Vote 29 — International Co-Operation (Revised)

I call on the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Power, to address the select committee on Vote 29, International Co-operation.

It is two years since my appointment as Minister of State for overseas development. It continues to be an extraordinary privilege to lead Ireland's aid programme at home and abroad. As I have constantly stressed, this is the people's aid programme and it reflects their longstanding commitment to helping improve the lives of the world's poor and hungry. It is recognised internationally for its focus on poverty reduction, its spirit of genuine partnership with the poorest countries and communities and its leadership role in tackling hunger and making development aid more effective.

The past two years have been dominated by the global economic crisis. Its effects have been most severely felt in the poorest communities in the least developed countries. However, its impact has been unpredictable and variable across the developing world. The crisis has simultaneously highlighted the need for aid and imposed severe pressures on aid budgets throughout the developed world, including Ireland. This was brought home to me forcefully on Monday in Luxembourg when my European ministerial colleagues outlined starkly to me the budgetary pressure under which they are now operating.

As a small, open economy, we were one of the first countries to feel the full force of the economic storm and its fallout. The strong action which the Government had to take in 2009 to stabilise the public finances affected public expenditure throughout all Departments and had a significant impact on our aid budgets.

However, in the budget announced by the Minister for Finance last December the Government broadly stabilised the budget for 2010. The total allocation for official development assistance in 2010 is €671 million, a slight reduction of €25 million in overall terms on 2009. Some €535 million of this is managed by Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs under Vote 29. On current projections, this will represent 0.52% of GNP and will ensure that Ireland remains one of the most generous aid donors internationally inper capita terms, ahead of the target of 0.51% we agreed as an EU member state. It is important to note that last year, despite the massive economic challenges, Ireland remained seventh in the world on this basis, devoting 0.54% of GNP to development assistance. In the context of the very real crisis affecting our country at present, especially our public finances, this represents a considerable achievement.

As the Minister, Deputy Martin, confirmed before the committee in the last session, the Government is committed to reaching the international 0.7% target by 2015, the date agreed by the European Union. We are ahead of most of our EU partners in making progress towards the target. However, we recognise that, while vital, ODA, overseas development aid, volumes represent only part of a much broader and more complex picture in promoting international development. As I stated at the meeting of EU Development Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, against the background of global economic difficulty we have no choice if we are to achieve our development goals but to focus on key priorities and to work relentlessly to improve the effectiveness, impact and value for money of the aid we provide.

I am firmly committed to the implementation of a rigorous approach to development results, right across the aid programme, and to communicating this more effectively to the Irish public. We are determined to demonstrate clear results from our bilateral programmes in our nine priority countries, from our programmes to fight global hunger and disease and from our funding to the multilateral organisations. We are also working closely with the development NGOs, through which we channel over 20% of the aid programme, to improve their focus on development results. This is a challenging process for all concerned, but it is one which I believe to be indispensable if Ireland is to be effective in its contribution to the fight against global poverty and hunger in the years ahead.

On Monday in Luxembourg the main subject of discussion for the EU Development Ministers was the preparation for the high level meeting in New York in September to review progress on the achievement of the millennium development goals established by world leaders ten years ago. With five years to go until the 2015 target date, the September summit is a vital moment for the international community. It will undoubtedly represent a test of commitment to the world's poorest people in the face of increased hardship and economic difficulty across the globe.

The millennium development goals have been a powerful influence for change across the developing world. There has been some remarkable progress, perhaps most notably in the dramatic improvement in levels of primary school enrolment, but the uncomfortable reality is that progress has not been uniform. It has been slowest across all indicators in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, which is the geographic focus of Ireland's aid programme. Overall, the numbers of people suffering extreme poverty and hunger in our world continue to increase. Without co-ordinated additional efforts, several of the millennium development goals will be missed in many countries and regions.

Therefore, one of the key principles informing Ireland's preparations for the millennium development goals summit is that all the millennium development goals should be achieved universally and not just on an aggregate global level. The complementary nature of the millennium development goals must also be reaffirmed. Progress on any one millennium development goal can only be sustainable when supported by progress in others. I have spoken out strongly in the European Union, in Africa, in multilateral fora and in the United States to argue for a comprehensive and clear focus on the first of the millennium development goals, placing the fight against hunger at the centre of the international effort to accelerate progress on the goals as a collective by 2015. At the New York summit, Ireland and our EU partners will recommit to the millennium development goals and we will prioritise progress on the countries and the regions where progress has been slowest to date.

