Wednesday, 29 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
—That Dáil Éireann, given the meeting of the leaders of the G8 countries being held in Edinburgh, Scotland and given subsequent meetings being held for the UN millennium summit in New York and meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in September 2005 and the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference in December 2005, calls on the Government through its own policies to assist in making poverty history and to this end:
—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.
—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 and 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; that they should achieve the 0.7% target by 2015, and that 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 that 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 welcome the opportunity to contribute to this timely debate. I note the Minister’s lengthy, comprehensive and informative contribution to the House last night in which he addressed the motion and dealt with all of the cross-cutting issues which affect the global poor. I fully recognise the comprehensive nature of the motion tabled by the Green Party dealing as it does with issues of aid, arms, trade and the environment, all topics to be addressed at the G8 summit. However in the time available to me I want to focus on Ireland’s overseas development aid programme in the context of our foreign policy.
Like it or not — this may be uncomfortable for those on the Government side — Ireland’s aid budget is the dominant issue for public discussion and has been for some time since it became clear that the Government had allowed the target date of 2007 to slip. As a former Minister of State with responsibility for this area of policy for five years and as the person who brought the proposal to Cabinet that Ireland should reach the UN target of 0.7% by 2007 and stood with the Taoiseach in New York as he announced it to the international community, I feel a particular responsibility and personal disappointment that, for reasons which have never been properly explained to the House, this policy decision has been reversed. Certainty was removed while our intentions were left open-ended. Worse still, in some quarters there has been a slow unravelling of the principle of reaching the UN target. This doubt will persist among citizens and in the House until a new date is set by the Government.
The policy decision that Ireland should reach the UN target by 2007 was no ordinary policy initiative made on the hoof or spun by way of a press release. There were extensive pre-Cabinet decision negotiations, arguments and preparations over a protracted period. The decision was in accordance with the then programme for Government of the two parties. Moreover and more importantly, it enjoyed the support of all parties in the House, the social partners, the churches, the trade unions and the business community.
Following the Cabinet decision, there was an extensive year long review involving stakeholders, representatives of international organisations, the Secretaries General of three Departments and other eminent persons to put in place a comprehensive blueprint to underpin the expansion of the programme. It was approved by the Cabinet. The issues examined included the geographical spread of the programme, capacity issues, staffing and resource issues, the mix of activities in our programme of renown, a review of our model of aid and a limited range of new policy matters, specifically a focus on HIV and AIDS in Africa.
We decided to deepen our engagement with Africa, increase the capacity of missionaries and NGOs which depend on our resources for their excellent work and carefully expand into other poor African countries on a gradual basis. East Timor was chosen as a new priority country. We also looked at developing a programme in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
This was all laid out in the review of the aid programme mentioned. I say this not to be unhelpful but to make the point to colleagues that those who say the decision was unplanned or, in some way, premature are wide of the mark. All the work was done and the decision was copper-fastened by a Cabinet decision and announced to the international community. It was planned; we took the decision in our senses and meant it at the time.
There is agreement to be found in the motion, as amended, which is to be welcomed. The motion calls on the Government to set a new target date and an important concession has been made in the amended motion. The Government has agreed that a new target will be set before the Taoiseach attends the millennium summit in New York in September. While this is a welcome development, there is a question as to what the timeframe will be.
The abandonment of the target date of 2007 has understandably met with genuine criticism. Whatever appraisal is made of Ireland’s performance in the provision of ODA, it should be fair as the truth is important in these matters. It is fair to say, however, the Government has moved away from meeting the UN target by 2007. That is a fair and true statement but regrettable. However, I will not attempt to justify it, as others have done. I regard it as indefensible as a political decision and the Government has been rightly criticised, including by Members on this side of the House and members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. However, it is also fair to say Ireland’s aid programme has increased by €387 million, from €158 million in 1997 to €545 million today. It is also true that Ireland remains a leader among nations of the world in terms of the size of its per capita contribution to overseas development aid.
Ireland’s aid figures are certainly respectable and above the EU average and greater as a percentage of GNP than those of any of the G8 countries, as the Minister outlined to the House last night. Our focus on the least developed countries is commendable, as is our position on debt cancellation. The fact that all of Ireland’s aid is untied is to our credit. This does not take away, however, from the political reality that a solemn commitment made by Ireland to the international community and the poor of the world has been reneged upon. The Taoiseach has stated we are not alone in this decision. The aid sector is littered with broken promises. Many promises and undertakings have been dishonoured by others. It should be remembered that the UN target was set over 30 years ago and remains unreached by all but six countries. Ireland took the conscious decision to buck that trend as our way of marking the millennium. It was to be a testament to our humanitarian and civilised values as a nation. We cannot now seek cover by hiding with other defaulters.
The sad political reality is that aid budgets in every country are the most vulnerable to attack and plunder to meet competing domestic demands. That is precisely the reason I, when Minister of State, argued for and achieved a multi-annual financial package and an agreed schedule of incremental allocations to bring us to the year 2007, thus liberating the programme from the annual Estimates wrangle, in which the aid budget is pitched against other domestic priorities. Notwithstanding the agreed programme, slippage was allowed to happen and our aid programme is again enmeshed and competing with legitimate domestic funding priorities.
I welcome the fact that guaranteed increases have been agreed for a three period, amounting to a total accumulated budget of €1.8 billion. However, these must be seen as minimum increases and additional funds will have to be allocated if a credible advance towards the UN target is to be achieved by a newly set date.
As I said on a previous occasion in the House, the global poor do not march on parliaments; they are out of sight and out of mind. At times the squalor and hopelessness of their lives render them and their plight forgettable and difficult to consider. Thankfully, a new alliance is growing among our citizens, young and old, based on activism and idealism, as will be evident tomorrow. I welcome this as a solid contribution to Government policy from civil society.
Recently Kofi Annan said in Dublin that coming to the aid of the global poor was not just about charity but about enlightened self-interest. We ignore the global poor at our peril, in a world that is increasingly inter-dependent.
My central point concerns the integrity of solemn commitments. Ireland gave a solemn commitment. We made that promise in our full senses to the international community. Making that commitment meant first winning that argument within Cabinet and this House and with the social partners and the NGOs. That is the central principle that underpins the commitment.
In the debate on this issue Members on all sides of the House must be resolute. We cannot reopen the argument on the principle of solidarity with poor countries and in meeting the commitment to reach the 0.7% target. We cannot begin to unstitch that. It was the right thing to do when the commitment was made and it is the right thing to do now.
I look forward to the announcement shortly by the Government of the new target. It is a critical point on which our partners in Africa, and in particular, our own people will judge our credibility and integrity.
