Tuesday, 28 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
—reaffirms Ireland’s policy of supporting 100% debt cancellation for heavily indebted poor countries, going beyond the inadequate, though welcome, proposal of the G8 group of nations to restrict such cancellation to a list of 18 countries; and
—that such cancellation should be funded out of additional moneys, supporting the views of non-governmental organisations that International Monetary Fund gold reserves be sold to help finance debt cancellation; and
—calls on the Government to support a reappraisal of the European Union’s economic partnership agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in light of serious concerns that they would inhibit rather than promote the economic development of those countries;
—resolves that the Government, in the upcoming renegotiation of the Kyoto agreement, support a fair distribution of carbon allocation on a per capita basis in view of the increasing convergence between the issues of environmental degradation and world poverty, as evidenced by the fact that the costs of climate change are being disproportionately borne by the world’s poorest people.
In introducing this motion we had hoped a collective opinion might go from this House to meet what we hope is a global gathering of minds on issues of world poverty. As matters stand, an important meeting of the G8 group of countries will take place this weekend in Scotland. However, as this House will not reconvene until the end of September, this debate presents an opportunity to the Government to outline policy positions as regards other international gatherings that will address these important policy issues, namely, the meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in September. Probably the most important of all is the UN Millennium Summit also to be held in September in New York.
It was at a previous UN meeting that the Taoiseach made the promise that Ireland would meet the commitment of 0.7% of gross national product, GNP, in overseas development aid by 2007. It is greatly disappointing that the Government has since stated it cannot meet this commitment. It is particularly frustrating that it has not indicated by what date it intends to meet this target. It is with a great deal of disillusionment that many of us behold the failure to put in place any mechanisms to reach this target as we address the motion.
In the course of this debate we intend to cover the five most pertinent issues at the meetings mentioned. They include the important concepts of aid, trade and debt cancellation; the crucial need to put the brakes on the pernicious global trade in arms; the linking of issues of social justice with environmental degradation, and the need to adopt a truly global position on issues of climate change. Each of my party colleagues and I hope other Members will address these issues on an individual level.
I will begin by talking about what seems to be the main issue that will come from the G8 summit next weekend. A preliminary meeting has indicated that a deal has been reached on debt cancellation. Many of those involved in development work have indicated that it is an important first step. It must be acknowledged, however, that the deal is limited to 18 countries and that there is a degree of conditionality as regards how the debt will be met. There is a great deal of uncertainty about whether the debt being cancelled will be dealt with through existing aid budgets or through new funding mechanisms as proposed by many NGOs, namely, the sale of the International Monetary Fund gold reserves. If we get this wrong at the outset, we could be in danger of putting the cause of alleviating global poverty back even further.
Undoubtedly, the issue has been talked about for several decades on many levels since the end of the Second World War. During that period, however, we have seen a doubling of the distance in terms of overall wealth between the wealthiest countries in the world and the 20% of countries at the other end of the scale. There has been enough talk, meetings and summits. Those who care about these issues and, more importantly, those affected by them daily hope the series of meetings which will take place next week and beyond will, at last, provide the opportunity for which people in the developing world have been waiting.
In addressing these issues in their totality we are, for once, reviewing more pertinent matters than we ordinarily deal with in this House on a regular basis. These are issues of grave international importance. While at times we get caught up in the pantomime of name calling and point scoring about individual political positions in this Chamber to do with our system of politics, we had hoped in tabling the motion that there would be a consensus of views, with the House speaking collectively. Unfortunately, the Government’s amendment, in effect, amounts to a new motion. It carries too much self-aggrandisement to be regarded as a serious attempt to deal with the issues involved. Possibly, during the course of the debate other contributions and the potential for further amendments might see by the end of tomorrow’s business a coming together of views in order that this House may at least send a message that those outside this Chamber want to hear.
Mr. Gormley: At this morning’s press conference to launch this Private Members’ motion some of my colleagues wanted to give the Government the benefit of the doubt. They expressed the view that it might accept our motion because it was so reasonable. I disagreed as I believed it would table an amendment. It has done so and gutted our motion. It shows a sense of cynicism — the type displayed when the Taoiseach went before the United Nations and gave a solemn commitment to the world’s poorest nations, on which he has since reneged. At the U2 concert at the weekend when his name was mentioned, he was deservedly booed by the crowd. Most Irish people recognise that it was a cynical ploy in order to become a member of the Security Council. It was a matter of prestige for this country. The Government achieved its aim of securing a seat on the Security Council but, unfortunately, did not do very much with it at the time and now we are left with this empty promise. Based on the Government’s figures, we will achieve a figure of 0.43% of GNP by 2007. We will not achieve our goal of 0.7% which we will achieve at current rates by 2028.
The Minister should look at what is happening in our world. Some 8,000 die of AIDS-HIV related illnesses every single day. The first millennium development goal, to achieve gender parity by 2005, will not be reached. We need an extra €50 billion to reach the UN millennium development goals. It simply will not happen.
Next September the Taoiseach will once again go before the United Nations in New York. What will he do on this occasion? It is clear from the amendment tabled by the Government that it does not want to make any serious commitment. That is the difficulty. We have a problem with our credibility. We wanted the Government to produce a new timetable. However, such a timetable is absent from the motion. We had hoped that before we broke up for the summer recess, since we will not have an opportunity to debate the issue before the Taoiseach leaves for New York, we might get some indication. Perhaps the Minister will give us an indication this evening or tomorrow. On three separate occasions he gave this commitment. I was present on one of them, at Johannesburg, at the summit on sustainability. For one moment I felt proud that the Government was going to fulfil a promise but that did not happen.
There is one small mercy in the Government’s amendment, it now recognises that we need an arms trade treaty. I hope it will, at least, fulfil this obligation. Today there was a separate press conference held in another room, at which the cost of the Iraq war, €180 billion, was spelled out. That is a tangible price tag at which we can look and say with certainty that if this money had been transferred to the poorest countries, poverty could indeed be history.
The arms trade treaty focuses on the supply of arms. Once adopted, it will help to ensure all nations are working to the same standard of arms transfers and ban the export of arms to places where human rights violations are likely. It will be legally binding and based on international law, especially human rights and humanitarian law. It will help to ensure deals rejected by one exporter are not licensed or authorised by another.
Finland is spearheading the campaign to build international support. It will be necessary for countries to show support for the treaty at the United Nations conference on small arms and light weapons to be held next year. As is evident from the amendment, while Ireland is sympathetic, it has not fully declared yet. I hope the Minister will make his intentions clear this evening.
The right to sustainable development is enshrined in international human rights instruments and declarations. In addition, exporter governments have made specific commitments under numerous regional and multilateral arms export control regimes to take into account sustainable development and the impact of arms exports on importer countries when undertaking arms licensing.
