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Overseas Development

Rebuilding our commitment to ODA and honouring the UN target should be important policy paths for Ireland to pursue in the coming years.

The 2020 United Nations Human Development Report is written in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, a virus that quickly spread around the globe due to our increasingly interconnected world, but whose impacts have very different consequences for wealthier nations.

Budget 2021 allocated €867m to Ireland’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme; an increase of approximately €30m on the amount pledged in Budget 2020. In these difficult and uncertain times, such a move is warmly welcomed. Time now for Government to publish a pathway towards our UN-agreed target.

Earlier this year, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 9 September the International Day to Protect Education from Attack. The announcement coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration, which Ireland endorsed in May 2015. Education has been a focus for most countries in the context of the current pandemic, and correlations exist between educational attainment and rates of poverty and deprivation. In areas of armed conflict, the protection of education from attack can literally be a matter of life and death, as detailed in a recent report from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

Without a fairer system of international finance, the UN's Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved. Total financial outflows from poorer countries currently exceed overseas aid by a ratio of 5:1.

Though Ireland faces a number of significant challenges, it is important to remember that hundreds of millions of people in much poorer countries face a far worse situation. Budget 2021 should at least maintain the nominal financial amount of overseas aid, and - given the inevitable fall in GNI* - could even be used as an opportunity to make inroads on Ireland's UN target.

It is important that the developed world do what it can to assist poorer countries in combatting this crisis. First and foremost, this must involve a deal on current levels of sovereign debt in the Global South. Social Justice Ireland supports the call for the permanent cancellation of all external debt payments due from developing countries in 2020, with no accrual of interest or charges or other penalties, and the provision of additional emergency finance that does not create more debt.

The COVID-19 crisis will impose its heaviest tolls on the most vulnerable. It is understandable that national leaders are focused on tackling this crisis in their own backyards, but countries must find the space for supporting other nations too, if humanity is to successfully defeat this disease. It is therefore incumbent on rich world countries to help poorer countries. It is also in rich countries’ interests to think and act globally as well as locally.

While Ireland faces a number of challenges, including deficits in our public services and infrastructure, unacceptable rates of poverty, and high national debt, it is important to remember that many people in the world face a far worse situation.  It is important that Ireland plays an active and effective part in promoting sustainable development in the Global South and that all of Ireland’s policies are consistent with such development.  Read Social Justice Ireland's Election Briefing on Global South and ODA for an outline of a number of key challenges and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.

While welcoming the small increase in Overseas Development Assistance in Budget 2020, Social Justice Ireland is disappointed that this will not result in any significant improvement in Ireland’s ODA in terms of national income. We call on government to develop and publish a roadmap to reach the UN-agreed target.