Our aid programme is good for Ireland
Last week’s meetings of the G20 and G8 were disappointing for those of us who believe that global poverty is the greatest problem facing our planet. And they show how difficult it is for politicians to see the bigger picture.
With 1,000,000 people going to bed hungry every day, and nearly 9 million children dying each year before they’ve reached their fifth birthday, global poverty is indeed the biggest problem on earth. A problem that requires coordinated and determined action, in the shape of trade reform and better targeted aid. And a problem that we know we can overcome.
Two reports published this month, one by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute and another by the McKinsey consulting group, show that the global recipe for the eradication of extreme poverty is working.
There now is evidence that the ‘recipe’, agreed at the beginning of this century and consisting of eight “millennium development goals”, is bringing about real changes in the lives of millions of poor people. And, interestingly, 11 of the 20 countries making the most absolute progress towards the Goals are amongst the poorest countries in Africa. The investment of the past is now making a tangible and large-scale difference, and Africa’s economies are growing at ever increasing rates.
McKinsey is predicting the rise of Africa’s economic lions, akin to Asia’s Tiger economies. Overseas aid is contributing to international stability, encouraging trade, and helping to create new economic partnerships with Africa’s 900 million potential producers and consumers. Aid is helping to improve the climate for investment in developing countries and is generating enormous amounts of good-will towards Ireland and Irish companies. Our aid programme is the catalyst for many of these opportunities. What’s more, it is Ireland’s calling card to the world.
And our overseas aid programme can help us get out of the downturn: Our strategy to combat the recession is based on the need to repair the damage to our international reputation that has arisen out of the banking crisis. We now need to demonstrate that we are a country capable of keeping its promises, and willing to play its full role in the global society of states. Through the aid programme, we are given a chance to do just that.
We must, therefore, deliver on our overseas aid promise. We cannot afford not to.