These are the most important issues. Comparisons between expenditure in developing countries on health, education and the military are astounding. Seven developing countries, Oman, Syria, Burma, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea and Burundi, spend more on the military than on health and education combined. A further 14 developing countries, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Iran, Cambodia, China, Ecuador, Nigeria, Rwanda, Angola, Guinea, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, spend more on the military than on health or education. These figures place in perspective a problem which Ireland has a role to play in addressing.
Last year Amnesty International produced a report entitled, Claws of the Celtic Tiger, which showed that the high tech industry here played an increasingly significant role in the defence sector. In 2002 Ireland’s military exports were valued at €34 million. Dual use exports, however, which include many components, were valued at €4.5 billion. Irish armoured vehicle technology appears to have been licensed via a Singapore company to Turkey where the military has used armoured vehicles to abuse human rights, including the killing of a man crushed against a wall by a tank during a Kurdish new year celebration in 2002. Also in 2002 the involvement of an Irish registered company with an international arms smuggling operation was revealed. The company, Balcombe Investments Limited, owned the aircraft operated by Renan Airways of Moldova to fly several shipments of illegal arms to Africa.
The Government commissioned a report on export licensing of military and dual use goods following criticisms from Amnesty International and others. On the basis of this report, published in May 2004, Amnesty International called for legislation to be introduced to govern military exports and control the activities of arms brokers and shippers with a view to improving transparency on documentation related to dual use items.
With regard to the millennium development goals and the 0.7% target, if the Minister was to take part in the protest in Edinburgh next week, the responses to the chants, “What do we want?” and “When do we want it?” would be “0.7% of GDP” and “Eventually”.
Mr. Eamon Ryan: We are at an historic moment. There is a sense abroad, among people here and throughout the world, that there is a political will and a desire to make poverty history. One can feel we have a chance to achieve this goal. This incredibly strong message was felt in Dublin in recent days and will be stronger still this weekend in London and Edinburgh. In this respect, people look to Dáil Éireann to find out what message we have to give them.
The Green Party motion is an attempt to set out the broad range of issues which must be addressed if we are to make poverty history. This not only involves how much we give but also how much we take and what type of trading systems we have in the world. Our motion is a fair, honest and balanced attempt to set out the right direction we should take. I deeply regret that the Government has chosen to confuse, minimise, remove and obfuscate because it is surely the wrong message for it, on behalf of the people, to send on these issues.
I will pick up on three issues on which there are differences between the competing motion and the amendment. First, the motion is clear and simple regarding the importance of fair trade in bringing about international social justice. It recognises that we must tackle the conditions that create poverty in the first place and that between 1997 and 2002 the lesser developed countries’ share of world trade fell. During the same period the value of their food exports decreased by
67%, a disastrous failure of the world trading system.
The amendment reads like a statement straight from the Washington consensus. Mr. Wolfowitz and his friends could not have written it better as they stand by the rules of the World Trade Organisation. The amendment lacks even an ounce of sense and fails to address whether these rules should be fair as well as free. That is a shame.
I will take as an example the amended wording the Government has chosen for no clear or beneficial reason in response to our call for a reappraisal of the European Union’s current economic partnership agreements which almost every single development NGO across the world has criticised for creating systems that will hinder rather than help the progress of developing countries. The EPAs are more liberal than anything in place in the WTO rules. In this regard, the amendment states: “ .. .it will be important to have close monitoring and dialogue between the EU Commission and the Council to ensure that the development focus of EPAs remains a primary concern”. Although I am utterly pro-European and believe multilateralism is the best approach to achieving solutions around the world, I do not believe dialogue in the European Union should be confined to the Commission and Council, with national parliaments looking on without comment. Sometimes it is appropriate for dialogue to take place between the national parliaments and the European Union. The EPAs offered one such opportunity.
At a conference in Dublin last week a European Commission official noted that the British had raised concerns about the EPAs, a new neoliberal system, adding that if only one other country was to come out and raise similar concerns, they might be subject to a proper reappraisal. We have seen recently that when two member states ask questions, it changes the way in which the European Union works. The Government had a simple, albeit small, opportunity to raise concerns about EPAs by agreeing with the motion as set out. Had it done so, its position could have been used by the NGOs and others with concerns about this issue to argue in Europe that Britain is not alone in having concerns about EPAs. It would be good to reappraise EPAs, rather than stepping back and indicating that we will examine the dialogue between the Commission and Council. This is a narrow view of the communication which should take place in the European Union.
The motion includes a call which is neither radical nor likely to rock the foundations of Irish agriculture. Instead, it merely requests a re-examination of the effect of export subsidies on those farmers in developing countries who are worst affected by the European Union’s policy of dumping a range of products on world markets. It does not seek a unilateral solution but calls for a multilateral recognition that dumping brings to countries in Africa the very poverty on which the developed nations spend development aid in addressing. The Government amendment removes this call. Is there no room for this issue to be examined? Are we not honest and open enough to admit that this agricultural practice is not the correct approach and damages the countries we are trying to help by other means?
I was amazed this week to hear how clear, strong and correct the European Agriculture Commissioner was in this regard. She took the simple example of sugar exports. Europe is responsible for approximately 18% of world sugar exports and as a result, a reduction in the price of world sugar by 17% which has serious consequences for the poorest countries. The Commissioner has asked why we do not move towards alternative markets such as bioethanol and biofuels which should be the future of Irish agriculture. It is not as if the approaches advocated by the Green Party would damage world farming. On the contrary, they would open the door to the future.
As I stated, there is a sense of possibility in the air. In recent days 250,000 people heard from the loudspeakers in Croke Park a strong message which they support and on which they want action. We have a fantastic history. We could go to Africa and say we were not colonisers, that we were like them but the Minister is now taking us in the opposite direction. We are setting up a trading system that will subjugate just as colonial powers did in the past. It will diminish the great tradition and credit we enjoy in the developing world. This must change.
I commend the Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, for calling for a debate. He said politicians needed to hear what the people were saying and he is right. We should have an open, fair and honest debate and would be supported by the people if we had. What we will have instead, however, is fair trade coffee in the canteen of the Department of Foreign Affairs while we do not dare to say anything beyond this on the serious issues on which we can make a point and make real changes on the world stage. We will hang on the amendment the Minister has tabled which provides cover but little else.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I accord appreciation to the Green Party for allowing the House the opportunity to debate and formally endorse the Make Poverty History campaign which is unconditionally and enthusiastically supported by my party from the beginning. Sinn Féin activists are preparing to hit the streets of Dublin where, together with others committed to global social and economic justice, we will gather on Thursday evening at 6.30 p.m. in Parnell Square. I encourage every one who believes in the universality of human rights, that poverty and hunger are human rights violations and that another world is possible to join us and the other demonstrators in an endorsement of this historic objective of the total elimination of poverty and our expression of an alternative vision of global social and economic justice.