The committee will be aware that, following the launch of the Government's hunger task force in September 2008 which was launched in the United Nations by the Taoiseach and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, I designated the fight against global hunger as a cornerstone of Ireland's aid programme. Simply put, our inability to feed the people on our planet is the most significant failure of the developed world. One sixth of the world's population is today suffering from chronic hunger. Food supplies will have to increase by 50% to meet expected demand in the next 20 years alone. We cannot afford to watch the scandal of malnourished children develop further, especially as we have the means, both technical and political, to address it.

Over the past two years, Ireland has taken a lead role internationally in keeping the hunger crisis firmly on the development agenda. We continue to focus our efforts around three priorities — increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers in Africa with an emphasis on the 80% of farmers who are women; improving infant and maternal nutrition; and addressing governance and leadership failures to maintain the political commitment and action on hunger. We have stressed the particular importance of a focus on maternal and child nutrition. A malnourished child is at an enormous disadvantage in terms of attaining health and educational well-being and under-nutrition places individuals at risk of losing up to 10% of their lifetime income potential. In other words, the other seven millennium development goals will be severely compromised unless young people, especially those under the age of five, are properly fed and nourished.

We are also making the case that smallholder agriculture is the essential and missing link to addressing hunger and income poverty. It is essential not only to meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable but also to support investments by smallholder farmers to increase the resilience of their livelihoods. Increasing access by smallholder farmers to markets is a crucial step in increasing their livelihood security. In all of this, Ireland is focusing on the particular vulnerabilities of women and children to hunger and food insecurity.

Further investment in research and innovation for better technologies is urgently needed. Ireland is one of the main donors to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a group that is increasingly making a substantial contribution to agricultural productivity and natural resource management in the developing world. In a world of rapidly increasing population the future ability to feed an additional three billion people will depend on technology and innovation as much as anything else. The fight against global hunger has huge resonance and support among the Irish people but, most important, it is a compelling priority for our development partners in Africa and, increasingly, in the United States of America. The United States recently launched its hunger strategy entitled "Feed the Future" which reaffirms the commitment of the Obama Administration to addressing hunger and food security. We are working very closely with the Obama Administration on these issues, especially with the staff of Secretary of State Clinton, on various issues.

At the New York Summit in September we, along with Secretary of State Clinton, will co-host a high level political meeting on the need for an urgent and comprehensive approach to hunger and food security. The objective is to highlight the importance of linking agriculture, food security and nutrition programming in order to provide realistic and sustainable solutions to this crisis. In hosting this event our intention is to push hunger and food security to the centre of the summit agenda in New York.

In addition to the action we are taking with our partners on the complexities of long-term development challenges, we are constantly reminded of the vulnerability of poor and disadvantaged communities to emergencies and natural disasters. Few events have galvanised ordinary people across the world more than the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti on 12 January. This one sudden and convulsive event left 220,000 people dead, 1.5 million people displaced in temporary settlements and a further 660,000 displaced to rural areas.

Drawing on the lessons learned from the 2004 tsunami relief operation, the Government's response was rapid and effective. Within hours of the earthquake we had made contact with our key United Nations and NGO partners and arranged for the release of emergency funding. Experienced specialised personnel from within the rapid response corps were quickly deployed to fill critical positions within our implementing partners. Within a week of the disaster we had organised an airlift of more than 80 tonnes of shelter, water and sanitation equipment from our emergency stockpiles, which was Irish Aid's largest ever humanitarian airlift.

The devastation wrought by the Haitian earthquake provoked an outpouring of public sympathy and an overwhelmingly generous response by the people of Ireland to the funding appeals from development NGOs. It is right that the Government's response should reflect the wishes of the Irish people in response to the suffering in Haiti. To date Irish Aid has provided more than €4.5 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti, through direct financing and in-kind assistance. At the recent international donors conference held in New York, I pledged €13 million for the relief, recovery and development of Haiti for 2010-12.

In conclusion, the Government's aid programme recognises the complexity of the work of international development, focusing on the empowering of Governments and communities to take charge of their own futures. Our programme has a clear and unambiguous focus on the reduction of poverty and hunger. It concentrates on the least developed countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, and maintains a strong focus on the social sectors, directing resources towards the reduction of vulnerability and hunger. We have learned some lessons from our own history of development as a people and as a country.