Mr. Carey: I am pleased to speak on this motion. I compliment the members of the Green Party on tabling it. As I said to Deputy Eamon Ryan earlier, it is very much an omnibus motion but it gives us the opportunity to focus on key issues. Like Deputy O’Donnell, I too am a member of the foreign affairs committee and I too was one of those people who agreed, on a cross-party basis, to support our commitment to reach the 0.7% target by 2007. I am disappointed and take no pride in having to stand up here and say we have not achieved it. I am not critical of the Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development, Deputy Connor Lenihan, who is doing a fine job, or of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was a solemn commitment entered into for very good reasons. We should, in so far as we possibly can, honour that commitment at the earliest possible date. I am well aware of what commitments have been entered into at EU level but we can do better than that. I recognise that we are being lectured by the great and the good but we take our responsibilities seriously.
I have been in various locations with Members of this House. I was at the UNCTAD Conference in Sao Paulo — information on which I found among my papers this afternoon — with the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and others around this time last year where the issues of trade and development were addressed. I listened to people like President Museveni of Uganda talk about his vision for Uganda and Africa. I did not agree with everything he said but he set out his stall in a coherent and strong manner.
I have seen the work Development Co-Operation Ireland has done in Uganda, the work done on HIV-AIDS projects, the co-operation among Trinity College, St. James’s Hospital and projects in Kampala and work on the malaria projects. I recognise the success of these projects in reducing child mortality. I saw projects on education, HIV-AIDS and health. I recall it being an emotional occasion when I saw hundreds of children walk down a mountainside in the Tigre area of Ethiopia last September on their way to school to sit, in the case of one school, in a class of 102 students but they would not have been going to school were it not for the support of Irish taxpayers, Development Co-operation Ireland and this Government. The fact that we have been able to contribute towards the training of their teachers and the development of their curriculum has made a great difference in Ethiopia.
During the course of my visit there I met a disparate and disjointed group of opposition politicians who were reluctant to meet us because there were afraid. However, I was pleased to see how well the opposition did in the recent elections in Ethiopia. I am concerned about the fallout, the oppression and the killing that has taken place. I have made the point to the Ethiopian authorities that our support of Ethiopia is not unconditional, but our support involves support for good governance. One point we made clear to President Museveni last year was that we support the emergence of a strong opposition as well as a strong government party there. Developing countries must realise that there is a price to pay for agreeing to be supported by countries like Ireland. They must have a vibrant, critical opposition and a critical media.
I want to slightly shift the focus of the debate. I have a healthy scepticism of promises which cannot be kept. The Taoiseach, in all sincerity, meant to keep that promise on behalf of the Irish people. It is regrettable that circumstances have dictated otherwise. I hope everybody here on an all-party basis, the NGO sector and civil society will be able to encourage the Government to be as courageous as it possibly can in fulfilling its commitment to meet the 0.7% target at the earliest possible date — I mean a good deal earlier than 2015.
I want to focus on the issue of trade. We cannot have aid — we can but it will not work — without trade. I was interested to note that today the Minister of State, Deputy Ahern, in speaking at a function in Farmleigh mentioned that central to Ireland’s approach and that of our EU partners is a commitment to respond positively to the concerns of developing countries. He said this is considered to be an essential part of the Doha development agenda and it is clear that there will be no successful conclusion of the negotiations unless it is shown that developing countries are being treated fairly.
Trade, aid and development is very much a coherent package. Ireland has a good record. It is a pity we are arguing among ourselves about how the implementation of aspects of this policy are to be furthered but I believe this will be resolved and we will be able to return to an agreed agenda on a way forward in supporting Africa, South America, Vietnam, East Timor and many others who have benefited from our support and we have benefited, in turn, from our involvement in communities in those countries.
Mr. Andrews: I have two proposals, the first of which concerns the economic partnership agreements. It has been widely acknowledged that there are serious dangers involved in arriving at these types of agreements. Through the european affairs committee we were about to raise this matter with the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan. He raised it with the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union to his credit. He explained that Members of this House were concerned about the manner in which those trade agreements are being decided. It seems that the European Union is saying that its hands are tied by World Trade Organisation rules and this is the case. The World Trade Organisation requires that free trade agreements must have reciprocity. In other words, these countries must open their markets in the same way as we open our markets, and the Lomé agreements are in breach of the requirement of reciprocity. The waiver that the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are currently enjoying will lapse at the end of 2007. My proposal is simply that the Irish Government should argue that free trade rules that apply to EPAs should be linked to the attainment of certain development indicators, in other words, that the stricter interpretation of reciprocity would not kick in until certain standards in regard to education, health and social welfare are achieved. This would require a change to rules in regard to the WHO or at the very least a ruling on an interpretation of existing rules. That would be a positive measure for the Irish Government to take in the context that everybody shares the same view.
The second proposal arises from a debate on alternative methods of funding the millennium development goals apart from traditional aid. One of the proposals the Minister, Deputy Cowen, rejected recently, and rightly so, was in regard to an air tax because it would distort domestic economies.
It is not my proposal, but the idea I would support is to tax the exports of armaments. One amazing statistic I saw recently was that since the Second World War 2% of wars have taken place in the developed world but 98% of armaments have come from there. That really says it all. Some 20% of armaments are required for the defence of countries. Everything else carries a moral question mark with it and a global tax on armament exports is something the Government should fight for, as an alternative and as an additional form of funding for the millennium development goals.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Kitt): I welcome this debate. I thank the Green Party for allowing us to have the debate. As the House is aware I have been Minister of State with responsibility for ODA twice in my career, in 1993-1994 and in 2002-2004. I am especially pleased to be here in the company of another former Minister of State with responsibility in this area, Deputy O’Donnell and my colleague, the current Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, as well as Deputies in other parties who have played a major role in this area over many years.
I am proud to have played a role in the transformation of a Government programme which is the visible expression of our national solidarity with the poorest people on earth. Our national ODA programme, Development Cooperation Ireland — the name was chosen when I was Minister responsible — has always had a very high reputation for its quality and effectiveness. Development Cooperation Ireland reflects precisely what we are all about, acting in our role as partners to the countries that we are bilaterally involved with, especially in Africa.
The massive increase in the programme’s funding over the years 2000-05 has propelled Ireland into the league of major donors. During my time as the Minister of State responsible, one of my key objectives was to communicate to the public how the Government was transforming the programme, how much money was being spent and what the impact of this money was on our developing country partners. I am convinced that unless we bring the people with us, we will lose the battle. I am also convinced that this debate will help greatly in shaping the Government’s policy. I say that in a generous way to our Opposition colleagues. Ideally, it would be great to have an agreement tonight. I do not believe that is possible, but that is why this debate is so important. It is a pity we do not have more debates of this type.