I wholeheartedly endorse and share the approach that the Green Party has taken in this motion to emphasise the interlinked measures required to achieve our stated objective. With 100% debt cancellation for all heavily indebted poor countries, we need significantly increased, targeted and untied official development aid. We need fair trade rules, trade justice and the European Union to stop standing in the way of this and start acting like a real ally to the Group of 77.
We need states to stop spending obscene amounts of money on militarisation. Just as Sinn Féin’s commitment to the total eradication of poverty does not stop at our borders, our commitment to the demilitarisation of conflict does not stop with our island but is one of the core objectives of our international relations policy. To truly make poverty history, the world needs a global peace dividend through the diversion of arms spending to spending on human security — food, shelter, clean water, access to healthcare, education, dignified employment, a living wage and full human rights.
What will the Taoiseach do when he attends the UN summit this autumn, representing the people of this State? Will he once again make aid or other commitments he has no intention of keeping, even though he also claims that our economy is stronger than ever and boasts that Ireland now ranks as the fourth wealthiest state in the world? Will he trot out the standard weak excuses for breaking his promise to allocate 0.7% of GNP to ODA spending by 2007 — that we are the ninth largest per capita donor of ODA and that we will honour the EU deadline by 2015? Why should we not aspire to be at the very top of the generosity league rather than lagging behind the Nordic states? Why must we be satisfied with reaching only 0.5%, possibly but not definitely by 2007, when other countries now give 1%?
Per capita spending is not relevant to the UN’s proposal to contribute a fixed percentage of the nation’s wealth. Under the Government, despite our unprecedented Celtic tiger wealth, Ireland has failed and will continue to fail into the foreseeable future to commit just over 0.5% of our income per year to eradicating global poverty. To make matters worse, in the most unscrupulous and duplicitous way the Government and the Taoiseach misled our friends in the developing world to get votes for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Government took advantage of the vulnerability of many of those countries for its own aggrandisement. The word “shameful” cannot even scratch the surface. The Taoiseach promised the world on behalf of the Irish people. We supported him and felt proud of that commitment, on which the Government does not have the right to renege unilaterally. Sinn Féin will not give up on it; we will continue to press the Government to keep its promise on behalf of the citizens of the State.
By now, we are all familiar with the facts and figures: the 600 million children living in absolute poverty and the one child who dies every three seconds from hunger and preventable disease. We can all in our mind’s eye see the contrast with the obscene, unspendable wealth amassed and wasted by an elite few. The poorest countries’ share of world trade has dropped by almost half since 1981 and is now as low as 0.4%. Under the current unjust world trade rules, poor countries must pay back 14 times what they receive in aid. The world, despite agreeing the UN millennium development goal to halve world poverty by 2015, is not following through on its commitments. At the current rate of progress, we will not even halve the number living in absolute poverty until 2147.
The message with which we need to really come to grips today is a simple one. Nelson Mandela expressed it perfectly when he recently said, “Poverty is not natural. It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” I have said it in the past and will repeat myself as often as necessary: all we really need to do to make poverty history is to muster the collective political will. Who could disagree with this?
We are keeping it simple because our message does not need to be complicated. We do not need to commission more studies because we already know the actions we have to take to make this shared vision a reality. As the leaders of the world’s richest countries gather in Scotland for the G8 summit, we and millions like us the world over, in every region and on every continent, demand trade justice, total debt cancellation and more and better aid for the world’s poorest countries. As republicans, socialists and internationalists, we are fully committed to making poverty history for everyone on this island and all our brothers and sisters in every nation.
Mr. F. McGrath: I commend the Green Party for tabling this motion on aid to the Third World. I support it as it is important that this small, independent country plays its part on the international stage in assisting countries that urgently need our assistance. I urge the Government and our country to be a voice for the voiceless and poor. Sitting on the fence is not an option. The Government must immediately meet its commitment to reach 0.7% of GNP devoted to overseas development aid by 2007.
It is also important to face up to the reality of poverty in our country, despite the economic growth and development in the past ten years. It is not acceptable that 80,000 children still live in poverty. It is not acceptable there are homeless people in our cities or that young couples are priced out of the housing market. It is a disgrace that over 50,000 families are on local authority housing waiting lists. We, a society steeped in wealth, are not delivering to our people. It is not right and there is no excuse that 25% of our citizens are always left behind. It is up to all politicians to ensure all people are treated with respect and equally. The debate is not about resources and wealth but how these are distributed. It is about how we treat our sick, elderly and disabled. I do not want to live in a country where greed and selfishness are rampant.
I support the international campaign of Make Poverty History. We know from our history about famine, poverty and exploitation. Now it is our turn to lead the charge against injustice and stand by the poorer countries. Let us ensure their children live and get back their dignity. Let us reaffirm Ireland’s policy of supporting 100% debt cancellation for heavily indebted poor countries, going beyond the inadequate but welcome proposal of the G8 to introduce cancellations to 18 countries. Such debt cancellation must not be accompanied by damaging conditions which erode its benefits. Such cancellation must be funded out of additional moneys and, as argued by non-governmental organisations, the International Monetary Fund gold reserves must be sold to finance debt cancellation.
Developed nations must move away from operating as judge and plaintiff towards heavily indebted poor countries. Debt cancellation is only part of what is needed to assist heavily indebted poor countries. Targeted and united aid must continue to be given and significantly increased. I urge the Government to agree new target dates in view of its acknowledgement that it will not meet its commitment to reach the 0.7% of GNP devoted to overseas development aid by 2007. I call on the Taoiseach to reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to this target at the forthcoming UN millennium summit.
Fair trade is important in bringing about international social justice. I demand the re-examination of subsidies given to producers in the developed world and their effect on those producers in less developed nations. I call on the Government to support the reappraisal of the EU’s economic partnership agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, in light of serious concerns that these will inhibit rather than promote their economic development.
We need to restrict the international trade in arms to assist conflict resolution, to prevent the terrible costs in human life and the attendant economic costs. The Government must support the initiative taken by the Government of Finland to bring about an arms trade treaty through the framework of the UN. Why do governments around the world always have money for arms, yet there is always a problem when finance is required for food, health care and education? I challenge international leaders on this major political and moral issue. It is simply not good enough.
The Independent Members will always challenge, fight and stand up for working people and the poor in society. That is our agenda and we have no notion of going off course. This motion is about standing with the peoples of other countries in a spirt of co-operation, generosity and equality. I urge all Members to stand with these peoples and support this excellent motion.
