ODA increase warmly welcomed
Budget 2021 allocated €867m to Ireland’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme; an increase of approximately €30m on the amount pledged in Budget 2020.
Approximately €571m was allocated through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Another €159m was through the EU Development Cooperation Budget Share, with the rest allocated through other government departments; notably Finance (€62m) and Agriculture, Food and the Marine (€28m).
In our Budget Choices 2021 briefing, Social Justice Ireland urged Government to make a commitment to increase the aid budget over the five years to 2025 in order to reach 0.70 per cent of national income. We estimate that the increase in ODA in Budget 2021 will bring the total ODA allocation to 0.42 per cent of projected GNI* in 2021, up from approximately 0.41 per cent in 2020. So while welcoming the small increase of €30m, Social Justice Ireland is disappointed that this will not result in any significant improvement in Ireland’s ODA in terms of national income.
Though Ireland faces a number of significant challenges, it is important to remember that those in much poorer countries face a far worse situation. Our Key Partner countries on overseas development lack the well-developed welfare and health systems we have in Ireland, and this pandemic will affect developing countries far worse than it will affect us.
At uncertain economic times, it is important that policymakers remember to protect the vulnerable and ODA plays a major role in this. This is particularly so given that the recipients of Irish ODA tend to live in some of the countries who experience the worst effects of climate change—an area is which Ireland is a prime offender.
It is worth pointing out that many other countries have taken a leadership role in moving towards the UN-agreed 0.7 per cent target for developed countries, and Ireland’s record in this regard has historically been very poor. Our pre-recession peak (reached in 2008) was 0.59 per cent.
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, we still lack a strategy for reaching the 0.7 per cent target and Social Justice Ireland calls on government to develop such a roadmap with a view to reaching this target.
We also support the call for the permanent cancellation of all external debt payments due from developing countries, with no penalties, and the provision of additional emergency finance that does not create more debt. Currently, more than 60 countries spend more on debt financing than they do on healthcare. Ireland should use its considerable international influence to ensure this debt cancellation happens.
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