Irish Aid Cuts Among the Worst in Developed World

OECD figures released today show a mixed picture for rich countries' performance on their aid promises, in a crucial year for the fight against global poverty.

Just five years before the deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, the world’s targets for eradicating the worst forms of poverty, the figures presented by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC - the club of rich donor countries) show that more than half of its member countries have cut their aid budgets.

Some developed countries, particularly some G8 countries (Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada) but also Austria and Ireland, slashed their aid spending, although the US and UK managed to increase their spending, despite the economic crisis.

Ireland cut its overseas aid budget by 18.9% in 2009, when measured in US dollars, as the OECD does. Only Austria and Italy performed worse in terms of delivering on their aid promises.

"What today's figures show is that some developed countries, such as Ireland, are blaming the financial crisis for their decision to cut overseas aid – but the crisis can’t be an excuse,” said Hans Zomer of Dóchas, the umbrella group of Ireland's development NGOs.

“What the Government seems to want us to forget is that the world’s poorest people are particularly affected by the global downturn: This year, more people go hungry than ever before. It is the one billion people that are living in absolute poverty that need our support, much more urgently than our mismanaged banks need a bail-out.” .

Ten years ago, world leaders agreed a set of actions that would make the worst forms of poverty history. Those “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs) established yardsticks for measuring results, for developing countries and rich countries alike. The rich countries of the OECD made specific commitments to increase their aid to the world's poorest countries, to help achieve the Goals.

"The year 2010 is a key year for OECD and EU member states, who promised to help eradicate the worst forms of poverty by 2015, by providing the financial resources needed. If rich countries fail to deliver, it will be impossible to achieve the MDGs,” said Hans Zomer.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon published his assessment of the world’s progress towards the MDGs. His report, Keeping the Promise, which will serve as a basis for key deliberations on achieving the MDGs at a UN Summit in September, , shows a mixed picture.

“A number of countries have achieved major successes in combating extreme poverty and hunger, improving school enrolment and expanding access to clean water. These successes have taken place in some of the poorest countries, demonstrating that the MDGs are achievable, given the right policies and adequate levels of investment,” said Zomer.

“But the report also highlights that inadequate resourcing, as a result of unfulfilled promises by donor countries, is the biggest obstacle to this global drive to make poverty history..

“It is high time that our leaders deliver on their promises to the world’s poorest people.”


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