Ms C. Murphy: I welcome this Private Members’ motion. When the Government, on behalf of the people, committed to leading the way by allocating 0.7% of GNP in development aid, I believed it was a decision of which we should all feel proud. It gave us the credibility to punch above our weight and consolidated Ireland’s position as an honest broker. Just as I felt proud of that decision, I was ashamed when it was rolled back on our behalf. Deferring our commitment, in practical terms, means accepting that some lives, mostly those of children, will end prematurely. We cannot account for what other countries do, but we can account for what our country does. Through this climbdown, we are assisting others not to aim for that target.
Having spent some time trawling through the array of information dealing with debt cancellation, development aid, trade justice, campaign against the arms trade and the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, one message became apparent, that of equality and the value we place on the lives of the poorest in the world. Over the past year, the increasing intensity of the campaign by Make Poverty History means all Members are familiar with the horrifying figures that demonstrate the true extent of poverty. Some 600 million children live in absolute poverty and 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases. That is one child every three seconds. By the time I will have concluded, 100 children will not have survived. Some 852 million people, more than the populations of the US, Canada and the EU combined, will not have enough food to eat. One in six children will die before they reach the age of five years. Unfortunately, these statistics are just a sample.
The motion seeks a broad response to ending poverty. This is not just about throwing money at the issue. All Members received an e-mail from GOAL, in which some of the matters raised are worrying. Our Government channels approximately €60 million through the Ethiopian and Ugandan Governments. We should immediately cease funding through the Ethiopian Government. I am not saying we should not assist the people in those countries, but we cannot support regimes that murder their citizens, which happened only last week in Ethiopia.
The Make Poverty History campaign argued for more and better aid. The first assertion is that poverty will not be eradicated without the immediate and major increase in international aid. This is where our obligation starts. The campaign calls for a binding timeframe for the richer countries to reach this target. It demands that aid focus better on the needs of poorer peoples. It must be spent on better health care and education, not tied to goods and services from the donor country.
There were several good media reports about the results of aid given to some countries affected by the tsunami disaster in December. For these countries to recover, the money must be spent within the region. We can see the sense in this but I do not understand how good practice in one place is not regarded as such in another. The campaign also seeks a more democratic World Bank and IMF so that not only will the concerns of people from poorer countries be addressed, but they will be acted upon.
The figures of the charity, Concern, highlight that 30,000 people a day die from starvation and poverty related deaths. This is not far short of 1 million people in one month. That figure is etched on our political history as the same number died in the dark days of the Famine. The only way to deal with this global catastrophe is to act collectively. The basis for such action is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948. One part of the preamble to the declaration states “whereas the people of the United Nations have in the charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life”. I ask that we live up to that by committing to the 0.7% target of GNP.
—welcomes the very substantial increases in Ireland’s aid programme, which has grown from €96 million in 1994 to €545 million in 2005, which is channelled to some of the world’s poorest countries and which has made Ireland the world’s ninth largest aid donor on a per capita basis;
—notes that at the European Council of 16-17 June, 2005, the Heads of State and Government, including Ireland, agreed that the EU member states which have not yet reached a level of 0.51% of GNP should reach that level by 2010, and that they should achieve the 0.7% target by 2015 the ten new member states were set lower targets;
—notes that the Government is strongly committed to achieving the UN target of 0.7% for expenditure on ODA and it will take a decision on this in advance of the UN Millennium Summit in September 2005;
—acknowledges the need for international agreements to control the international trade in arms in order to assist conflict resolution and prevent the terrible costs in human lives and attendant economic costs of such trade;
—acknowledges that the Government is committed to a strong rules-based WTO and multilateral trading system as being the best way to help developing countries to integrate into the global trading system and is working towards a successful outcome to the Doha Development Agenda negotiations and the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in December 2005;
—confirms that as the negotiations on the economic partnership agreements move into a more critical phase, it will be important to have close monitoring and dialogue between the EU Commission and the Council to ensure that the development focus of EPAs remains a primary concern; and
—recognising the increasing convergence between issues of environmental degradation and world poverty, and in view of the fact that the adverse impacts of climate change are, and will be, disproportionately borne by the world’s poorest people, supports the Government, in the upcoming negotiations on global action to tackle climate change after 2012, in seeking a fair, equitable and inclusive agreement that will reduce the vulnerability of developing countries through reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases and through assisting developing countries to access the resources and expertise required to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.”
I wish to share time with Deputies Nolan and O’Connor. I am glad of this opportunity to speak and I thank the Green Party Members, despite their comments. I am somewhat disappointed by their attitude to the amendment which the Government and I thought was better-worded and which does not detract from the Green Party’s motion’s sentiments. I regret that it appears the House might divide on this issue because it is not an issue on which it should.
Nevertheless, the debate provides us with an opportunity. I thank the Green Party for providing the opportunity to have a debate which will embrace the totality of the development agenda, not simply the question of overseas development aid. It offers the House an opportunity to deal with the key issues of aid, trade, the international arms trade and the environment. Each of these topics would merit an extensive debate on its own, never mind combining them in one debate. However, I will attempt to address each of them as comprehensively as possible in the time at my disposal.
I will start with aid. In terms of cash disbursements, Ireland’s aid programme has grown enormously over the last decade. It is worth remembering that none of the G8 donor countries provides the same level of aid per capita as Ireland. On average they provide 0.21% of their GNP in aid, just over half the level of aid achieved by Ireland. Since the formation of this Government, the aid programme has risen by €387 million, from €158 million in 1997 to €545 million of taxpayers’ money today. In 1997 we spent approximately €39 for every man, woman and child on our development programme. This year we will spend about €136, an increase of almost €100. Everyone will accept that these are significant amounts. Moreover, they are in addition to the personal donations made by many Irish citizens to the developing word.
In addition, we now have a three-year commitment, which stipulates an increase of €60 million this year. To put that figure in context, the Tánaiste received €70 million to deal with the accident and emergency service issue. It will be increased by €65 million in each of the next two years. In fact, over the three years from 2005 to 2007, the Irish taxpayer will pay €1.8 billion in overseas development aid. Hence, this multi-annual commitment provides an excellent opportunity for careful planning and implementation.
I do not say this to detract from the UN target of 0.7% in any way, but to show just how much the Irish people currently give to the developing world. On the issue of the UN target, I am the first to assert that we must meet this target. In my work as a UN special envoy, I promote the UN reform package, part of which is a greater commitment to the development agenda and particularly to the 0.7% target. I wish to reassure the House that this Government is strongly committed to achieving the UN target of 0.7% for expenditure on ODA. We need a sustainable, tenable and deliverable target. We will not be rushed because this is serious business. I refer to the Government’s amendment, which clearly states that it is committed to achieving the UN target of 0.7% and that it will make a decision on the subject in advance of the UN Millennium Summit in September.