There has been an intense focus on development aid as an abstract statistical concept. We talk in percentages of gross national income, GNI, and statistical targets. I want the debate to focus more on both the volume of aid and innovations in policy. In 2000 when the Government set a timeframe for reaching the UN target our aid volume was €254 million. In 2005, ODA will reach €545 million. ODA has more than doubled in volume over the past five years.
In 2002, the UN and the World Bank called for a doubling of ODA by all donors to meet the millennium development goals. We have doubled aid in five years. No other donor in the OECD area has increased aid volume at such a rate. The Government will continue to give substantial and sustained increases in ODA in the three years 2005-07. Over this period our aid volume will increase by a further €190 million.
The setting of a timeframe to meet the UN target in 2007 has galvanised the system. In effect, the aid budget is now ringfenced and is guaranteed substantial annual increases in volume. I acknowledge the role my colleague, Deputy O’Donnell, played in that initiative. That ODA enjoys a protected status in the budget reflects the Government’s commitment to meeting the UN target. The Government has indicated it will set a new timeframe for meeting the UN target. This will ensure that aid volume will continue to increase in the coming years in a steady and sustained way until the target is met.
There are unique elements to our national aid programme which underpin its effectiveness. For a start we do not tie aid. Even donors that are often quoted to us as models still tie significant portions of their aid programmes. I have seen that in many countries I have visited, especially in Africa, over the years. Our aid is concentrated in the poorest countries. We have had a disciplined and focused approach to ODA. Our programmes are mostly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, and in regions of dire humanitarian emergency. We do not have a sprawling and unfocused programme where ODA is spread thinly among many recipients.
Our aid programme is enormously innovative in terms of its policy and its delivery. When I was Minister of State in 2002-04, the OECD conducted a peer review of our programme. The conclusion was that we had one of the most innovative and effective programmes of any donor. The OECD sees us as an international leader in promoting new approaches and in delivering effective aid. As we increase ODA up to the UN target, I want this debate to focus more and more on the content of the programme and on its effectiveness. The massive increase in aid volume allows Ireland to stake out an international leading role in new and exciting areas of development.
I will mention three that I strongly supported as the responsible Minister of State. It is not fully appreciated in this House that Ireland is one of the leading international donors in the area of HIV/AIDS. Our aid programme recognised the potential scale and impact of the AIDS epidemic well before many other donors. Ireland was one of the first donors to have a strong and coherent strategic approach to fighting the disease. In particular, it strongly supported research into an AIDS vaccine, one of the most innovative and exciting scientific research projects in the world today.
We need to bring our national expertise in information and communications technology to bear on our aid programme. The ICT industry has a strong record of developing new approaches to dealing with problems. As our national aid programme expands, I would like to see it develop a strong partnership with the ICT sector.
Ireland’s ODA programme is now focusing more and more on the role of trade of the private sector in promoting the economic growth that is essential for long-term development. I established the Private Sector Forum, a vehicle for encouraging dialogue between Development Cooperation Ireland and the Irish private sector. I would like to see Irish expertise in food technology, in pharmaceuticals, in construction and other key areas of the economy brought into a partnership with our aid programme.
Development Cooperation Ireland, in partnership with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has also done a great deal of work in the area of trade and development. As one of the most globalised economies in the world, as an EU member state that strongly supports the CAP, and as a country deeply engaged in fighting poverty in sub Saharan Africa, Ireland is uniquely placed to talk about issues of trade, agriculture and development.
I have been involved in trade and development issues for many years. I participated in the talks at WTO level at Seattle, Doha and Cancun and worked closely with my other ministerial colleagues. The debate about the CAP and Africa has been too simplistic. For a start, all of the countries we work with in Africa are net food importers. Under the EU’s Everything But Arms Agreement, they already have guaranteed access, duty and quota free, for their exports to the EU market. The real issue for them is not the CAP. It is how to build up their domestic productive capacity to avail of the new market opportunities on the EU market. So many times I have witnessed this as I have travelled abroad in Africa and other places. In Sierra Leone fishermen who were trying to sell their products abroad, did not have the capacity and could not deal with all the regulations. It is so frustrating to see so many fine agricultural producers, as in Zambia and Malawi, for instance, who did not have the capacity to deal with all the bureaucracy and sell and market their products. There is so much work we can do in those areas and working closely with trade policies at EU level with agricultural Ministers, we can get into those areas in a more profound way. Any rational analysis will show that the total liberalisation of the world agricultural market will not benefit the poor of Africa. It will benefit Brazil, Australia and the US where economies of scale mean that food can be produced at costs far lower than in the EU or Africa.
To listen to some Deputies one would think the Government had sat on its hands for the past five years. I want the figure of €545 million in ODA to be at the forefront of this debate. I want the figure of €1.8 billion in ODA over the next three years to be foremost in the public mind. These are ODA levels that were unimaginable just a few years ago. They are figures of which we should be proud. They have allowed us to create one of the most progressive and dynamic aid programmes in the world.
The real debate we should have is on how to ensure that as the programme increases towards €l billion, we will use it effectively to fight poverty. I am convinced we will make progress on this issue as we approach the millennium summit in the UN in September. This debate needs to look at new ways of delivering aid, new partnerships between the aid programme and dynamic parts of the private sector and new approaches to fighting disease.
Mr. M. Higgins: I am pleased to be able to speak on this very fine motion proposed by the Green Party, an Comhaontas Glas. It is much more than an omnibus motion. It is a linked motion with an integrated approach and one I fully support.
On behalf of the Labour Party, we are not suggesting the Government has sat on its hands. We are suggesting that the Government has broken its promise given before the United Nations and with appalling consequences. This debate is not an occasion for self-congratulation but one of deep shame. I appreciate the presence in the House of two previous Ministers of State with responsibility for development co-operation, Deputies O’Donnell and Kitt, for whom I have the greatest respect. The current Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, also honours us with his presence.
The context in which discussion of the motion takes place is that of the world millennium development goals, eight targets adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000. The goals can be summarised as follows: the reduction by half of those living in poverty and hunger by 2015; the achievement of universal primary education; the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005 and at all levels by 2015; the reduction of child mortality among under fives by two thirds; the reduction of the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters; the halting of the spread of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, measles and malaria; the ending of environmental degradation and the achievement of a sustainable environment, a most welcome feature of this motion; and the creation of a fair global partnership for development. The final millennium goal is seldom discussed by the media simply because it imposes obligations on the richest countries and those who possess great power in the area of trade.
