7 reasons why ‘overseas aid’ is important for Ireland’s future

05 may 2015


Act Now 2015 Liberty Hall Banner Landscape

1)    Aid from Ireland works for the World

There is plenty of evidence that international aid is making huge differences for millions of people around the world. UN and OECD reports show that aid from Ireland is helping to scale-up local efforts to save lives, educate children, develop livelihoods, stimulate growth, build democratic societies and promote peace and security.

Some of the headlines:

  • 700 million fewer people lived in conditions of extreme poverty in 2010 than in 1990;

  • Between 2000 and 2011, the number of children out of school declined by almost half—from 102 million to 57 million;

  • Worldwide, the mortality rate for children under five dropped by 41% between 1990 and 2011;

  • Globally, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 47% since 1990;

  • Between 2000 and 2010, mortality rates from malaria fell by more than 25% globally;

  • Over the last 21 years, more than 2.1 billion people gained access to improved drinking water, meeting the MDG target five years ahead of schedule despite significant population growth.

2)    Aid from Ireland works for Ireland

Ireland is a small nation with a big reputation as a caring nation. Ireland’s international development programme is highly respected internationally and gives us a seat at the table, because we are a credible voice on international affairs.

The government has indicated that for us to get out of the recession, we need to repair the damage to our reputation. Our overseas aid gives us a big platform to build on – provided we demonstrate our reliability and our willingness to honour promises made to the international community.

3)    Aid helps lay the foundations for economic prosperity

In order for the economy of developing regions to prosper an “enabling environment” must be established. Ireland’s bilateral and multilateral aid programmes are playing a hugely effective part in constructing this environment by enabling an active, educated, healthy workforce, and by laying the foundations for stable, accountable governments able to enforce the democratic regulations and the democratic rule of law.

Furthermore, overseas aid serves to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared more equally across societies, thus contributing to greater stability and social sustainability. Overseas aid strengthens the pillars of democracy and accountability that benefit markets and citizens alike.

And in doing so, it is building stability, partnerships and markets which bring potential benefit for Ireland, too.

4)    Aid is not charity; it’s an investment in the future.

Overseas aid is an investment in a country's future. The countries with which we work will, in time, become part of a growing group of Ireland’s trading partners.

By assisting other countries in their efforts to escape poverty, we are investing in future partnerships and future trade relations. Much like Ireland in the 1980s, developing countries will remember those countries that stood by them in their hour of need, and they will have a natural inclination to work and trade with them.

Strong economic growth, a rising middle class, democratic consolidation and enormous natural resources make Africa an important emerging economic region. By 2018, five of the world’s fastest growing economies will be in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the IMF. The Irish government’s Africa Strategy and the Ireland’s Policy for International Development make clear that mutually beneficial investment, trade, energy and green technology initiatives are important to Ireland on the continent, as well as development and humanitarian objectives.

5)    Aid is our “membership fee” for belonging to the international community of nations.

Small countries like Ireland benefit from a rules based international order – an order that does not come about automatically, but requires institutions, which, in turn, require support and investment. Our overseas aid programme pays for our contributions to the institutions of the United Nations and its associated bodies like the WHO, FAO, UNDP and UNHCR.

Our aid programme is a practical and tangible expression of our nation’s wish to cooperate with other countries and to help them weather the storms of global economic turbulence.

The recent succession of global crises has shown how inter-connected the world is: the web of economic, financial, credit, trade and human movements is now tightly woven, binding the fate of nations together. Financial crises, pandemics and climate chaos affect all countries, irrespective of size, geography or political orientation.

This inter-dependence has brought great advantages, and great risks. The current global crisis is a powerful reminder of the need to manage the associated risks more effectively. Ireland’s future lies in international trade and in international cooperation and it is in our own short-term and long-term interest to invest in strong, democratic, accountable and effective governance mechanisms for the globe. And that is precisely what our aid programme is about.

6)    Our aid promise is worth keeping.

Ireland must continue to make visible progress towards the 0.7% commitment. The Government has recognised that maintaining our role and reputation in overseas aid (Official Development Assistance, or ODA) is key to restoring our damaged international reputation.

Furthermore, there still is a great need for Aid. Poverty is still widespread and it is not enough to put our faith in the market alone. “Development” needs a variety of forms of finance, and public aid money has a particular role to play: More than any other global financial flow, Aid invests in public goods and supports sectors and communities that do not attract great amounts of investment in education, health and water – or where investments are unlikely to provide equity and equality of access.

More than other financial flows, Aid is targeted at the Least Developed Countries, and it is more stable and predictable than the more volatile international financial flows. And aid can help build countries’ capacities to raise more funds themselves, for instance through taxation.

7)    Irish people expect us to increase overseas aid

The aid programme benefits from huge levels of public support. Survey after survey shows that public support in Ireland for overseas aid is extremely high and – more importantly – people in Ireland continue to donate their money to agencies that work in the area of development cooperation, showing that people in Ireland don’t just pay lip service to the principle of international solidarity.

Our aid programme is an important way for Irish NGOs to leverage those public donations, and to channel public and political support for a better world. Our aid programme encourages global citizenship in our island nation and promotes greater local and global linkages in a globalised world.