Deputies will also be aware that the European Union recently agreed — again as part of my exhortations as UN special envoy — to set a new set of targets regarding ODA. Those member states which have not yet reached a level of 0.51% of GNP on ODA should individually reach that level by 2010. They have also undertaken to achieve the UN target of 0.7% by 2015. Indeed, when that decision was made, Kofi Annan stated that it would put wind into the sails of the proposals in his reform package, particularly in the development area. Other member states which joined after 2002 have lower targets. The EU 15, in other words excluding the ten newer member states, have also committed to a new collective target of 0.56% by 2010. This means that by 2010, the EU as a whole will disburse an additional €20 billion in aid to the poorest countries in the world. That is a major step forward and I am sure it will be welcomed by everyone who is concerned for the developing world. Naturally, Ireland fully subscribes to these new targets agreed by the European Union.
Cash disbursements do not give the whole picture regarding aid as where and how the funding is spent is also important. In this respect, Ireland has an excellent record. Our aid programme has been highly praised for its value and focus on the poorest of the poor. The last peer review of the OECD in 2003 noted that our aid programme distinguishes itself by its sharp focus on poverty reduction and its commitment to partnership principles. The recent report by Action Aid International entitled Real Aid: An Agenda for Making Aid Work, found that Ireland has one of the highest quality overseas aid programmes among western donors. The report distinguished between “real aid”, that is assistance which reaches its target and brings genuine improvements, and “phantom aid”, which ties recipients to purchases from donor countries, or is poorly implemented. We must state with pride that irrespective of what political party was in Government, we have never tied our aid. There should be a greater focus on many of the larger countries in respect of this issue. That report put Ireland at the top of the list, noting that almost 90% of Irish aid is “real aid” which benefits poor people in developing countries and that our aid is totally 100% untied. This means we do not link our aid to the purchase of Irish goods and services, as unfortunately do some other countries. Consequently, goods and services provided represent best value and often help to build up local service providers.
Earlier this month, the G8 called on the OECD to set ambitious and credible targets for the indicators of aid effectiveness agreed in Paris earlier this year. It is particularly important to set targets for untying aid, so that more of it can be spent by and in developing countries, thus multiplying its developmental impact.
Ireland’s aid programme is focused on some of the world’s poorest countries. We are one of only six countries which spends more than 0.15% of GNP on the least developed countries. To cite the recent Action Aid report again, Ireland spends more of its aid, 79%, on low-income countries than any other country, apart from Portugal.
As far as debt is concerned, the provision of aid, though vital, is only one of several dynamics in the relationship between the developed and the developing world. Two other vital factors are debt relief and trade. The recent announcement by the G8 finance ministers that they will finance 100% cancellation of World Bank, African Development Bank and International Monetary Fund debt owed by a group of the world’s poorest countries represents significant progress.
For the first time, the most powerful countries in the world, those that effectively control decision-making at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have accepted that many countries should have their loans with these institutions completely written off. This agreement represents significant progress towards solving the thus far intractable problem of Third World debt. Ireland has argued for many years for such a move. Our official policy on debt which was adopted in 2002 by this Government, called for 100% debt cancellation for all heavily indebted countries. The Government felt then and continues to feel that a country’s requirement to repay debt must not prevent it from maintaining an adequate level of expenditure on services and investments in health, education, agriculture, water supply, sanitation, roads and other infrastructure.
Without adequate resources for these areas, development and poverty reduction are impossible. I am very glad the G8 countries have come to the same conclusion. For Ireland, the success of a debt relief or debt cancellation scheme is principally measured by how much it increases the money available to the beneficiary government for spending on poverty reduction. It seems clear from the conclusions of the G8 Finance Ministers’ meeting that financing of the debt cancellation will be additional to the current resources of the international financial institutions. This means that in overall terms resource flows from international financial institutions to developing countries should be unaffected by debt cancellation and the relief provided should result in additional resources being available for recipient countries.
However, it is also possible that the allocations of funds to the individual beneficiary countries from the international financial institutions will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the debt relief resulting from the cancellation. Perhaps that is the point to which Deputy Higgins refers. Countries may not, therefore, have direct access to additional resources for expenditure as a result of the cancellation. Rather, they will have to compete with other low income countries for access to the benefits of the debt cancellation.
Furthermore, if the cancellation is financed from existing bilateral aid flows, it could well mean that the debt relief is accompanied by an equivalent fall-off in bilateral aid flows. It is vital that this does not happen. It is important that Opposition parties publicly support our stance on this important issue.
The opportunities for the beneficiary countries to achieve the millennium development goals will only be enhanced if, at the same time as their debts are cancelled, the aid they receive, including the funds allocated to them by the lending institutions, are maintained or increased. Ireland and other non-G8 donors will be expected to participate in the financing of the debt cancellation. For Ireland, which is not a lender and has always provided its aid as grants, every euro we put into debt relief should turn into an extra euro for the country receiving the relief.
I hope that in the process of bringing their donor partners on board, the G8 countries will be prepared to show the flexibility around the objectives and principles which govern the implementation of the initiative that will allow us all to finance it with enthusiasm and hope for its success.
Some proposals for debt relief in the past have turned out to be less generous than originally they appeared. I hope this will not be the case with the latest proposals. Developing countries deserve a fair deal on debt. It must be remembered however that debt relief or cancellation, even implemented in the most favourable manner possible, is unlikely on its own to solve the economic problems of poor developing countries. The G8 agreement is historic and represents significant progress but it is only a part of what is required to make real progress in eradicating extreme poverty.
The yearly value of the debts being cancelled will be approximately US$700 million. Even if all this relief turned into new money in developing country budgets, it would still be less than one fiftieth of the increase in annual aid budgets which the World Bank estimates is needed to achieve the internationally agreed millennium development goals. The volume of assistance to poor developing countries needs to be increased significantly. As I have already mentioned, Ireland’s aid budget has grown significantly and will continue to grow.
Trade is a powerful engine for economic growth which can lead to sustainable development and ultimately to poverty reduction. Ireland firmly believes that having a transparent, rules-based global trading system is the best way to help developing countries to integrate into the global trading system. The Government is committed to working towards a successful outcome to the Doha development agenda negotiations and the sixth ministerial conference of the WTO in December 2005.
The most fundamental objective of the WTO Doha development agenda launched in November 2001 is to further the integration of developing countries into the global trading system. However, many developing countries have understandable concerns that a multilateral trading system will have severe negative effects on their economies. The Government believes that the Doha negotiations need to result in real benefits for these countries if their concerns are to be successfully addressed. The Government is working to ensure that the Doha development round will be a genuine development round. Central to our approach and that of our EU partners is a commitment to respond positively to the concerns of developing countries.
As we approach the sixth ministerial conference in Hong Kong next December, we will maintain our commitment to this balance. Preparatory work for the conference is proceeding, notwithstanding the difficulty of some of the problems that need to be resolved. I am confident that the Hong Kong conference will provide the necessary impetus to progress in the final negotiations of the Doha development agenda and that the successful conclusion of the round is now in prospect. Ireland’s priority in these negotiations has been, and will continue to be, that the process of trade liberalisation continues in a fair and balanced way and that the WTO continues to provide a stable and consistent framework for the regulation of world trade.
