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  • Written by World and Media

Development NGOs are setting standards for the whole charity sector - Minister

Aid agency logos. Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, TD, said 'Ireland’s overseas aid programme has been recognised time after time, by independent international observers, as one of the most effective and focussed in the world.'.Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, TD, today commended Non-Governmental Organisations involved in overseas development for their commitment to delivering effective programmes to assist communities in the developing world.

Minister Costello was speaking at the Dóchas Annual Conference in Dublin which focused on the importance of charity regulation, transparency, and accountability for NGOs engaged in international development.

Minister Costello said:

“Ireland’s overseas aid programme has been recognised time after time, by independent international observers, as one of the most effective and focussed in the world. The development NGO sector has a key role to play in this.

“The recent controversies regarding use of charitable funds in Ireland have eroded public trust in the charity sector. NGOs and all publically-funded organisations are now under increased scrutiny and must demonstrate more than ever that they are effective, accountable and achieving value for money.

“I am confident that the challenge in terms of greater accountability is one for which Irish Aid’s NGO partners are well prepared. Working in partnership with Irish Aid, considerable effort has already been undertaken by development NGOs in recent years to ensure full accountability for the use of public funds.

Minister Costello indicated that Irish Development NGOs had taken the lead in setting standards that may be adopted by the new charity regulator:

“As the new charity regulator works to set standards for the sector overall, I urge Irish development NGOs to continue to lead by example in this regard.”

  • Written by Frank Humphreys

Prioritising hunger, conflict prevention, democracy and media freedom

Irish President Michael D Higgins speaking at the opening of the Hunger • Nutrition • Climate Justice • 2013 conference in Dublin. Ireland's focus on hunger should be applauded. Photo: eu2013.ie.Ireland conducts periodic reviews of its Foreign Policy and External Relations. Below would be some of our priorities in the context of Ireland's laudable current strategic objectives.

Ireland's focus on hunger should be particularly applauded. We would argue that hunger should be its number one foreign policy priority, given Ireland's history, its recent success pushing that agenda, the urgency of the problem, and the very strong empirical evidence and expert economic consensus that fighting hunger is among the most cost-effective public policies.

Ireland is right also to prioritise peace and human rights. However, it should focus on conflict prevention because a) is badly neglected and b) it is much more cost-effective than peace-keeping and peace-making.

Most of the worst recent civil conflicts have occured when power or wealth was distributed unequally between identifiable groups, which then fought to change or preserve that distribution (sometimes motivated by fear). That was the case in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and, most recently, in Iraq. It was also true in Northern Ireland and is true of Syria.

  • Written by World and Media

Ireland leading on hunger but coalition will miss its Programme for Government aid target

Fine Gael leader and Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny (left) and Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore (right). Original photos: Flickr/infomatique.Driven by its own tragic history of famine, Ireland has made tackling global hunger a top priority. It is now an acknowledged global leader in the fight against undernutrition, which killed approximately 3 million children under five last year.

Ireland's focus on hunger during its recent EU presidency was commended by the CEO of Concern Worldwide, Dominic MacSorley.

Despite severe cuts to its development assistance since 2008, Ireland remains one of the more generous donors in the OECD and one which regularly ranks very highly for the quality of its aid.

The quality of the Irish Aid programme is evidenced by some of the statistics in its annual report. For example, in Malawi, a bednet distribution program has reduced deaths from malaria by 95%. Nevertheless, Irish Official Development Assistance (ODA) falls short of the internationally agreed target of 0.7% of GNP and has been cut once again in Tuesday's budget.

After the Irish general election in 2011, Fine Gael and Labour formed a coalition government. In their Programme for Government for 2011-2016, the two parties stated not only their commitment to the 0.7% ODA target but also that they would seek to achieve this by 2015.*

After the sixth budget cut in a row, it is now plain that the target will not be achieved next year.

  • Written by World and Media

Aid a soft target as EU agrees budget

EU flag at the European Parliament. Photo: Flickr/European Parliament.Spending promises on overseas aid are among the easiest to make and the easiest to break. The world's wealthiest countries promised to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid back in 1970. It is difficult to keep track of how many times that promise has been repeated by European governments, which, with few exceptions, have never yet met the target. (The United States and Japan are less known for repeating their 1970 commitment as they are even further from the target than the European average.)

Nevertheless, there had been hope that EU members would finally meet the 0.7% target in 2015. The latest budget agreement suggest that development aid is still seen as a soft target in European capitals.

The EU budget agreed today (February 8) included substantial cuts compared with the budget proposed by the European Commission in 2011:

The EU Commission proposed €70 billion for ‘Global Europe’ over 7 years (2014-20).
Agreed: €58.704bn
Cut: 16% / €11.296bn

The EU Commission proposed €30.319 billion for the European Development Fund (EDF) over 7 years (2014-20).
Agreed: €26.984bn
Cut: 11% / €3.335bn

  • Written by World and Media

Irish EU Presidency and the 2014-2020 EU Budget negotiations

EU flag at the European Parliament. Photo: Flickr/European Parliament.On 7-8 February, European leaders will meet in Brussels to seek to reach a deal on the bloc’s next seven-year budget. A first round of talks among EU leaders ended without agreement in November, when plans to cut the EU’s €1 trillion budget failed to get agreement. The talks are headed by EU Council President Herman van Rompuy, but Ireland will need to play a role as a broker for the agreement.

The negotiations for a new multi-annual budget for the European Union seem thus far to have taken place in a vacuum. There is virtually no public debate or media attention for what is likely to be one of the biggest political decisions to be taken in the coming years. - Dóchas

The current Van Rompuy proposals envisage a cut to earlier European Commission proposals of €9.3 billion for 'Global Europe' spending (a cut of 13%) and €3.02 billion for the European Development Fund (a cut of 11%). What is more, Van Rompuy has indicated that he will be seeking an additional €25 billion gross cut in the EU budget, to allow for an increase of €5 billion each in the agriculture and cohesion headings.

'Global Europe' spending covers all external action by the EU apart from the EDF. It includes the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the Humanitarian Aid Instrument, which together comprise over 30% of its budget.

...Read more in the Dóchas briefing paper on the Irish EU Presidency and the 2014-2020 EU Budget.

More links and background will be uploaded here on the Irish EU Presidency and the 2014-2020 EU Budget negotiations. An excellent starting point is here.

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