More important, we are learning lessons every day from our partnership with the least developed countries in the world and their identification of their own economic and social priorities and needs. The Government is proud of our aid programme and committed to it for the long term. The Irish people are also proud of the work being done on their behalf in some of the poorest countries in the world. Development remains central to our foreign policy and we are working to ensure it is central also to the external actions of the European Union. I commend the Irish Aid programme and budget for 2010 to the committee and welcome questions and comments.

I welcome the fact that Ireland was ranked seventh in the world last year, devoting 0.54% of GNP to development assistance. I also welcome the fact that the Government is committed to reaching the international target of 0.7% by 2015 or earlier if possible. We have a lot of targets and plans for the next couple of years and if we succeed in them we should be able to get back on line. How does the Minister of State plan to move to 0.54% to 0.7%? Are there agreed interim targets for 2012-14? Has any consideration been given to that at this stage?

I note the Department is doing a project in Malawi and Tanzania in co-operation with the United States. Are there any more co-operative projects with President Obama’s people or with other partner countries?

I welcome the Minister of State, his officials and the speech he made.

The Minister of State was right to stress the importance of the United Nations meeting in September that will review the lack of progress towards achieving the millennium development goals. The Minister of State hopes to hold caucus-style meetings between now and then with like-minded countries. Will the Government give a lead in advancing the requirement for flexibility and additionality, flexibility in terms of the goals themselves and those countries where performance has fallen short, so sums can be moved between the different goals and their locations?

Additionality has been discussed at EU level. Given that the poorest people in the world are paying the highest price for the energy crisis, the economic crisis, the food crisis and the climate crisis, and the shortfall in the millennium goals, the international community has not responded in a way that would make good the shortfall with the same energy as it responded to the international financial crisis. Saving the global financial system was more important than saving the lives of 30 million children, that conclusion cannot be escaped. The representative of Prime Minister Zapatero in Spain is quoted in CONCORD's report as saying it is unjustifiable that we can find resources for the financial crisis but not for the 0.7% ODA target. Analysts say this is utopian but it must be done through political decisions.

The EU average aid percentage is 0.42%. When that is adjusted, and payments to refugees and students are removed, the average falls. That is a separate argument but looking at the table for tied aid, Irish aid comes out well, it is not tied, it is genuine. It would be wrong to think the EU, however, is doing as well as is claimed. The adjusted average figure is much less than the figure shown. That makes the case for the Irish Government at Council meetings to drive for a common position for the meeting in New York, with such additionalities in place as will be meaningful.

In the preparation for that meeting and for development policy in the EU, a lot of confusion has arisen about the role of the high representative, Baroness Ashton, and the Commissioner for Development. It is a matter of importance that the totality of development policy and administration will fall within the Commissioner's remit and will not be diffused so that parts of it become confused when there is an absence of a defined role for the high representative, particularly where some agencies might be tempted to sow confusion. That would not be in Europe's interest, the developing world's interest or Ireland's interest.

The output statement from the Department and the two speeches did not mention the precise impact of the 2009 cuts. The Minister said the brunt had been borne by multilateral commitments so bilateral projects were saved. The Minister of State mentioned the 20% disposed to the NGO sector. A high price has been paid through lost staff in various NGOs. How many personnel have been lost? If 20% of the money is going to that sector, how has the contraction affected it?

The Taoiseach made a commitment on a climate change payment but an answer to a parliamentary question suggested that some of that money will come from the ODA budget. How much? In many cases, are we not going down the slippery road to European deceptions, where we start to add bits and pieces going out from the core budget to other activities, with all of the additional expenditure separate from the ODA budget?

The Chairman and I attended a UN level meeting on development issues and it was a total disaster. It was an exercise for international suits, with no real minutes ever being issued. It was a disaster. Often, these very meetings are taking place at EU level and I am far from happy with the way the development debate is going on in Europe. There are some good points in it and I have had contact with some people in the member countries on the attitude the EU takes.

We are at mid-point in the EU table. All of the Scandinavian countries are ahead of us, with Sweden giving about 1.2%. We are on the same level as Belgium. Outside the European Union, the Norwegian example shows good practice. I support our work and we achieve a great deal with it but it would pointless if I did not say that we will not make the millennium development goals in some crucial areas. We are not going to do so because the people on the receiving end bore the brunt of the economic, financial, climate and energy crises. They needed an injection of funding so we could stay on track as much as the international financial system needed one.

