Social Justice Ireland believes that Ireland’s overseas aid budget should not be reduced any further. In the context of Ireland’s current challenges it is important to bear in mind that many people in the world are in a far worse situation and have been in this situation for a very long time. Ireland and other countries in the better-off part of the world should not abandon the world’s poorest at this crucial time.
One of the major cuts in Ireland’s second Budget of 2009 was that delivered to the overseas aid budget. It was cut by €100 million, adding to a cut in January 2009 of €95 million.
The Irish Government made a commitment to reach a target of spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid by 2012. That's just 70 cent in every €100. This is now unlikely to be reached. Social Justice Ireland strongly urges Ireland's Government to recommit to reaching the overseas aid target by 2012
In 2009, Ireland will give €696 million in overseas aid; an amount equivalent to 0.48% of GNP. Social Justice Ireland considers these cuts to be shameful. They are so embarrassing to the Government that the Minister for Finance did not mention them in his Budget speeches. Indeed, the Budget documentation published with the April 2009 Budget, while mentioning the cut, failed to address its implications for the commitment Government has made in the White Paper on ODA. The impact of these cuts will be felt among the poorest people on this planet; those struggling to survive on less than $1 a day in the over 100 countries that Ireland assists.
Social Justice Ireland believes that the international community needs to play a more active role in assisting less developed countries achieve these goals. Central to this will be the provision of additional financial support.
In response to the huge problems faced by the world’s poorest people the UN Millennium Declaration was adopted in 2000 at the largest-ever gathering of heads of state. It committed countries - both rich and poor - to doing all they can to eradicate poverty, promote human dignity and equality and achieve peace, democracy and environmental sustainability. World leaders promised to work together to meet concrete targets for advancing development and reducing poverty by 2015 or earlier. Emanating from the Millennium Declaration, a set of Millennium Development Goals was agreed. These bind countries to do more in the attack on inadequate incomes, widespread hunger, gender inequality, environmental deterioration and lack of education, health care and clean water. They also include actions to reduce debt and increase aid, trade and technology transfers to poor countries. These goals and their related targets are:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Target 1: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.
Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Target 3: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Target 4: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005 and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Target 5: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under five mortality rate.
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Target 6: Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Target 7: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Target 8: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Target 9: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources.
Target 10: Halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
Target 11: Have achieved by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Target 12: Develop further an open, rule based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system (includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction—both nationally and internationally).
Target 13: Address the special needs of the least developed countries (includes tariff- and quota free access for exports, enhanced program of debt relief for and cancellation of official bilateral debt, and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction).
Target 14: Address the special needs of landlocked countries and small island developing states (through the Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and 22nd General Assembly provisions).
Target 15: Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term
Target 16: In cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth.
Target 17: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.
Target 18: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies. (UNDP, 2003: 1-3)
Poverty and its associated implications remains the root cause of regional conflicts and civil wars in many of these poor countries. States and societies that are poor are prone to conflict. It is very difficult for governments to govern adequately when their people cannot afford to pay taxes, and industry and trade are almost nonexistent. Poverty is also a major cause of environmental degradation. Large-scale food shortages, migration and conflicts lead to environmental pressures.
Clearly poverty in the southern world threatens the very survival of all peoples. It is the major injustice in a world that is not, as a unit, poor. Now more than ever, as Ireland becomes more prosperous, the Irish government must exercise its voice within the European Union and in world institutions to ensure that the elimination of poverty becomes the focus of all policy development.
The MDGs provide a unique opportunity for Governments, Churches, businesses and all other sectors in society to unite around targets for ending extreme poverty in our lifetime.
Even in the midst of global economic recession, the financial cost to achieve the MDGs remains very affordable. On average, the total cost to achieve the MDGs is €75 per person per year, until 2015, for each of the one billion people living in extreme poverty.
Ireland should play a leading role in addressing this situation. A good starting point would be the ending of cuts in the overseas aid Budget and, instead, taking the steps necessary to reach the target of 0.7% of national income to be spent on overseas aid by 2012.