Dáil Éireann - Volume 556 - 05 November, 2002
Written Answers. - Departmental Bodies.
Mr. R. Bruton Mr. R. Bruton
317. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the key performance indicators of the agencies which his Department funds; the performance in respect of these for the past five years; and if these agencies publish a commentary on these performance indicators linking them to objectives and activities. [20326/02]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen)
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): A number of entities operate under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs. These include the Agency for Personal Service Overseas, APSO, National Committee for Development Education, NCDE, and the Ireland Aid Advisory Committee, IAAC, which has been replaced by the Advisory Board of Ireland Aid, ABIA.
The mission statement of APSO is to contribute to sustainable improvement in the living conditions of poor communities in developing countries by enhancing human resources, skills and local capacities in the interests of development, peace and justice. It is fully funded by the Government, with a budget of €17.6 million in 2002. Last year, approximately 1,270 overseas personnel assignments were supported by APSO in 79 countries.
The current APSO strategic plan covers the period 1999-2003. Annual reports have been provided by APSO for each of the years since the current strategic plan was adopted. These reports outline the extent and nature of APSO's work, including evaluation. APSO was the subject of examination as part of the Ireland Aid review, published and approved by Government in March of this year, which judged that APSO had carried out very valuable work since its inception in 1973. It also concluded that, as a result of changing practices in development work and changing patterns of personnel supply, consideration needed to be given to the future of the organisation.
Arising from the recommendations of the Ireland Aid review committee, APSO is to be integrated into Ireland Aid by way of a carefully  planned and phased process, which will ensure that APSO's experience is built on and its particular role and value safeguarded. Also arising from the review's recommendations, APSO will administer particular resources which are to be provided for the development work of Irish missionaries and will assist the missionaries in formulating and implementing a strategy for transition over the coming period.
The objective of the NCDE is to increase knowledge and understanding of development issues in Ireland. It promotes mainstreaming of development education, funds development education projects and undertakes research in development education. The NCDE publishes an annual review of its work and programmes which lists all grant-aided projects. Expenditure by the NCDE on development education in 2001 amounted to just over €2 million and almost 75% of this expenditure consisted of grants made to voluntary organisations and educational bodies for development education projects and research. The grants are monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis by the NCDE. The NCDE has also published and made available a wide range of development education materials for schools and the general public.
An external review of the NCDE carried out in 2001 provided an overall positive appraisal of its work. The evaluators recommended inter alia a greater focus on policy, a new strategic plan, increased funding and a more structured relationship with the Department of Education and Science.
In accordance with a recommendation made in the report of the Ireland Aid review committee, the functions of the NCDE have recently been transferred to a development education unit within Ireland Aid as part of a process of integration between the NCDE and Ireland Aid. A new strategic plan for development education is currently being drafted.
The Irish Aid Advisory Committee, IAAC, was established in 1993 as an independent body charged with the provision of policy advice on effective delivery and future strategies of Ireland Aid to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In recent years the committee has published a number of reports on development issues including: Irish Aid and Non-formal Education, 1999; HIV-AIDS: A Development Issue for SubSaharan Africa, 2000; An HIV-AIDS Strategy for the Ireland Aid Programme, 2000; Environmental Best Practice in Development Programmes, 2000; Capacity Building in the Ireland Aid Programme, 2000; and Building Trade Capacity – Options for Ireland Aid, 2002.
The Ireland Aid review recommended that the IAAC be replaced by a new Advisory Board of Ireland Aid, ABIA, in order to meet the challenges of the growing aid programme. The members of the ABIA have now been appointed. The new board is responsible for the general oversight and provision of advice on the strategic direction of the Ireland Aid programme;  reviewing evaluations of programmes and projects; organising an annual forum on development and the commissioning of research relevant to the Ireland Aid policy agenda. Consistent with its status as an independent advisory body, the ABIA has the authority to publish its research findings for the benefit of a wider audience.
Dáil Éireann 556 Written Answers. Departmental Bodies.