Dismay at New Cuts to Overseas Aid Budget

Ireland’s overseas development NGOs have expressed shock at the Government’s decision to slash the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget by €95 million. The member organisations of Dóchas stated that the latest round of aid cuts seriously undermines the Taoiseach’s own promise to protect the world’s poor and vulnerable from the worst of the expenditure cuts.

"Ireland’s aid agencies recognise that unprecedented times call for strong measures, but taking such an enormous portion from the aid budget – more than 10% of the sum budgeted in October – will seriously hit the poorest of the poor,” said Hans Zomer of Dóchas, the umbrella group of overseas aid agencies.

“We acknowledge that the Government faces difficult choices but are dismayed at the size of this cut, the third significant chop to the aid budget in just 7 months. This raises serious question marks about the strength of Government commitment to delivering on its international pledges to fight poverty.”

Ireland has committed to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on overseas aid by 2012 and is supposed to reach a 0.6% benchmark in 2010. But the overseas aid programme was hit by €45 million in the public spending cuts of July 2008 – a disproportionately large share of the total then – and another €15m was taken from the aid budget in October.

With this latest €95 million cut, Ireland’s performance has fallen back to a pre-2006 percentage level at 0.53% spending of national income on ODA. After today, there is a new spotlight on the seriousness of Ireland’s commitment to its international obligations.

“Ireland was proud of its leadership in tackling international poverty as aid spending increased, but international standing depends on adherence to principles, commitments and pledges in difficult times as well as in good times. The world’s poor are already being hit by the financial crisis, soaring food prices and climate change, and cannot withstand an aid crisis too,” said Hans Zomer, Director of Dóchas.

“If we want economic growth with global stability, we need to work towards a fair and just world. Ireland needs to invest in developing countries, not turn its back on the poor when times get tough”.

Ireland’s overseas development NGOs are now seeking an emergency meeting with Ministers Micheál Martin and Peter Power to seek clarification about the government’s commitment to its international obligations.