The Government does not believe that trade liberalisation alone, including agricultural trade liberalisation, is a panacea for development challenges, particularly in the case of least developed countries. The integration of least developed countries into the global economy will require not only trade liberalisation measures, it will require measures to fight HIV-AIDS; build trade capacity; attract foreign direct investment; promote agricultural and rural development; support the role of women in agricultural production; and, crucially, increase investment in new technologies.
The EU has a number of preferential trade relationships with least developed countries. The biggest is the so-called Cotonou Agreement with 77 countries mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, but also the smaller Caribbean and Pacific states. This provides access to EU markets on preferential terms for exports from these countries. The latest phase of the Cotonou Agreement has just been concluded by the EU and the ACP states.
Another important trade link is the 2001 everything but arms initiative which grants least developed countries very wide access to EU markets. The economic partnership agreements, EPAs, which are due to enter into force by 1 January 2008, are an integral element of the Cotonou Agreement. The EPAs are intended first and foremost as instruments for development to foster the smooth and gradual integration of African, Caribbean and Pacific states into the world economy. They combine trade and wider development issues in a unified framework while taking account of the specific economic, social and environmental circumstances of each regional group and its component states. This overall approach is welcomed by Ireland and other member states concerned that development and poverty reduction should be the principal objectives of the EPAs. We are, therefore, clearly not talking in the case of EPAs about conventional trade agreements.
I very much welcome recent statements by the EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, that he intends to strengthen the development focus of EPAs. He has announced his intention to establish, with his fellow Commissioners, including the Commissioner responsible for development, Louis Michel, and in partnership with the ACP countries, a dedicated structure to keep the EPA process under close review. This is important not least because the Commission, as the institution competent for EU trade policy, is the body which negotiates on behalf of member states.
Ireland is actively following developments in the EPA negotiations. As they move into a critical phase, Ireland, in common with other EU member states, will continue to ensure that there is close monitoring and dialogue between the Commission and the Council to ensure that the development focus of EPAs remains to the fore.
This Private Members’ motion raises the very important issue of international trade in arms. I agree with the sentiments expressed and in my amendment to the motion I have proposed only some slight amendments to the original wording. The best and most effective way to control such trade is through international agreements and, therefore, I have added a reference to this effect in the text of the first indent on this issue. I have also replaced the word “restrict” with “control” as the latter is more commonly used and understood internationally in the context of export controls.
My amended wording also deletes the reference to Finland in the second indent, which deals with the proposed arms trade treaty. The treaty was devised and has been promoted by a number of non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International and Oxfam. My understanding is that the Government of Finland, while being very supportive of the treaty, is not the co-ordinator of the campaign for the treaty. The campaign for the treaty has also been supported by other countries. It is for those reasons I believe that rather than singling out a particular country, a more general reference would be appropriate.
On the fundamental issue of the international trade in arms, Ireland recognises the importance of addressing this issue. There are all too many examples of conflicts which are fuelled by proliferation of conventional weapons, especially in developing countries. It has been estimated that approximately 300,000 people are killed each year in violent conflict and war. Global stockpiles of small arms and light weapons amount to an estimated 600 million units. This is especially an issue of concern in Africa where the proliferation of these weapons continues to have a serious negative impact on fragile economies and brings terror, misery and suffering to societies throughout that continent.
The Government supports the principle of having legally binding international agreements on the control of arms exports with as wide a participation as possible. Ireland is committed to working with others to ensure that the international community deals effectively with the illicit trafficking of such weapons. Currently, all exports of arms from EU countries must conform to the EU code of conduct on arms exports which establishes criteria to control such exports. Ireland was actively involved in the establishment of this politically binding code, which was adopted by the EU Feneral Affairs Council in June 1998. The code lists the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to allow an export of military goods, including respect for human rights, the internal situation in the country of final destination and the preservation of regional peace, security and stability. Discussions are ongoing in the EU on the possible reinforcement of the status of the code of conduct.
Over the past two years, Ireland has actively participated in negotiations in the United Nations on an international instrument to regulate the marking and tracing of illicit small arms and light weapons, which I am pleased to note was agreed upon earlier this month in New York. This will assist the international community in its efforts to control such trade in a much more systematic way. A welcome aspect of the international trade treaty proposed by NGOs is that it has the objective of setting out states’ existing international legal obligations in the area of international transfers of arms. Once ratified, the proposed treaty would enable the international community to move forward incrementally, by means of subsequent specific instruments, to strengthen international controls on arms transfers. Ireland has taken an active interest in this initiative. During Ireland’s Presidency of the EU last year, we placed this issue on the agenda of the relevant working group in Brussels.
The Government fully shares the view that climate change is the most serious threat to the global environment and that poor people in poor countries are most vulnerable to its adverse effects. Such people are least able to cope with extreme weather events such as cyclones, hurricanes and droughts which are expected to occur with increased frequency and intensity due to the impact of climate change. The second Kyoto Protocol commitment period negotiations will be very sensitive.
The Government believes that comprehensive dialogue is essential and must involve the United States, the oil producing countries and developing countries that, up to now, have had no obligation to curb emissions. Together with our EU partners at the United Nations framework convention on climate change meeting held in Buenos Aires last December, Ireland pressed hard for the initiation of these negotiations. Parties to the conference agreed to hold a seminar in Bonn, which took place in a very constructive atmosphere. Negotiations on the next phase should ideally conclude by 2008.
The Government believes the targets set should be ambitious and that responsibility for curbing emissions should be fairly shared. We will work to that end in the months to come and at the first meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which is scheduled to take place in Montreal in November 2005. Under the United Nations framework convention on climate change, a special least developed countries fund was established to help those countries plan for and cope with the adverse effects of climate change. Ireland was one of the first to contribute to the LDC fund and I intend making further contributions in this and subsequent years.
Again, I pay tribute to the Green Party for highlighting the issues under discussion tonight. I am disappointed the party could not accept what I believe is a better motion. Ireland has led the way over the years and we should pay tribute to our own Bono and Bob Geldof and to the representatives of our NGOs, who have been slaving away on this issue for many years. I do not think people realise the amount of effort and the level of funding the Government spends on their behalf, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It is important that we air these issues so that people are fully aware that over the next three years, we will spend €1.8 billion of their money on overseas development, especially in Africa.
Mr. Nolan: I join the Minister in commending the Green Party for putting down this motion. I am disappointed that we could not reach consensus and that the House will divide on the motion tomorrow night. All parties in the House have a genuine commitment and concern. It has been a tradition in this country to assist developing countries, especially those in the Third World.