En passant, I will make a few points on the contributions I have heard this evening. Anybody who suggests the economic partnership agreements, EPAs, as negotiated, are fair or rules based must not have read the text. I appreciate Deputy Andrews’s interest in EPAs, which are much worse than the World Trade Organisation. For example, they re-introduce the Singapore issues, which were dropped between Doha and the resumption of the talks next December. Put simply, they are unequal bullying arrangements applied to African countries by Europe.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, a person to whom many speakers justifiably referred, has summarised the impact of the eight millennium goals were they to be achieved between 2005 and 2015. I will speak as plainly as I can on this issue. If the goals were achieved, 500 million people would be lifted out of extreme poverty, 300 million people would no longer suffer from hunger, 350 million fewer people would lack access to clean water, 650 million people would have greater access to sanitation, 30 million children who would otherwise have died would be alive and the lives of 2 million women who would have died in childbirth would be saved.
The achievement of the millennium development goals constitutes the greatest moral challenge of our time. Politically, it offers the best possible basis for a secure and responsible world. Socially and culturally, it vindicates the right of different societies to exist and flourish, tell their own stories, access their own memory and imagine their own future. Economically, it makes possible the emergence of new and exciting models of connection between the economy, society and culture. Ecologically, the achievement of the goals in the context of sustainable development would constitute a contribution to the planet as a whole that would stand as a contrast to the desolation visited on our common inheritance by irresponsible despoliation and abuse of resources in what is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the developed world.
The achievement of the millennium goals will require a new partnership between the developed and developing world. It has implications for trade, aid, debt relief, reform of the international financial institutions and politics at every level.
En passant, I will put another question to the Minister of State du jour, Deputy Conor Lenihan, and his predecessor, Deputy Kitt. If they want reform of the international financial institutions, will they agree that officials from Development Co-operation Ireland will be nominated to serve in the advisory section of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank alongside officials from the Central Bank and Department of Finance? It would be interesting to have a straight answer to this straight question. Equally, if we were ever serious about achieving the target of allocating 0.7% of GDP to development co-operation, why was the Cassidy report on manpower requirements of DCI not implemented?
Before I deal with the sanctimonious notion that it may not have been possible to spend all the money envisaged under the 0.7% commitment, was it ever intended to spend it? Are staff changes and recruitment indicative of any serious intent?
I am glad reference was made to militarisation. In 2004, the United States budget for military expenditure was $450 billion dollars, while its expenditure on the tied aid it provides, which amounts to 0.15% of GDP, was $15 billion. The cost to date of the Iraq war is more than $180 billion.
To return to Professor Sachs report, he states that “the increased development assistance for the Goals will only amount to one half of one per cent of rich countries’ combined income.” We should recall that those affected have been made many promises previously, including the new international economic order of the late 1970s which, I recall clearly, made an appeal to self-interest but was quickly cast aside as a single hegemonic neo-liberal model, established itself in the developed world and became an imposed instrument by the international financial institutions on the developing world.
Previous speakers referred to trust. It is important we do not break our word again. We gave a commitment to a world in which 2 billion people live in poverty, 30,000 children die every day, 500,000 mothers died last year during pregnancy, 3 million children died from AIDS last year, 120 million children have no access to primary education and 1 billion people have no access to sanitation, with all the medical consequences of this.
We do not need to be reminded of these terrible and entirely avoidable statistics, or perhaps we do at a time when our Government is breaking its promise to the poorest of the poor. A UNICEF report in 1989 calculated that the additional financial resources required to meet the most essential of human needs by the year 2000 would be between $30 billion and $50 billion dollars per annum, approximately one twentieth of military expenditure in that year.
We were here before — in 1989 — when we looked forward to 2000. In that year, primary health care could have been made available at a cost of around $5 per person, primary education or adult literacy could have been provided at a cost of $25 per person and basic sanitation of piped water would have cost $6 per person per annum. The opportunity of responding at the end of the 1980s, like the opportunity of creating a new economic order at the end of the 1970s, was lost. Trust is, therefore, crucial as we face into the challenge we have accepted of achieving the world millennium development goals by 2015.
The worst aspects of the Government’s failure thus far to meet the commitments solemnly given to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2000 is the betrayal of trust involved and the bad example it gives not only to fellow members of the European Union but to the entire international community. We no longer compare ourselves to countries such as Norway which has raised its commitment to 1% of GDP. Instead, the Taoiseach this morning compared himself to President Bush. There is a moral message in this development.
Ireland was held up as an example to others when the Taoiseach stated unequivocally that we would reach the UN target of 0.7% in 2007. Our commitment was particularly appreciated in continents such as Africa, which so desperately need untied aid and genuine assistance with their task of development, and the votes of African countries followed. Now, Ireland will be remembered as the country that became too rich to keep its promise to the poorest of the world. No other logical construction can be put on the Taoiseach’s comments today other than that if Ireland had entered a recession, he would have been able to keep his promise. Unfortunately, however, as a result of Ireland becoming rich, he cannot keep it.
The world we have made, and that we are now in the process of remaking, is increasing its military expenditure and reducing its expenditure on aid. In 1995, global military expenditure was $864 billion while the estimated global expenditure on the treatment of AIDS, TB and malaria was $15 billion. Between 1945 and 1995, 23 million people, military and civilian, died due to war. In the same period, 150 million died due to AIDS, TB and malaria. These matters can be addressed now.
Today and every day, 3,000 people die from malaria, three out of four of them children. Every year 1.5 million die from TB and 8 million are infected. Those are just some of the features our commitment was to address when it was given in September 2000. They have not changed. We have changed in our commitment. The world to which our commitment was addressed has got worse.
Next year there will be a review of where all countries stand in the achievement of these goals. The special representative appointed by Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, to canvass for achievement of these goals is a former Development Minister, Eveline Herfkens. She has expressed her grave disappointment at Ireland’s announcement that it will not meet its commitment. Those who had welcomed Ireland’s commitment will see the breach of trust and the bad example it gives as little more than a betrayal.
Already there is a shortfall on the commitments made towards fulfilling the millennium development goals. The AIDS-HIV action programme has a shortfall of more than 50%. As the directors of a number of non-governmental organisations have pointed out, more than 8,000 people die from AIDS every day and, in that context, our Government’s decision is “a shameful breach of faith with the world’s poorest people”, as Mr. Hans Zomer of Dóchas said when speaking for a group that represents 34 development organisations.
The Government announced its commitment in September 2000. It was a commitment that it repeated as late as the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations in 2003. It included the commitment in its Government programme. It negotiated with the trade union movement on the basis of the commitment with the assumption that the mid-term point would be 0.45%. The Government never reached that, and now its achievement in 2005 is at most 0.41%, including the additional €10 million being spent on tsunami relief. At the present rate it would not reach its 0.7% commitment until 2028.
