Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Ceisteanna (46)

Seán Haughey


46. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he will take to ensure that the target ratio of 0.7% for official development assistance, ODA, to gross national income, GNI, is achieved by 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46435/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (11 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Foreign)

I ask the Tánaiste to outline the steps that the Government will take to ensure that the target ratio of 0.7% for official development assistance, ODA, to gross national income, GNI, is achieved by 2030. This has been an objective for many years. While there is competition for scarce resources every year when the budget is determined, I think most Irish people would subscribe to the view that we should reach that target sooner rather than later.

The Government is fully committed to delivering on the 0.7% ODA:GNI target by 2030. Achieving this commitment would mean a tripling of current allocations and sustained, substantial increases beyond the lifetime of the current Dáil. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will engage in careful planning and consultation with other Departments and stakeholders as we seek to grow Ireland's development co-operation programme.

It is important to note that budget choices are always made against a backdrop of competing domestic priorities and changing economic conditions. Budget 2020 was prepared in exceptional circumstances and on the basis of Government assessments of the implications of a possible no-deal Brexit. In that context, the allocation of €838 million to ODA is a significant budgetary commitment by the Government to international development. This represents the sixth consecutive year the total allocations to ODA has increased and funding levels are now approaching pre-financial crisis levels. It comes on the back of budget 2019, which saw the highest increase in funding available in over a decade. Funding for ODA was increased by €114 million last year.

These additional resources provide the basis to begin to grow the development co-operation programme and make progress towards delivering on the initiatives and commitments outlined in A Better World, Ireland's policy for international development which was published earlier this year. We will also work to ensure that we have the necessary capacity, systems and structures in place across Government to enable Ireland to grow the ODA budget into the future, while maintaining our reputation for quality development co-operation.

In simple terms, we are now spending over €800 million per year and, by 2030, that figure needs to be close to €2.5 billion per year. That is where we need to get to and that will mean substantial and sustained increases, year after year, and regardless of who is in budget-----

The Tánaiste is out of time. Deputy Haughey should ask his first supplemental question.

I had time left.

I will play by the rules if the Tánaiste will play by the rules. The Tánaiste had completed his answer.

I was finishing in the time I had left.

The Tánaiste had completed his answer. We will stick to the one-minute limit from now on. Everybody observes the rules when they are under time but nobody observes the rules when they are 30 or 40 seconds over time. Let us play by the rules.

Fianna Fáil is conscious that the recent budget was framed in the context of Brexit, as the Tánaiste has said. We welcomed that, for 2020, the Government has allocated almost €838 million for official development assistance, an increase of just under €21 million on the 2019 budget allocation. While an upward trend in ODA in recent years is a move in the right direction, I support calls from organisations such as Trócaire and Dóchas for the Government to develop a strategy in order to ensure that the target is reached in full and on time.

The reality is that Ireland has fallen considerably behind in reaching the ODA:GNI target. Based on current estimates, the current level of allocation of ODA amounts to approximately to 0.31% of GNI. This is considerably behind a high of 0.59% reached in 2008 when Fianna Fáil was in government. While we acknowledge increases in ODA since 2014, it is clear that sustained financial resources will be required if we are to reach the target by 2030.

An agreed, cross-party approach is required to make this happen. We need to add somewhere between €100 million and €150 million a year, on average, between now and 2030 to the ODA budget. Some 65% or 70% of that funding will come through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the rest through other Departments. We are committed to doing that.

This year was an exception. I insisted on an increase this year of just under €21 million to make sure we did not go backwards from the 0.31% contribution. Because of the extraordinary nature of the budget this year, due to no-deal Brexit contingency planning, we are going to have to do even more in the years ahead to make up for that and we know that. I am glad we have the support of the main Opposition party so that we will be able to hold each other to account, whoever is in government in the future, to ensure that we meet the targets to which we are committed.

Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom have achieved the 0.7% target. It has to be said that our aid programme has helped to address extreme poverty in some of the world's poorest nations and we can be proud of the contribution and difference we have made in that regard. However, it is evident that considerable and significant work remains to be done if we are to address poverty, gender equality, climate change and the promotion of peace and democracy in the developing world.

I ask the Government and all political parties to work with relevant stakeholders to develop a realistic and workable roadmap that will set out steps as to how this objective will be achieved. I am a firm believer in Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality but our neutrality goes beyond that and involves the promotion of peace, justice and basic human rights throughout the world. ODA is one of the major mechanisms through which we can do that as a nation state. We need a roadmap and strategy to achieve that target in the shortest possible timeframe.

We have such a roadmap. That is why we launched the new development strategy earlier this year. It outlines four key priorities: gender equality, reducing humanitarian need, climate action and strengthening governance around the world. Ireland's aid programme is ranked No. 1 for reaching the most marginalised people on the planet so we have a good foundation to build on.

We must build on the programmes that are there and need the funding to follow through on the commitments we made many years ago. It is going to require choices in good and bad years for economic growth to add, on average, somewhere between €100 million and €150 million extra each year in the next decade to get to where we need to be. The Government and my Department are committed to doing that and I hope that consecutive Governments will be able to maintain that momentum.