If ‘charity begins at home’ why are we committing to overseas aid?
“But charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.” – Martin Chuzzlewit, a character by Charles Dickens
It would be short-sighted to pitch the debate about Government expenditure as a choice between the poor at home and abroad, argues Hans Zomer of the ActNow2015.ie campaign
In the public debate on Ireland’s current financial difficulties, from time to time voices are heard arguing that we cannot afford overseas aid in these times of crisis. Using the ‘charity begins at home’ slogan, the argument goes that we must scrap overseas aid until such time that we have solved our own domestic problems.
Attractive though this simple argument may seem, it is a false solution to a real problem. The simple truth is that Ireland spends a lot less on aid than we think, and that at €670 million, Ireland’s overseas aid expenditure is not of an order that it will make much of a difference to the multiple difficulties we find ourselves in. But slashing the aid budget will do enormous damage to the millions of poor people who depend on it. We must not balance our books on the backs of the world’s poor.
The commitment Ireland gave – as recently as September this year – to spend 0.7% of our gross national income (GNI) on overseas development aid by 2015, still only amounts to 70 cents in every €100. What this implies is that if the Irish government upholds this promise, we can still impact positively on the lives of millions in the developing world at a relatively modest cost.
In contrast, if we choose to honour our commitments in this time of difficulty, it will have a positive effect on us as a nation and on our image abroad. We have an opportunity to re-establish our reputation as a nation of integrity, willing to take responsibility and to play a leadership role in the fight against global poverty. Our national problems are many, but the problems facing our whole world – the challenges of climate chaos, terrorism, the energy and economic crises and food shortages – are our problems too. No country can address these crises alone, or wish them away. Our aid programme allows us to address the crises, and make friends in the process.
Aid not only relieves suffering but it can build real opportunities for prosperity. Investments in education and job creation programmes, health programmes and micro-financing and other enterprise schemes, all strengthen future markets within which Ireland can trade. In fact, two recently released reports, one by Britain’s Overseas Development Institute and another by the McKinsey consulting group, prove that progress towards the millennium development goals is already being made in some of the world’s poorest countries, and that the ‘recipe’ to fight global poverty is working.
Suffice to say, that ‘charity does indeed begin at home’ – and ‘home’ is the globalised world in which we live. To think otherwise and to turn our backs on the needs of others, and on the promises we’ve made to them, is to lose sight of our core values and our once globally admired capability of living by them.
Entry filed under: MDGs, Overseas aid. Tags: Aid, Charity, Development Education, Foreign Policy, global poverty, International, Ireland, Irish Aid, MDGs, Millennium Development Goals, policy coherence.