I wonder if the Government realises the support here for honouring our commitments on aid, for being a leader in the case for fair trade, implementing a meaningful cancellation of debt and being courageous in supporting such initiatives as the Tobin tax. There is every evidence that the public have a morally more advanced position than the Government on each of these.
Tonight we are not just discussing aid, but an integrated approach in a comprehensive motion that includes debt, trade, reform of the international financial institutions and ecological responsibility. We should remember that in some of the poorest countries, debt service exceeds the combined health and education budget with consequent loss of life for, among others, children. If developing countries increased their share of world exports at 1999 prices by 5% it would be worth $350 billion, seven times total aid. A 1% export increase would reduce world poverty by 12%. What we do in aid, even if it is untied, and I acknowledge that, is but a portion of what an unequal world of trade and a pernicious world of debt is robbing from the developing world.
The present round of debt cancellation is an extremely welcome first step to lighten the burden on many African countries. We must ensure that issues of debt, trade and aid are taken together when considering strategies for the development of the world’s poorest countries. Beyond these basic steps there are other crucial development issues.
So far the G8 and its major contributors have been silent on reform of the international financial institutions, as have we. The conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank can impede the benefits of debt relief and increased aid. Zambia is a good example — the price of debt relief there under the limited heavily indebted poor countries debt initiatives was the privatisation of the Zambian National Commercial Bank in which many small people have deposits. Under public pressure the Zambian Government withdrew from its proposal. The cost was $1 billion in debt write-offs and the Government has had to reintroduce the proposal and there will be a bid for the bank from a consortium located in South Africa.
The development debate is now very much narrower than it was when I first began speaking about it in these Houses in the 1970s. An example is the failure in recent times to address the issue of appropriate technology transfer. If models based on indigenous or appropriate technology that were labour intensive had been chosen — and many of the countries towards which these were addressed by way of assistance were 70% rural in nature — they would have had a better effect in encouraging participation and would have been preferable to forms of technology transfer at the top end which suited multinationals, donor governments and receiving elites who did not use them for the benefit of the countries involved.
Such models have been rejected at times in favour of models of capital intensive technology. If a different model of technology of transfer had been used, countries would be further along in developing food security, getting clean water and sanitation and the basic infrastructure needed for agricultural production and innovation in the production of such products as might in time make it to the export market.
The opportunity must be taken to massively increase the expenditure on education and health and use the relief of debt cancellation for such purposes. More importantly still, it must include participation, advocacy and empowerment measures. The nonsense must stop of thinking that they are not part of the development agenda, we must end this sneering undercurrent that advocacy is somehow less than other direct food relief.
While the elimination of corruption is important and the reform of governance necessary, it is surely more positive to concentrate on strategies and opportunities for the development of civil society that will come from the social expenditure made possible by debt cancellation. The Labour Party’s decision to lodge the commitment on overseas development aid in legislation is but a first step in an integrated approach such as that outlined in the motion towards tackling the issue.
I would like to dispose of the suggestion that we would not be able to spend this additional aid effectively. When Trócaire made its submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs in November 2004, it said:
Another myth is that debt relief or increased aid has not been used well. In Benin, 43% of HIPC debt relief, achieved with severe conditions, went to education in 2002, allowing the recruitment of teachers for empty posts in rural areas. A total of 54% went to health, of which a fifth was used to recruit health staff for rural clinics, and the remainder was allocated to implementing HIV-AIDS and anti-malarial programmes. In Mali a monthly stipend is provided to more than 5,000 community teachers using HIPC relief. In Niger a special programme that focuses on rural education, health, food security and water systems has been fully financed through HIPC. In Malawi, HIPC resources have been used to train 3,600 new teachers a year. In Burkina Faso, 39% of HIPC relief has been spent on education, 33% on health and 28% on rural roads.
The poorest of the world need an integrated, sustained commitment across all of the issues of debt, trade and aid. We could have spent the money; they needed it. The Government’s White Paper, which is being travelled around the country, must deal with all of these issues across the relevant Departments such as Foreign Affairs, Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment. A White Paper that descends to being an internal document in Foreign Affairs would be of limited value.
The people of Ireland, and those who support this motion, do not want to be remembered as the country that became too rich to meet its solemn commitment to the poorest of the poor in the world at the time of greatest need, when good example and leadership required that we do otherwise. We want something other than that. It is important, even now, to call on the Government to announce, as soon as possible, its commitment not just to the 0.7% target but to the changes required across the relevant Departments and international financial institutions that will give us the integrated reform the motion proposes.
Mr. Gregory: Tugaim tacaíocht iomlán do gach uile chuid den tairiscint seo de chuid Pháirtí an Chomhaontais Ghlais. I support the Green Party’s motion in its entirety as I regard it as presented in measured and reasonable terms. I find it interesting to note the Fine Gael Party, like the Government is not prepared to accept it in all its provisions. It is essential at this stage, following the G8 proposal to restrict debt cancellation to 18 countries, that the Government should openly reaffirm Ireland’s policy of 100% debt cancellation for all heavily-indebted poorer countries.
Mr. Gregory: Equally, the reneging of the solemn promise given by the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, at the UN to meet the 0.7% GNP target, sullied the good name of Ireland in a most unnecessary and reprehensible way. If for no other reason than to restore Ireland’s honourable good name, the Government must reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to this target at the forthcoming UN millennium summit. I accept that the overseas development aid contribution of €1.8 billion between 2005 and 2007 will mark a significant increase in Ireland’s aid programme. We could indeed be proud of it, if it were not for the commitment given, which now appears to be an act of hypocrisy and opportunism at a time when a seat on the security council was the motivating factor and not justice for the world’s poorest countries.
I am not interested in the posing of mega-rich rock stars telling us what we must do with the tax we pay, when they themselves do not pay their own fair share of tax for anything, whether for our hospitals or aid to Africa.
Mr. Gregory: Ireland must honour the commitment of the 0.7% target sooner than 2015, the date given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, this morning. International social justice is to a significant degree dependent on fair trade. A real test to our commitment to achieving justice for the less developed countries is to review, a reasonable term, all subsidies given to producers in the developed affluent world. We must re-examine the effect of those subsidies on the less developed world.
Ms Harkin: In 2000 the Millennium Declaration adopted by world leaders represented a declaration of solidarity with all those in the Third World. The overall goal was to lift 300 million people out of extreme poverty and to save 30 million children who would otherwise die before their fifth birthday. To achieve these goals, Ireland made a commitment of devoting 0.7% of GNP to overseas development aid by 2007.
