can leverage far more. Third, this investment is profoundly consistent with Irish values and is in the interests of Irish citizens. I will address each of those in turn.
First, it will not cost as much as many fear. Today, Ireland gives 46 cent a day per citizen in smart government aid. At 0.7% of GNI, it would be €1.10 per person a day. I will compare that with other countries. The UK gave €318 per person in 2016 in aid. Germany gives €295 per person annually. That is compared to the average in Ireland of €170 per person. To catch up with the leadership in Europe we would be looking at roughly doubling the current amount, which is also approximately what it would take to get to 0.7% of GNI. Let us also remember the point about the 0.7% target is that as it is linked to the performance of the economy, it is not okay to say we cannot afford it in bad times because the economy is doing badly, and then say we also cannot afford it in good times because the economy is growing too fast. I have heard that argument quite a few times.
To date, Irish Aid has helped save 13 million lives through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, a mechanism for whose creation we campaigned. It has helped to save 22 million lives through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and has helped 64 million children get into primary education through the Global Partnership for Education. If the increase from 0.3% to 0.7% was split evenly between those mechanisms, we think that could leverage more than 300 million more children being immunised by 2020, 19 million additional children completing primary school and 14 million lives being saved. I refer heavily here to the leverage Irish Aid can get also through multilateral mechanisms, many of which I have been working on for several years and can speak more about later.
I have been campaigning on these issues for a very long time. I have worked in many capital cities and with people and citizens all around the world trying to argue both for increased aid but also for other policies such as transparency, trade, investment and other forms of co-operation. I know that when a nation like Ireland steps back up in terms of quantity and quality of aid, it forces others back up and to up their game. It will stiffen the resolve of France and Germany to go back up to and stay at 0.7% and it will also help us nudge other countries such as Canada, Belgium and Italy to increase their quantity and quality of aid. It would also help us fight cuts in other countries such as, for example, in the United States where we had to fight a significant proposed cut by the President. The Senate and the House in the United States stopped those cuts. When we can point to other countries reversing a downward trajectory and going back up again it helps us with that global leverage. Ireland plays a somewhat disproportionate role in that narrative about global co-operation for development so when it goes back up, we know it helps us leverage even more with other countries. It really helps us put a spring back in the step of the global movement for co-operation and development. It may also bolster the case for a UN Security Council seat.
In terms of quality of aid, Ireland has a good reputation for quality and a great reputation for focusing on the poorest people in the poorest counties, and that is something to be treasured as it is not often the case. Those locations continue to represent the primary sources of instability and main contributors to human displacement worldwide, and are where, on current trends, the world will find the last pockets of extreme poverty in the lead up to 2030. Nations like Germany do not focus as much on the poorest in the poorest countries and while the UK often does, it is withdrawing somewhat from some of those mechanisms right now, so Ireland increasing also allows it to make the case for that increased focus through some of those mechanisms. That is a role we really wish Ireland would play more.
Investing in smart aid is in Irish interests and consistent with the best of Irish values. The world faces extraordinary threats from inequality and populism. There is food insecurity, climate change and global pandemics. There are also some fascinating 21st-century challenges such as the education emergency. I will speak a little more about that on the basis that we are more familiar with some of the other issues. There is a shortage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM, subjects in the industrialised West as we confront the fourth industrial revolution, but this shortage becomes more acute in emerging markets where learning often tends to be more by rote. That is further compounded in the poorest countries, not just by the wrong skills being taught but by children not even going to school. Moreover, because the quality of education is so poor they are essentially learning little of value when they are in school. That is particularly true for girls, especially in Africa. As leaders like Justin Trudeau, Malala Yousafzai and Melinda Gates have declared, poverty is sexist. A total of 130 million girls globally are out of school who should be in, and 500 million women cannot read or write. That is clearly a crime against them, but those women are also raising a generation who are missing out, and that is a part of what is breeding anger, resentment and inequality around the world. A decent, quality education is not only the first step on the ladder to equality; it is also part of the vaccine against instability and extremism.
Initially, leadership to solve the global education emergency requires investing in the Global Partnership for Education. The partnership has a summit on 3 February in Dakar, Senegal. We hope Ireland will be well represented and leading on that occasion. The partnership is looking for €30 million to €40 million from Ireland, but in addition we think Ireland can play a leadership role in demanding better quality education and the management of quality education outcomes by partnering with bodies like the OECD, EU and AU and by partnering with the global technology community which has found itself some element of a home here. Members will see where this is going. Given how Ireland is a home to so many of the major technology companies a deeper partnership with them on improving the quality of data and metrics in education is sought. The big problem in delivering quality education is the lack of good data and metrics to measure outcomes. That could grow into a real area of comparative advantage for Ireland and Irish Aid. Ireland could resume its place as a centre of global excellence in education. Currently, one might associate Ireland with education through the missionaries. There is a legacy in many parts of Africa from that time that is often fondly remembered but that legacy can be modernised and built upon, not just returning to what Ireland once was, the land of saints and scholars of old but of silicon, software and future-proofed skills, a beacon of open ideas, open minds, open economies and open societies when others want to get more inward, closed and opaque. We really think this is an historic opportunity for Ireland.
As someone who has worked for global social justice through movements for debt cancellation, fighting AIDS, hunger and corruption for many years all over the world – and with my roots here – I can say without qualification that Ireland is a small but mighty nation that speaks with a strong moral voice on the global stage. Many partners in the global south are aware of, and identify with, Ireland's history of fighting famine and colonial oppression. This places Ireland in an ideal position as a leader not just in fighting poverty but in increasing trade investment, improving security and fighting corruption. As such, Ireland's voice is heard in the tone of partnership not patronage.
Irish Aid has long had a special focus on partnering with Africa, which is particularly important. Africa's population is set to double by 2050 to 2.5 billion and by then, the region will have given birth to 40% of the world's youth. By then, Africa's youthful population will be ten times the size of Europe's. Ireland must invest in this demographic boom and must force others to follow for if we fail, there will be deep demographic division and instability across that region, which is at risk of extreme poverty, extreme climate and extreme ideology. That is what we call the three extremes. There will be a downside for Ireland's partners across Africa, Europe and for the global economy and security, but if we get the investments and partnerships right the region's youth can be the engine to drive inclusive growth for generations to come. This is not just the morally right thing to do, it is the economic and strategically smart thing to do. That makes it the Irish thing to do.
The international community is relying on Ireland to reach its 0.7% commitment by 2025. On top of increased resources to the poorest, Ireland can promote a forensic focus on gender, on citizen-led accountability, on improved data and innovation in areas such as measurement of nutrition and education outcomes and digital financial inclusion.
I emphasise that not only would this impact positively on Irish Aid programmes, it would also catalyse improvements in the global aid programme. The latter is currently worth approximately €143 billion a year.
Across the world, there are leaders who are capitalising on fears of an unfair form of globalisation running rampant and who threaten and close down the space for civil society, who oppress minorities and who reduce citizens' rights. Through increased quantities and a more strategic quality of aid, Ireland will not just be part of, but lead the global drive for openness, progress and a fairer, more just form of globalisation. The globalisation of human rights, democracy, peace and stability is not guaranteed. Ireland's leadership in this fight is needed now more than ever.