The EU has been able to agree an interim overseas development assistance target as part of the EU contribution. That is to be welcomed, given the challenges faced by the new member states in meeting this target. I was disappointed to note that it will take us a little longer to meet the targets set down by the UN, I still welcome the fact that we have agreed to progress towards that. I hope it will happen sooner rather than later.
There are three aspects to this debate: debt relief, aid and trade. I welcomed the news that the G8 finance ministers have agreed to a 100% debt cancellation of World Bank and African Development Bank debt. This will go some way towards alleviating the problems of developing countries. Nonetheless, we have been very forthcoming in our aid and perhaps it has not been targeted in the right areas in recent years. One area in which we can be pro-active is trade. We must continue that because we in Ireland have seen, as a developing country, that if we use trade and the economy to its full effect, we can be far more helpful to our citizens, to the country and to the planet.
One aspect of all this is local to me, but is topical at the moment and highlights many of the difficulties we will encounter. If the sugar reform package being proposed by the European Commission is accepted in its present form it will not only destroy the sugar industry in Ireland, it will also have a dreadful knock-on effect on some of the APC countries.
Mr. Nolan: We should be mindful of those issues. If we go down this road, I am concerned that we will play into the hands of the sugar barons of Brazil and other parts of South America. The smaller countries will be left exposed.
Mr. O’Connor: I compliment my colleague, Deputy Nolan, on his courtesy and I thank the Minister for his speech. I am always happy to praise his work on this issue. I have a particular interest in this subject and thank the Green Party for tabling the motion. I visited Zambia in 1995 and recently, I had the opportunity to visit Lesotho and South Africa. Several weeks ago, I went to Ethiopia for the elections with Senator Fergal Browne. We were very impressed by what we saw and at the same time we were very troubled by much of what we saw. The election was held on 15 May and I found out today that the results will not be declared until 8 July.
I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity to speak on this motion in the week when the announcement by the G8 states will come to fruition. Bono and Bob Geldof have been referred to and we should praise the work they are doing. My friend and political mentor, Chris Flood, was the Irish envoy to the tsunami disaster and was also the chairman of the Minister’s advisory body. I also mention my colleague, Deputy Conor Lenihan, and commend his work in this area.
The people of Africa are not just looking for a hand out, they want an opportunity to do something positive for themselves. As a nation, it is not too long ago that we had our own experience of famine. In our present prosperity, it is important that it remains in our memory so that we can empathise with the desperate plight in which some of these people find themselves. It is very important to continue at this level to make the case for aid for Africa. Like others of my generation, I brought a penny to school every single day for Africa though I was not sure in those days exactly what I was doing. From my little experience, especially in Ethiopia recently, it seems nothing has really changed. I commend the work of Irish aid organisations which, as I have seen on the ground, do a tremendous job.
Tonight’s motion is timely as many hundreds of thousands will gather in a few days for the Live 8 concerts in London, Edinburgh, Washington, Berlin, Paris and Rome. They will unite in a common cause to demand debt cancellation for the poorest countries and increased aid and trade with the developing world. In short, they will demand action from all governments working together. While the demand coincides with the upcoming G8 summit, the call goes out to all. It is time for countries like Ireland to realise their international obligations and begin to meet them.
We must tackle the endemic poverty, disease, illness and starvation which form the bedrock of lives which are often cut tragically short. Every day which passes sees poverty and disease thrive in many parts of a world in which 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, 28,000 children die from poverty-related causes, 8,000 people die of AIDS and 14,000 women and girls die from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. In 2002, 2 million people died of TB. Among the ways we can help to alleviate poverty and disease is through our commitment to overseas development aid.
When Ireland made the historic commitment to increase aid to UN target levels by 2007, its announcement was justifiably welcomed throughout the world. The sense of disappointment and anger which accompanied the Government’s disgraceful U-turn has been well documented. It was a dark day for the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition and for Ireland as a whole. Recently, the original 15 EU member states agreed to increase aid to 0.51% of GNP by 2010 and to at least 0.7% of GNP by 2015. In fact, four member states have already met the 0.7% target while six others have promised to meet it on a date before 2015.
Where is Ireland’s new commitment to aid? Having abandoned the 2007 deadline, have we also delayed the implementation of the Taoiseach’s solemn promise to the UN by at least eight years? The Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development aid described the EU agreement as historic recently. He went on to say it was positive that the European Union had taken a lead on this important issue which begs the question of whether the Government has a memory problem. Ireland took the lead on the issue in 2000 but without apparent embarrassment we are happy to abandon the role and pass responsibility to the European Union. Even if the Government tries to forget that its actions are unacceptable, the people will not.
If we are serious about our aid commitments, we should be prepared to back them up with legislation. Last December, I outlined when Fine Gael tabled a motion on overseas development aid why an aid target should be set out in legislation to ensure that every future Government would meet its commitments. To set aside a fixed percentage of GNP for a specific purpose is not a new concept. The most recent example is the national pensions reserve fund, under the legislation for which a set amount of 1% of GNP is automatically diverted from the Exchequer annually. The process does not demand annual Dáil approval as the amounts are specified in legislation. Legislation to provide for the allocation of 0.7% of GNP to overseas development aid from the Exchequer each year would copperfasten Ireland’s commitment to meeting its international responsibilities. The legislation should be introduced now as we cannot wait until 2015 to meet the UN aid target.
If we allow aid to increase according to current spending plans, it will be 2028 before Ireland meets the target. In the absence of a concerted effort to meet aid targets, the millennium development goals will not be reached. In his report, In Larger Freedom, the UN Secretary General emphasises our obligation to ensure the millennium development goals are achieved in the context of the deaths every year of 3 million from HIV-AIDS while countless more are lost to disease, poverty and starvation. Mr. Kofi Annan has stated clearly that while the goals can be reached by 2015, it will only happen if all involved accelerate action on aid dramatically. In contrast, Ireland has dramatically decelerated action on aid, which is a cause of great concern.
Debt cancellation is an integral aspect of the relief required by the countries of the developing world. The recent G8 proposal to cancel the debt of 18 states has been welcomed. We should not underestimate the importance of the proposal which writes off $40 billion and saves each country approximately $1.5 billion in annual repayments. We must also, however, reaffirm support for the policy of 100% debt cancellation for heavily indebted poor countries which Ireland proposed some time ago.
Ireland has a role to play in the promotion of good governance and the tackling of corruption in the developing world. Every person who donates money to the developing world from a pocket or pay packet wants to know it does the best possible work for those who need it. We should take every reasonable and possible action in co-operation with developing world governments to ensure the best, most co-ordinated and most effective use of aid is achieved.
Action on an international arms treaty is also vital as many around the world continue to live with the results of the indiscriminate use of landmines. We must ensure through action and co-operation with other countries that arms are traded according to the most stringent rules and regulations which take account of the value of human life. Progress should be made on the drafting of the important arms trade treaty.