In 2003, we reached 0.41% which put us ahead of Australia at 0.25%, Greece at 0.21%, Italy at 0.26% and the US at 0.14%. However, we were still behind other countries like Belgium at
0.61%, Luxemburg at 0.8%, the Netherlands at 0.81% and Norway at 0.92%. These statistics disprove the Taoiseach’s claim that Ireland is up there with the best in Europe. While we are not at the bottom, we are certainly not near the top. Our levels are less than half of the highest in Europe.
We need to live up to our commitments to those who depend on us for their very survival. We have reneged on our promises. As a nation we cannot hold our heads up and do this. As the second richest country in Europe, we should be leading the way along with Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. Instead, we are defaulting on our commitments. For a nation that has a proud history of sending missionaries and aid workers to Third World countries, in poor and hard times, we now have a binding obligation to keep our promises in good times. The Minister of State at the Department of Taoiseach, Deputy Kitt, said there was an impression we are not doing anything. We are, but it is not enough. Just two years ago the Taoiseach told the World Bank that the need for increased overseas development aid was more evident than ever and that Ireland would reach out to those less fortunate than ourselves. That time has now come.
We need to revisit the proposals from the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development on the new sugar regime. While we know the effects of these proposals on Ireland, they can be offset by compensation payments. However, for countries like Ghana these proposals are a disaster. It already has a preferential trade agreement on sugar with the EU. However, the new proposals will cut 60% in prices and devastate Ghana’s sugar industry. Last week I listened to the President of Ghana say that while the recently announced debt relief was welcomed, the proposed sugar regime would instantly wipe out the benefit of the cancellation three times over.
Dr. Cowley: I congratulate the Green Party for putting forward this composite motion, spelling out clearly the deficiencies in what we are doing for our poorer brethren of the world. We must have a conscience about this matter because Ireland was a country where entire families were wiped out by TB and it was ravaged by famine and emigration through which so much of our population was decimated. These days, few people die of TB and malaria in the developed world. However, for the developing countries this is a different story where they are the largest killers. These are conditions about which something can be done.
In the past in Ireland, TB was related to poor living conditions, basic sanitation and housing. This is the prevalent situation in the Third World. Knowing about it gives us a responsibility to tackle the issue. While some efforts are made, much more could be done. Targets have been set and every speaker has outlined the need to reach the 0.7% of GNP target to be devoted to overseas development aid by 2007. However, this commitment was broken. It is an indictment of where we stand as a country and a society. It behoves us to get on the right track with our responsibility to developing countries.
AIDS is not just a health problem but a massive threat to the entire global community. Some 7,000 people die of AIDS and over 40,000 are being infected with HIV every day. These are major figures and 95% of these people are from developing countries. This tells the entire story. There are entire communities of AIDS orphans. These situations arise because their parents infected with HIV have not had the basic drugs to ensure a longer life. Speaking of longer life, an examination of the life expectancies in developing countries is telling. If we had the life expectancies of these countries, very few, if any Members would be here. For instance, life expectancy at birth in Mozambique is 41 compared with 77 in Ireland. Infant mortality at birth in Mozambique is 137 per 1,000. One can go through a list of other countries such as Lesotho where life expectancy is 35 and Zambia, where it is 32. These figures tell their own story. I wonder what we can do about them.
Mr. J. Higgins: The Government amendment to the Green Party motion is replete with hypocrisy. It acknowledges the need for international agreements to control the international trade in arms, to assist conflict resolution and to prevent the terrible cost to human lives and economically. The same Government has allowed our island to be a military aircraft carrier for the biggest imperialist superpower and arms merchant in the world to launch a murderous invasion of Iraq in support of a transparent lie that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocent people. It supports logistically the ongoing occupation of Iraq by this imperialist superpower. We cannot take this Government seriously in its commitment to the poor of the world after that.
The billions of humanity and the hundreds of millions of children who live in poverty, have no clean water and suffer disease and homelessness want to see poverty made history. However, that will not be achieved by well-meaning millionaire rock stars and artists cooing to the alleged gentler side of international establishment politicians who are the main spear carriers for the major multinational corporations which rob those poor countries with trade agreements and by other means, just as brutally as their forebears did with cannonballs and sailing ships in a past era.
These are the same multinational corporations such as Shell which sent five decent Mayo residents to jail today. The courts have turned logic on its head to facilitate Shell, sending residents to jail to stop them from opposing works for which no consent has been given by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and with no qualified risk assessment yet put into the public domain.
Mr. J. Higgins: International capitalism is at the root of world poverty. Exploitation and poverty are inevitable tools of international capitalism and if that system is not changed, we will be here in 20 years’ time with the same poverty and the same horror.
Mr. J. Higgins: I will be in Edinburgh to protest the policies of the G8, but unless we sweep away this rotten system where investment and production are simply to satisfy the greed of a tiny but wealthy and powerful corporate minority and replace it with a system where production investment is for the good of humanity, poverty will always be there.
Mr. Connolly: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion and I compliment the Green Party on tabling it. We live in an age of unprecedented wealth and prosperity and yet inhumane things happen. We are in a position whereby 30,000 children die every day and 800 million go to bed hungry. These statistics are not satisfactory and aid has a critical role to play in achieving goals. However, it is not a magic bullet or a cure-all for all ills. Experience has shown that where aid is deployed efficiently as part of a wider development strategy, it makes a lasting difference in helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.
However, approximately two thirds of the money currently spent on aid could be described as phantom aid in that it is not available for poverty reduction in developing countries. I am concerned about recent examples of this phenomenon. The value of such aid is deflated by excessive administrative costs, extravagant spending on overpriced technical assistance from consultants, double accounting of debt relief and tying aid to trade from donors’ own firms. I am concerned about such practices.
How much of Ireland’s contribution could be classified as phantom aid which has been devalued by an administrative bureaucracy and other costs, such as monthly salaries of $6,000 and $7,000 and upwards? I have seen situations where administrators on such salaries have operated amidst rank poverty. It is gross and some form of example should be set. The World Health Organisation has people on such salaries in developing countries and it is immoral.
I would like to see developed countries sponsoring, if one can use that term, individual countries. For example, Ireland could be the lead country in Ghana in terms of the aid sent there rather than giving small amounts of aid to every African country in the hope that the problem goes away. If each developed country were to adopt an under-developed country and provide the core people there, one would not have the same cost in administrators in X number of countries throughout Africa. This concept should be tackled and examined — efforts could be made to develop it as the G8 summit meets — because considerable sums of money are eaten up by administrators and it is not sensible to have such duplication of effort. One would be in a better situation to judge whether one was receiving value for money and one could report back on progress to one’s own people.