We proceed now to a general discussion on the Revised Estimates and the output statement on Irish aid by way of a question and answer session. I call Deputy Rory O'Hanlon.

I thank the Minister of State for his contribution. I welcome the commitment to meeting the 0.7% target by 2015. Along with the Chairman I would like to know if we will see increments each year in the next four to five years towards that figure but I make the appeal that there would be no reduction in the budget in 2011. The Minister of State will soon be preparing the Estimates for 2011 and it is important that we do not have a reduction in that year.

That brings me to another question, namely, the definition of poverty and ensuring we do not distort the facts for our own people. When we talk about poverty in this country we should speak about poverty in the world context. When we hear that 25% of one sector or another in this country is suffering from poverty it distorts many people's understanding of poverty because, in the context of world poverty, the level of poverty here is nowhere near the level in say, sub-Saharan Africa. It is time we renewed the definition for relative poverty to ensure we create the necessary awareness for people of what we are talking about when we discuss overseas aid.

My final question is on co-operation, co-ordination and integration among all the different agencies in terms of what the State, other statutory bodies, including the United Nations, and the NGOs are doing to ensure that in the different countries where there are projects there is an integrated approach and that we get better value for money. It appears to me that there are examples of the different agencies working in parallel but if there was more co-operation and co-ordination we might get better value.

I will be brief. I first want to acknowledge the philosophy and the ideals behind what the Minister of State has said and very much support what he has been doing and plans to do.

On the international target of 0.7% by 2015, I wonder about the work plan to achieve that. Will specific targets be set each year and if they are not met, how will that be addressed?

A total of €25 million has been lost. What were the criteria used in applying that €25 million and where are the cuts to be imposed? To reiterate the point about climate change, if the money is committed to that area will it come from cuts in another aid programme? Have there been cuts in HIV funding?

I heard an Irish aid worker who has returned here having spent many years in Haiti and who was at the receiving end of much of the Irish aid make the point that she found a lack of strong commitment and will on the part of the Haitian Government and authorities to bring about change. In other words, while people were doing specific actions on the ground there was a lack of an overall commitment. Has the Minister of State any insight on that?

Would the Minister of State like to reply by way of a closing statement?

The committee has had a long session this afternoon so I will endeavour to be brief while at the same time answering all the questions raised.

Deputy Higgins made nine points with which I will deal. He asked first about how we intend to engage with different caucuses or groups to advance our position prior to the September summit. We are doing quite an amount of work in that area below the radar in terms of preparation for the summit. I spent the best part of a week in New York and Washington working with the multilateral institutions which are feeding into the outcome document for the summit.

I also spent some time in the State Department in Washington preparing for what will be a significant development event, but also a significant foreign policy event, when Ireland and the United States at Foreign Minister level, when the Minister, Deputy Martin, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will host a major event to attempt to put hunger and food security at the centre of the UN millennium development goals review summit. That is a key focus of our preparation for September.

In the meantime we are also meeting many of our like-minded partners, for example, the directors general of the Nordic group of countries which met recently in this country. Director General Brendan Rogers hosted that event in Dundalk to try to get a consensus among the like-minded groups in preparation for the summit, among other issues.

We are also working closely within the OECD, and from last Monday we are working at European Union level to try to influence the European Union position, as the world's largest donor, in New York. We worked extremely hard on advancing that European position to make it more ambitious and focused. There was much fragmentation of ideas in Europe. We tried to have it prioritised on the two key issues, one of which addresses one of the Deputy's other points. First, we want to focus on the lagging countries which have no chance of reaching the millennium development goals. We want the shifting of moneys and priorities into those countries. That will be relatively easy for us because we are focused on those countries in any event but many other countries are not. Their aid is spread throughout the world, for many different foreign policy and strategic reasons. Ours is totally focused on poverty reduction, hunger and issues which are closely associated with the millennium development goals. I hope that answers the Deputy's second question on the flexibility of moving funding to the lagging countries.

On the Deputy's comments about Prime Minister Zapatero that the developed world moved quickly to save its banking and financial systems, I find it difficult to disagree with the Deputy on that. By definition, that was a crisis which hit over a matter of days and weeks in terms of what happened in late September 2008 and the following weeks. The rich, developed countries moved exceptionally quickly. I will not disagree with the Deputy on that. By their very nature the realisation of the MDGs in eliminating poverty is a ten, 20, 30 or 40 year long programme. I would make the point, however, that shortly after Prime Minister Zapatero made those comments he cut his aid budget by €500 million.

