Dáil Éireann - Volume 649 - 11 March, 2008

Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the criteria used by his Department to identify countries to receive Irish Government overseas aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10349/08]

  Deputy Michael P. Kitt: The White Paper on Irish Aid sets out the principles and policies underlying the aid programme. It outlines the vision for the future and a number of key initiatives. It also identifies considerations which guide the selection of long term development partners. These include factors such as the level of poverty and the scope for Ireland to make a positive impact. It also includes standards of governance, stability and the potential of the partner government to take ownership of the country’s development process. Countries receiving emergency humanitarian assistance are assisted based on immediate needs only.

The White Paper on Irish Aid was the subject of extensive consultation with the Irish public, with aid agencies and other stakeholders including UN agencies and Ireland’s partners in the developing world. Irish Aid delivers assistance to over 90 countries, but has designated nine countries as Programme Countries, where there is a commitment to long term strategic assistance. These are, in Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia and Malawi. In Asia, Vietnam and East Timor are designated as Programme Countries.

The first three countries listed were selected as Programme Countries over 25 years ago, based on their poverty, their links with Ireland and with Irish missionaries and on the comparative advantage which Ireland had in relation to their needs. In Lesotho, the fact that the country was completely surrounded by then apartheid South Africa was also a significant factor. The latter three were chosen in the mid 1990s based on visits by appraisal teams which looked at the respective poverty indices and on the emergence of these countries from years of conflict. Malawi has now become the 7th Programme Country in Africa on the basis of poverty indices, susceptibility to food insecurity and prior humanitarian operations and experience by Irish Aid there. An Embassy has now been opened in Malawi and work is in hand on setting up a comprehensive bilateral assistance programme.

Vietnam and East Timor were designated as Programme Countries on the basis of poverty levels, but also with a view to transferring the lessons from the development experience in Asia, where appropriate, to Africa. In the case of East Timor, Ireland’s solidarity in support [879] of the country’s efforts to achieve independence was also an important factor. Support to Programme Countries is framed around a country strategy through which we address fundamental human needs such as food security, basic education, primary health care and safe water supplies.

We also place a particular emphasis on building good governance. This includes assistance for enhancing parliamentary oversight, building democratic systems of government that are underpinned by free and fair elections, strengthening the rule of law, enhancing respect for human rights, improving transparency and accountability through initiatives to enhance public financial management and building civil society. A guiding principle of Irish Aid’s policy is that Ireland’s relationship with the developing world is based on a spirit of partnership and equality. The governments and peoples of our partner countries are primarily responsible for their own development and will lead the development process. Ireland will offer advice, expertise and assistance but decisions on development planning must, to the greatest extent possible, be locally owned and led.

The Irish Aid programme is growing rapidly. The commitment of the Government to reach the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012 presents an important opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of millions of poor people in Africa and beyond.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 101.

Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his Department’s millennium development goal strategy plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10339/08]

  Deputy Michael P. Kitt: The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are at the heart of Ireland’s development cooperation programme as set out in the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid. They inform both our programme of development cooperation and our support for and dialogue with multilateral development bodies. Irish Aid’s focus on reducing poverty and supporting the provision of basic services to the poorest people is wholly consistent with the attainment of the MDGs. By delivering on the commitment to reach the 0.7% UN target for development funding by 2012, Ireland is also perceived as being at the forefront of international efforts to reach the Goals.

We continue to focus over 80% of our bilateral country assistance on sub-Saharan Africa where needs are greatest. The overarching objectives of the aid programme are poverty reduction and sustainable development. We address fundamental human needs such as food security, basic education, primary health care and safe water supplies, areas which are essential to achieving the MDGs. Irish Aid works closely with partner Governments and civil society in our Programme Countries to monitor progress in relation to the MDGs.

In addition to an overall target for poverty reduction, we work with other donors and partner Governments in sectors such as health and education to identify clear targets to be achieved. These targets, for instance, include the number of schools built, the number of girls in education and so forth. In such cases, a joint review is held annually and, where problems are identified, measures to address these are included in the following year’s annual planning process. We also work closely with NGOs, local community groups and missionaries in their work of delivering effective assistance on the ground. The UN’s latest MDG progress report, issued in July 2007, gave us a snapshot of the global progress achieved as we head towards the 2015 MDG target date, broken down by Goal and by region. If current trends continue, we are on target to reach the MDG on poverty reduction for the world as a whole, while progress has [880] also been made globally in relation to reducing child mortality and increasing school enrolment rates.

However sub-Saharan Africa unfortunately continues to lag behind other parts of the world. We are therefore very supportive of efforts to strengthen Africa’s efforts to meet the Goals such as the MDG Africa Steering Group convened by the UN Secretary General last September. The Taoiseach has also indicated his support for a meeting at Heads of Government level in September 2008, with the aim of intensifying MDG efforts in the period leading up to 2015.

Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of funding he proposes to give to Tanzania in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10327/08]

  Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Irish Aid has been providing development assistance to Tanzania since 1975 and it was designated as a Programme Country in 1979. It is expected that Ireland will provide assistance of approximately €40 million to Tanzania in 2008. The central goal of the programme is to assist the Government and people of Tanzania in reducing poverty, through supporting the implementation of its national poverty reduction plan. Additional support will be delivered indirectly through NGO partners, missionaries, and civil society organisations. Tanzania, through diligent and effective public financial management, a focus on poverty and a coordinated donor response, has combined economic growth with poverty reduction. Tanzania has actually achieved the targets set under the MDGs on universal primary education, on gender equality in primary schools, on urban access to safe water and basic sanitation, 7 years ahead of schedule.

Irish support to Tanzania is governed by a Country Strategy Paper which is drawn up in consultation with the Tanzanian Government, civil society partners and other donors. The current framework strategy covers the period 2007 to 2010. It focuses on rural livelihoods where assistance is provided for people working in agriculture and for pastoralist groups; on governance and accountability where support is provided to civil society organisations, to media and state watchdog bodies; on health and HIV/AIDS where assistance is provided for poor, vulnerable and marginalised communities.

In common with all funds available to Irish Aid, those allocated for the development programme in Tanzania are managed in accordance with proper accounting principles and in a manner compliant with Department of Finance Public Financial Procedures. The programme conforms to the standards of best international practice. There are strong, comprehensive monitoring and evaluation processes in place which act as a quality control on the programme and ensure that our assistance makes a real difference to poor people’s lives.