Currently, the main argument is whether we are giving 0.7% of gross national product in aid. I am unsure as to whether it should be the biggest issue. We should consider how the money is spent and if there is a point to what we give. Is it hitting the target and getting results?
Mr. Morgan: The debt burden on developing countries is a symptom of the disease at the core of the international financial institutions, namely the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The role of these two anti-democratic bodies in world politics must be challenged. My party demands the overhaul, reform and democratisation of the IMF and the World Bank. These institutions and the interests they represent are responsible for the debt crisis. Every action they take is designed to benefit developed states at the expense of developing states. They were designed for this purpose and they are structured in a way which subjugates the interests of the developing countries to that of the powerfully developed states, in particular, the USA.
These institutions have played a major role in the growth of inequality in the world. The voting rights within both these bodies are stacked in favour of developed states and completely against developing countries. The selection procedure for the IMF and World Bank leaders are totally undemocratic as the presidency of the World Bank is always reserved for a North American. Voting rights within the IMF are based on the entry fee or share bought by a country when it joins. This share is calculated according to its economic and geopolitical importance. The number of voting rights to which each country is entitled is based on its share value. It is unacceptable that the USA has a blocking minority vote.
Many developing states burdened by debt are within their rights under international law to refuse to pay these debts on the basis that the debt is odious, that is, where a despotic power contracts a debt not according to the needs and interests of the state. The notion of odious debt was invoked in Cuba in 1898, Costa Rica in 1922, Namibia in 1995 and Mozambique in 1999. When the notion is successfully invoked, the state debt becomes the personal debt of those responsible during the dictatorship and cannot engage the financial resources of the state. The fact that it is open to developing countries to pursue such a course must be highlighted and promoted by Governments concerned with the issue of debt burden on developing countries. This State should actively encourage such states to invoke the notion of odious debt where possible. People must understand the reason certain states will be opposed to the abolition of world debt. It is because to them, it would amount to giving up a tool of control and subjugation, giving up the method by which they carry out the economic colonisation of developing states. It is the method by which they force their liberal economic agenda on a large part of the world with disastrous consequences in terms of poverty, hunger and disease.
Citizens of developing countries are disempowered as economic policy is decided by the IMF and the World Bank. This is done by way of the structural adjustment programmes which are imposed on indebted countries and which have dramatically aggravated the problems facing those states. Their central aim is to impose economic policies approved by Washington upon developing countries. Unfortunately, as is usual, we do not have enough time for this important debate. Debt cancellation must be accompanied by the ending of structural adjustment programmes and the thorough reform of the international financial systems as nothing less will end this scourge which plagues so many people in so many states around the globe at this time.
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. C. Lenihan): I thank all the Deputies who contributed tonight and last night. I read the transcripts of last night’s debate. Unfortunately, I could not be here as I was attending a conference in New York. I came back this morning to be present at this debate.
Mr. C. Lenihan: I made no promises. I was very happy with the contributions and was particularly struck by Deputy Andrews’s suggestion on the arms trade. Deputy Michael D. Higgins spoke about the shameful situation in that we live in a world where the arms trade garners and takes up so much human resources in terms of money spent while so little is spent on development aid generally throughout the world. Both Deputies expressed very fine sentiments in the debate.
Deputy Gregory was right and I take the opportunity to reaffirm Ireland’s official position that we are happy with the G8 decision but that we are in favour of 100% debt cancellation for all heavily indebted nations. Only 18 nations will benefit from the G8 summit decision and we would like the other 20 nations to benefit as well. We would like to see debt write-off for all countries in similarly distressed situations.
Deputy Connolly made a very interesting point about aid effectiveness. As we increase the volume of overseas development aid, or official development assistance to the developing world, we must guarantee our aid is given in an efficient and timely fashion. Last March, as Minister of State representing Ireland, I was proud to promote this agenda strongly at the OECD in Paris. We are now laying down timeframes on aid effectiveness. I was one of the first in Europe to call for this particular measure and I am glad the OECD has adopted it. It has adopted a series of indicators and it will adopt more by September in a bid to be present, so to speak, at the millennium summit in New York in September. We must have a timetable for action on aid effectiveness as well because it is not only about increasing volume amounts.
I am glad to say that while in New York in the past day or two, I met Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the UNDP and chief of staff for Kofi Annan. He again paid generous tribute to the Irish aid programme for its effectiveness and what we contributed and continue to contribute on an ongoing basis. It is another signal that we are doing something right on this issue. He also made the point, which I have made in this House previously, that my senior Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, would not have been appointed as an envoy under the UN system to look at the reforms needed in September had we not been playing our part very generously in respect of overseas aid.
I point Deputies to the fact the Action Aid survey recently rated the Irish aid programme the best in the world in terms of the quality of the programme and the way it delivers. That reaffirms an earlier assessment by the OECD. We played a strong part in the recent European commitment to bring an extra €20 billion into play in terms of development and setting an interim target of 2010 and a final target of 2015 for the European countries. The development ministers made that absolute commitment and it was followed up at the Council of EU leaders which the Taoiseach attended. That absolute commitment was made by all 15 of the original member states.
The G8 package is welcome but I point out that we need to see the details of it. Far too often in the past what seemed to be very generous G8-style debt relief measures by the Bretton Woods institutions turned out to be far from generous when the details were considered. I urge people to be somewhat cautious about this particular announcement. We must see the details which, as far as Irish official policy is concerned, must include additionality for the countries involved. There must not be debt relief, which is given with the one hand, but with less amounts in terms of volume aid flowing from those institutions, whether IDA or otherwise.
Mr. C. Lenihan: My senior Minister made it quite clear last night, as I will do again, that the Government is placing this matter under active consideration. There have been substantial discussions at Cabinet level on this matter and between myself, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and my senior Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern. As the Taoiseach indicated this morning on radio and as my senior Minister did last night, we will be in a position to put a timeframe in place ahead of the millennium summit in September. That is an absolute commitment by this Government.
Mr. C. Lenihan: We share many of the sentiments. Two Deputies made very disparaging comments about Bono and Bob Geldof during the debate this evening. I do not share those sentiments. Notwithstanding their obvious celebrity, they are doing an idealistic job and are acting from motives of idealism and I reject the criticism of them.
Mr. Cuffe: I wish to talk about solemn commitments, climate change and fairness. Since the foundation of this State, Ireland has had an excellent reputation in assisting developing regions of the world. In the fields of education and health care, the Irish, initially through the religious orders and in more recent times through the aid agencies, have earned an enviable reputation in assisting the less well-off of the world. That reputation is in danger of being squandered. In a time of unprecedented economic prosperity, it is shameful that reputation is being tarnished.