Those are the real choices these countries are facing and, to be frank, other countries were expressing those views to us on Monday in Luxembourg. They are only facing the difficulties now that we dealt with from July 2007. I mentioned in my opening statement that because we are an open economy this crisis hit us quickly. We clearly had our own domestic issues but other countries are now beginning to deal with these issues, and that was brought home forcefully on Monday.

I believe I answered the question on the European Union earlier. It is still the biggest donor. Deputy Higgins questioned the way in which the debate about development is developing within Europe. I share some of the Deputy's concerns in that regard. It is still by far the largest donor, bilaterally and as a union.

Over 60% of the world's aid is delivered by Europe. That is the reason it behoves us as a union to shape the outcome of the New York review summit, and we are working hard to do that. We have our own national priority in terms of the lagging countries, food security and hunger and that is now consistent with the United States approach. We are trying to leverage the Irish programme, which is a modest programme by international standards, by partnering with a very large country, the United States, to make a real difference in New York. That is our objective.

The Deputy expressed concerns about the way the external action service of the European Union might influence development co-operation. That is an ongoing debate which we need to have, and concerns have been expressed clearly in this area. We have been working at official level through our mission in Europe to make sure that development remains under the auspices of the development Commissioner. We are still waiting to see how the European External Action Service is being rolled out throughout the world and to see the interaction between development and foreign policy. The Deputy has a concern——

I am concerned that it will turn into a massive leak.

My criticism is the deficiencies on the policy discussion side, which are very serious. Even in the commission within the commissionership there have been major problems relating to the debate and the structure of development.

The Deputy is right to raise the issue. I share his concern that the potential exists and that we must be vigilant, which we are.

The biggest leak could be from development into so-called security.

Yes, I agree with the Deputy. Clearly, our development assistance should remain that. However, when we have the European External Action Service and missions of the European Union in the countries in which we assist development, that will have an influence and we must use that. It can be an influence for good in terms of co-ordinating the European position, which relates to one of the Deputy's other questions, to ensure there is no fragmentation of aid and a proper division of labour between countries that have a specialty in one area or another. The external action service can be a force for good in that area in terms of aid effectiveness. However, I share the concerns the Deputy raised in that regard.

With regard to the 2009 reductions, I cannot state specifically the extent to which NGOs or civil society organisations have lost staff. Their funding has been cut but I cannot give facts and figures in that regard. However, two points should be made. A total of 20% of our aid goes to NGOs. That is by far the highest percentage of any aid programme in Europe which is channelled through NGOs. It is a very significant amount of money. That is the reason we are working more intensively than ever to ensure that the work of the NGOs delivers real results and that it is effective aid. We are adopting a results-based management approach in our programmes in-country now and we will be insisting that all our partners adopt the same approach. Irish taxpayers wish to see a direct correlation between their money and real development on the ground in terms of how many additional children are going to school in Uganda, how many health centres are being developed in Mozambique——

Irish taxpayers did not ask for a totally disproportionate cut in ODA by comparison with other subheads.

That is a separate issue. Irish taxpayers want us to be able to make decisions which allow us to develop our economy in years to come. Other countries have not made those decisions. We are preparing the foundation on which to grow our economy into the future. I have made the point to the committee previously that if one does not have a growing economy, one will not have a growing aid programme. If one does not make decisions that provide that foundation, the aid programme will decrease.

I heard the Deputy say that previously.

There is no harm in repeating it given that the Deputy asked the question again.

On climate change, at the European Council meeting in advance of the Copenhagen summit the Taoiseach committed Ireland, as part of the European effort, to spending an additional €100 million on climate change activities. It remains a Government decision as to how that is funded, in what way it is disbursed and through which Departments. Climate change adaptation and mitigation work, for example, would be within the remit of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I understand that division is yet to be decided by the Government.

I might have answered the Deputy's final question earlier. The development debate in Europe is obviously ongoing. As a small country we are trying to shape that debate to be much more focused on untied aid, food security and hunger, the lagging countries and aid effectiveness. We have a really good story to tell in that respect. The Irish aid programme has been peer reviewed by the OECD, which found that we are focused on these issues and on the MDGs and that it is an effective programme. We are trying to shape the EU programme along those lines, so we are participating in that debate.