Mr. Naughten: I welcome the opportunity to contribute on the Private Members’ motion moved by the Green Party. Tabled in the context of the upcoming meeting of the leaders of the G8 countries in Edinburgh and the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference in December, the motion affords Members the opportunity to re-examine the Government’s policies in the context of the goal of making poverty history. While Fine Gael supports the Green Party Members in principle in bringing forward the motion, as my time is limited I will concentrate on just a few points.
Fine Gael concurs with the policy of 100% debt cancellation for heavily-indebted poor countries. While the write off by G8 countries announced on 10 June for 18 of the poorest states in Africa is a step in the right direction, Fine Gael would like to see the policy broadened to include the 42 most heavily-indebted countries in the world. A write off would provide them with more money in their budgets to achieve the millennium development goals by spending more on the vital services in health, education, agriculture and infrastructure which are crucial to their long-term futures.
If we are serious about making poverty history, we must do more than pay lip service to an ideal. The Government must immediately agree a new target date to achieve 0.7% of GNP on overseas development aid. The Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, informed the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs recently that a timeframe and mechanism to meet the UN target was under ongoing review. It is imperative that the ongoing review reaches a conclusion quickly. I call on the Government to stop procrastinating on the issue and honour its commitment by immediately setting out a realistic timeframe to reach the 0.7% target.
The Green Party motion demands a re-examination of the supports given to producers in the developed world and their effect on producers’ counterparts in less developed regions. I will first consider the effect of subsidies on the developed world using Ireland as an example. Since reform of the Common Agricultural Policy in 1992 and the Agenda 2000 agreement, the emphasis of EU agricultural supports under the CAP has moved away from the traditional market supports to direct payments to farmers. In 2003 direct payments received as a percentage of farm income amounted to 68%. Last year the payments accounted for 74% of aggregate farm income. It is clear that for agriculture to survive such support measures are needed.
We must support our indigenous agricultural industry. The agrifood sector as a whole accounts for 9% of GDP and employment and 8% of exports. More than 112,000 people are employed in primary agriculture and nearly half that number again in the food and drinks industry. Agrifood exports last year were worth €7 billion to the economy, but when taken as a net value based on balance of payments etc., they are worth €11 billion so they are a significant element of our economy.
In many rural areas where farming is on the decline, this decline does not stop at the farm gate. It has a significant domino effect. If we are serious about preserving our rural landscape, we must encourage people to remain on the land and maintain farmers in rural areas. It must be pointed out that as a result of EU payments, Irish farmers are now encouraged to farm in an environmentally sensitive way, which has had a significant impact on the rural landscape.
It is important to point out that for 80% of European farm holdings the amount of direct support farmers receive is less than €5,000 but it is crucial to ensuring that small farmers in rural Ireland can continue to live and work the land.
For those who have not been following the recent reforms, the single farm payment is now completely decoupled from food production. We no longer have a system of agriculture that encourages inefficient farming. The focus is now on quality, efficiency and environmental practices. The revised Common Agricultural Policy which was agreed in 2002 by all member states was to provide funding for agriculture between then and 2013. The budget was to start at 38% of the total EU budget and scale back over the period to 30% by 2013. That deal was signed by each member state and we must abide by it.
Mr. Naughten: ——which currently gain from the high guaranteed prices they receive for the sugar cane they sell into Europe. These countries favour an import system into the EU which ensures predictable and regular import quantities, rather than the race to the bottom in price terms that totally free access would bring.
Mr. Naughten: The reference in the recent EU sugar reform proposals to the design of an assistance package for less developed countries is an acknowledgement of this fact. Trócaire has called for the maintenance of quotas for less developed African countries. It recognises that there must be room for domestic production of sugar in Europe. The change to subsidies can have a direct negative impact on many of these developing countries. We could see the major sugar barons in the likes of Thailand, Brazil and Australia, many of whom reside within the European Union, benefiting from it.
Food security is an important issue. The reason we have subsidies and supports in the European Union is to ensure we have food security for European consumers. A key question is how much we value the need to have a domestic food supply that provides safe, quality food. We must answer that question in regard to the debate on the CAP. Do we want factory farms, hypermarkets and dodgy imports, which is contrary to what we have at present? In those circumstances the countryside would become a desolate place as the agricultural economy is the lifeblood of many towns and villages the length and breadth of Ireland. I commend the amended motion to the House.
Mr. Neville: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important issue. While welcoming the recently announced debt cancellation, we must ensure that as part of the First World we would give leadership on this issue. We have given leadership in the past but, unfortunately, our name has taken a knock in recent times. I ask the Minister to reiterate the objective of reaching 0.7% of GNP in overseas development aid.
A total of 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day. Earlier this year I visited Ghana where I saw people in those circumstances. I met some missionaries there who after 50 years do not understand how these people survive on less than $1 a day. They were wholehearted in their tributes to them for their initiative and survival instinct in such appalling conditions. Statistics show that every day 800 million people go to bed hungry and 28,000 children die from poverty related causes. It is appalling that rich countries do not respond to the needs of the Third World. We must send a clear message that there is a moral obligation not alone in this country but in the developed world in general to ensure that basic human dignity is maintained in the Third World.
It is unacceptable that 14,000 women die each day from causes related to childbirth, 99% of them in the developing world. Some 15 million children around the world have lost one or both parents to AIDS. I visited an AIDS centre when I was in Ghana and saw at first hand the devastation caused by children being orphaned because of AIDS and children who were born with AIDS because one or both of their parents had it. We have a duty to contribute not alone financially but in every way possible towards relieving that situation.
Mr. Crawford: I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this matter. I hope that when the G8 countries meet in Edinburgh they will make a total commitment to the cancellation of debt for heavily indebted poor countries. I welcome the publicity towards this end generated by people like Bob Geldof, but I want no more excuses or half promises from the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, or the Taoiseach.
Ireland has had a proud record through its church workers and individuals down through the centuries. Even at a time when we could not afford it, our people supported those who were worse off and were in desperation.
The name of Ireland has been damaged by the fact that, while the Taoiseach gave a solemn commitment on the world stage to get his man elected, in the end he failed to deliver the 0.7% of GNP he promised to devote to overseas development aid. Six months ago the people showed their total and absolute commitment to the people of south-east Asia when they fundraised and gave personal donations, shaming the Government into committing sizeable sums in aid. The way it was given, one would almost think the Minister was losing out and not the compliant taxpayer. I call on the Taoiseach to reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to the 0.7% target when he attends the forthcoming UN Millennium Summit. When he returns from that summit he must put in place mechanisms to deliver on the commitment within two years.
Mr. Crawford: For a Government that handed back €383 million over a seven-year period from the Department of Agriculture and Food to the Department of Finance, its commitment to farming has fallen far short.
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