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Government needs a defined ODA strategy

Budget 2019 allocated €817m to Ireland’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme; an increase of approximately €110m on Budget 2018. This is a significant increase and the government is to be congratulated on this move. Approximately €545m was allocated through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with another €272m through other government departments.

ODA committed in Budget 2018 amounted to approximately 0.36 per cent of new modified GNI (GNI*) - perhaps the best measure of Ireland’s national income. In our Budget Choices Briefing, Social Justice Ireland urged Government to make a commitment to increase the aid budget over the four years to 2022 in order to reach 0.59 per cent of national income, matching our pre-recession peak. This would serve as a staging post from which Ireland could then progress to reach the  UN-agreed target of 0.7 per cent by 2025.

We estimate that the increase in ODA in Budget 2019 will bring the total ODA allocation to 0.39 per cent of projected GNI* in 2019. Social Justice Ireland welcomes this increase in ODA as a proportion of national income as being a firm step in the right direction.

Ireland is regularly commended by the OECD Development Assistance Committee Peer Review for the effectiveness of our aid programme. We can be justifiably proud of our record of providing high quality, untied, grant-based aid. However, many other countries have taken a leadership role in moving towards the 0.7 per cent target, and Ireland’s record in this regard has historically been very poor. Budget 2019 will hopefully be seen in hindsight as a turning point.

However, Ireland still lacks a strategy for reaching the 0.7 per cent target and Social Justice Ireland calls on government to develop such a strategy with a view to reaching this target by 2025. Ireland’s improving economic situation should be seen as an opportunity to recover lost ground in relation to our ODA commitments. Social Justice Ireland suggested such a strategy in our Budget Choices Briefing. (See below).