I thank Deputy O'Hanlon for his contribution. With regard to relative poverty, clearly there is poverty in Ireland but the Deputy will know from his extensive travels that it is impossible to make a comparison between poverty here and abject poverty, in other words, finding it hard to put food on the table, trying to have three meals a day, not knowing if one will be fed next week or next month and one's food depending on whether the rains will fall. That is real poverty. The poverty in Ireland is relative, as the Deputy correctly pointed out. The internationally recognised measure for that is whether people are living on as little as $1 per day. If one is living on less than $1 per day, one is in what is called extreme and endemic poverty. Above that, one is not. That would not get one by in Ireland for a few hours, let alone a day. That is the relative measure. I hope I have answered the Deputy's question.

He asked a second question on how we co-ordinate co-operation between the various strands of our aid programme, be they NGOs, civil society, other organisations and semi-State bodies. That is a very important agenda and we are very exercised about it. We must ensure that we are not doing something in Malawi with our bilateral programme that an NGO is already doing. We must be sure of where our areas of comparative advantage are, work to those strengths and have a co-ordinated approach across the entire programme. My officials are grappling with that on a daily and weekly basis to ensure there is that level of co-ordination and effectiveness. We are working more intensively than ever with our NGO partners, who get over €100 million per year of taxpayers' money, to ensure their results are tangible, deliverable and measurable, so we can point to the results from that money. That must be co-ordinated with the Government programme.

I am sorry, Chairman, that I am taking longer than I should. Finally, Deputy O'Sullivan asked about HIV funding. We continue to spend over €100 million on HIV and AIDS each year. That goes back to the commitments we made some years ago in collaboration with the Clinton partnership and the global partnership for HIV and AIDS. We are recognised as a world leader in the HIV/AIDS field and that work is ongoing. Only recently I accepted a proposal for a continuation of the collaboration between Irish Aid and the Clinton Foundation, which will continue the good work we have been doing in a number of countries with Mr. Bill Clinton on HIV/AIDS.

With regard to the Haiti disaster, there are real issues in terms of the ability of the Government to deliver on the reconstruction of the country. Even before the disaster the Haitian Government was seriously challenged. This disaster effectively decapitated the Government. Every Government building and ministry was destroyed so its capacity to deal with it is severely compromised. However, the reconstruction must be country led, from the president down. At the reconstruction conference in New York recently President Préval set out a very ambitious national plan to redevelop the country, but he and the Government will be unable to do it by themselves. The Government must work very closely with the UN system and the UN ambassadors to drive that national plan. However, the main thing is to have a national plan, and that was accepted at the donor conference in March this year which I attended. It is important to ensure that side by side with building up the infrastructure of Haiti such as the roads and all the housing that needs to be replaced, we also rebuild the Haitian Government in partnership with it so that it is able to take over the running of the country. The intention and the ambition is that what is built after this disaster will be much better than the dysfunctional Government that was there previously. I hope I have answered all of the questions.

Is the Minister of State in favour of a transaction tax? Could he go to New York, for example, having persuaded the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his colleagues to be in favour of a transaction tax such as would release an enormous amount of funds to meet the shortfall in the millennium development goals?

I am following this debate closely. There is scope to use innovative financing mechanisms. Be that a transaction tax on transnational financial instruments, how would one do it? There is scope for it but a great deal of work must be done. It is not simply a matter of deciding to put 0.1% of €1 on every single chequebook transaction, ATM transaction or international transaction.

In terms of the hot money, there must be a complete overhaul of the monitoring of capital flows, especially from the development world to the rich north. There must be much greater global governance in that regard. If one saved the money on that, one would hardly even need to introduce a tax.

It all is part of a complex tapestry of work. Development aid is important. As I mentioned in our earlier discussion, enhancing the private sector and the capacity of developing countries to trade over the long term really will deliver fabulous results and these sort of innovative mechanisms are worth looking at.

I asked how the Minister of State plans to move the next period, from 2011 to 2014. Has the Department done any work on that? I also asked about the on-going work with President Obama in Malawi and Tanzania in the projects on which the Department is co-operating. Is the Department planning to do any more with the US or has it any other partners in mind?

I apologise for not dealing with the Chairman's question at the outset. He would have heard the Minister, Deputy Martin, reiterate the Government decision to commit to reaching a spend of 0.7% of GNP on development aid by 2015. On how we will reach that and whether we should have an absolute uniform time line to get from here to there, the one lesson we all have learned over the past two years is the sheer unpredictability of the global economy. It is in a state of enormous flux. It was impossible to predict that a sub-prime crisis in some of the southern states in the United States would practically bring the developed world to its knees and it is literally impossible to predict what way the global economy, or even the Irish economy, will move over the coming years. We must return growth to our economy before we can grow our aid programme. In the way we have done unsustainable things in recent years, it is unsustainable in the long term to borrow from the very capital markets that are stressed at present to finance development. We must grow our own economy and in the context of a growing economy, we can grow our aid budget again. The Government is clear on this. The decisions will be made on a year-by-year basis depending on how our economy performs.

On co-operation with the USA in Malawi, first, our co-operation at government-to-government level is strong. A team of officials from Irish Aid is in Washington this week negotiating with the United States on how we will manage this global event in New York to try to leverage hunger and food security right on to the centre of the international agenda. It is a cornerstone of our programme and it is a significant priority for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. With both countries really having the same priorities, the possibilities for us to leverage that are considerable. In terms of global advocacy to ensure that hunger and food security are kept to the centre of the global agenda, we will do good work in that respect.

In terms of concrete work on the ground, we signed a co-operation agreement in Malawi to work with it on food security issues. We also are contemplating co-operation agreements in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania, but these are at the early stages.

I also see great potential for collaboration between Irish third level institutes and American research institutes. The possibility for innovation and research in the United States is huge because of the capacity of its research institutes. In the context of our desire to move to the knowledge economy and to develop research capabilities in our third level and fourth level institutes, there is that potential to work with research institutes in the United States to deal with these issues.

Often people might say that is research speak, knowledge economy speak or whatever, but there will be 3 billion additional people on the planet by 2050. We cannot feed the 6 billion people who are on the planet at present. Cheques from the developed north or the rich nations will not feed the additional 3 billion people. We must develop innovative modern capacities in the poorest countries that are suffering from hunger, and especially malnutrition of young people, to feed those people. Money will not solve that problem; research will solve it. That is why we are investing in it.

In the 1950s we made that point and it is well taken. Give a man a fish and he will eat for the day, but teach him to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.

That also may mean respecting their agricultural production and cultural capacities rather than imposing short-term genetically modified solutions.

We will not open it all up again now. Now that the Government has the Croke Park agreement, which is an agreement to ensure that the public service moves forward, perhaps it should include a little wing — that is where the Community and Voluntary Pillar comes in — to ensure that the work on overseas aid moves along in tandem. There is a story that comes out repeatedly — we heard much of it from Mr. McCarthy — which is very right-wing, and we have listened to people over the years on that same line.

The central point is that what enhanced the Irish reputation in the past decades is the cultural sector, but also the Irish Aid programme — end of story. What has damaged the Irish reputation abroad is irresponsible private banking.

Deputy Higgins' 30 seconds are up. Before we finish, I was invited to the Gulf region two years ago to speak and I said we did not have a presence there. I said it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and to the Taoiseach at the time, and now at least we have somebody in Abu Dhabi and the Minister is able to tell the committee now that this is going great. I think he forgot where it came from.

The point is that those people want to be in on the world too and let us not forget them on aid. If we are to co-operate with people, we might find some of them happy to co-operate. They might not be much into it at this stage, but I recall when we were in Gaza the town one sees being built where they need the rest of the concrete to finish it off and they cannot get it. However, it is not possible to bring it in. The money available to buy it was provided by European Union member states, including Norway and Ireland, and Saudi Arabia. Why not discuss the matter with some of these people as well?

It would be an alternative to establishing land banks.

I visited Qatar two weeks ago. Many things have changed in that country. Women are becoming more involved in society and the authorities want to educate them. Until quite recently, women were not allowed to go outside the walls. I accept that they may be being forced to do so but societies of this nature are certainly looking outward to a much greater degree. I mention this matter as something in which members may wish to take an interest.

I thank the Minister and his officials, Mr. Brendan Rogers, the director general, Mr. Michael Gaffey, assistant secretary, Mr. John Foyle, head of finance, and Mr. Michael Tiernan, financial controller, for attending. This is the first meeting which Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan has attended. I wish to inform her that not all of our meetings last four and a half hours.

I thought the Chairman was going to state that they all last four hours or more.

The Deputy should not take fright in respect of the length of this meeting.