It was tarnished by our Taoiseach reneging on the solemn commitment he made on 3 September 2002 when he stated that the decline in overseas development aid in the 1990s was shameful, indefensible and inconsistent with the commitments given at Rio. The Taoiseach reiterated Ireland’s absolute commitment to achieving by 2007 the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on overseas development assistance. That is what the Taoiseach said but it will not be delivered. That has damaged Ireland’s reputation in the United Nations, with developing countries and in the international diplomatic sphere. It is not good enough to renege on that commitment.
In terms of climate change, Ireland did well under Kyoto and was given very generous allowances. However, it will still be an uphill struggle to achieve them. We were allowed a 13% increase from 1990 until the 2008 to 2012 period. We are already double the increase we were given and it will be very difficult to achieve the original target within the period. We are close to the bottom of the league in terms of distance from targets.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, must switch tack but that is a good news story because it will mean improvements in the quality of life, better bus services, towns and cities designed around people rather than cars, rural bus services, better long distance rail services, a shift in energy policy to wind turbines, tidal turbines, biomass and away from sugar into ethanol. I am not convinced the Government is making that switch and that its heart is in it. There must be a significant change in that regard.
It will be difficult and expensive to buy our way out of climate change but it will not be a matter of life and death. For people in developing countries, climate change is already a matter of life and death. In those countries, famine, disease and poverty, in many instances caused by climate change, are already killing people. Subsistence farmers cannot wait for the rain to come the next year and, as a result, they die. The richest countries in the world are causing climate change. We are causing it — the G8 and those countries that have wealth. From a moral perspective, it is crucial that Ireland plays its part and that we assist those countries to the best of our ability. It is not good enough to talk about what will be chopped in Ireland in order for us to fulfil our commitment. It is imperative for the Minister of State to make the commitment to increasing our development aid. Tens of thousands of children are dying every day in the developing world because he has not made that commitment.
The European Commission has already made strong commitments on climate change. It has made a commitment of 15-30% reductions by 2020 and 50-80% reductions by 2050. It is crazy that Ministers here are continuing as if nothing will ever change. It is crucial that Ireland plays its part and it is about fairness, about contraction and convergence. It is about ensuring that people in developing countries are given the same kind of allowances we will be given. We must ratchet down emissions. If it does not happen on the Minister of State’s watch, it will be much more difficult to have reductions in climate change in the future. We must make that commitment and it is not good enough to water down our motion. It is not good enough to avoid the science and to avoid the facts.
Climate change is a science and the Minister of State must give a commitment that he will make those changes. We must look at what increase in global temperatures is acceptable and we must deal with that. We must set a target and work backwards from that. Ireland does not even have an up to date climate change strategy. It is years out of date and we have not seen any commitment to revising that within an appropriate timescale. I want the Minister of State to make a commitment to achieve what we have put down in our motion. I do not want him to do it in a wishy-washy Fianna Fáil way, but in a scientific way with a commitment that our Taoiseach gave three years ago. I think that is fair, it is equitable and it should be delivered.
Mr. Sargent: Ba mhaith liom buíochas a gabháil ar son an Chomhaontais Ghlais leis na Teachtaí Neamhspleácha agus leis na páirtithe go léir a thugann tacaíocht don rún. Listening to the strong criticism of the Government from Deputy O’Donnell, I expect the Progressive Democrats will also support the motion.
I thank the individual NGOs, many of which are here in the Visitors Gallery, church groups and people who have influence, who are making a difference and working to make poverty history. It is welcome that the Government is prepared to come part of the way along the road to supporting our motion, but it is very disappointing that it is not prepared to support the motion in its entirety. Instead, the Government has amputated the bulk of our motion and for the sake of showing superiority of numbers, is forcing a vote on a watered down amendment.
This motion is a call to action. It is a call to action for justice, upon which the Green Party would act if in Government. This Government has demonstrated willingness to respond when called upon by another country. After 11 September 2001, when thousands died as a result of two planes smashing into the twin towers in New York, another plane smashing into the Pentagon and another crashing in Pennsylvania, all at the hands of hijackers, the Government unquestioningly acceded to the wishes of the US Government for an increase in refuelling and overflights of high-tech killing machines. If four airplanes crash causing less than four thousand deaths in one day, bringing about so much focus, prayers and even a toleration and complicit co-operation with an illegal and bloody invasion of Iraq, what would be the response of the Government if an equivalent of 300 jumbo jets crashed every day? The equivalent of 300 jumbo jets crashing every day is 40 million people per annum, which is the estimated total who die from hunger and hunger related diseases, as well as AIDS. Half of the passengers on these virtual airplanes are children. If the Dáil was to respond to world hunger and poverty in anything like the way it responded to the attacks on 11 September 2001, we would work on this issue every day of every week until avoidable hunger and disease was ended.
Our motion sets out a template for this work, including debt cancellation, trade justice, restricting the arms trade, climate change and — the Minister of State does not need reminding — the commitment to increase overseas development aid to 0.7% of GNP by 2007, as was promised. Debt cancellation requires cutting a deal with the debt holders. For the Government, this is the biggest peace process of all. I ask the Taoiseach to bring it on. As someone who claims to be a negotiator, let us see how serious he is when it comes to dealing with world poverty.
Trade justice is denied to most post-colonial poor countries. The world trading system is corrupt and unjust and free trade is compounding these problems. It is time to change the rules. For example, 25 million coffee producers face ruin as the price of coffee has fallen 50% in the past three years. Farmers are selling at heavy losses. Vietnamese farmers get only 60% of production costs. Is it any wonder desperate farmers turn to producing heroin and cocaine and exporting misery to the west? The west created that misery for those farmers in the first place by impoverishing them. In the poorest 48 countries, three products — tea, sugar and copper — constitute 75% of all trade. Between 1997 and 2001, the price index of each fell by more than 50%.
As a start, let the Government state that it will do what it must do to levy the Tobin tax on international financial transactions. Ireland has a role to stress that famine is not an option and that selling arms to the poor is not an option. That goes for Shannon Airport as much as the comfortable suggestion of taxing the arms trade, which will hardly affect Ireland. By an accident of history and the work of people like Frank Aiken, Seán McBride, Mary Robinson, John O’Shea and Bob Geldof, Bono and others, Ireland has some moral authority to set the agenda. Does the Government have the courage to say that we must live more simply so that others can simply live? This month, the Royal Society of Scientists in the UK, along with the authors of the report, Africa — Up in Smoke, warned the G8 leaders that unless deeper cuts in emissions of CO2 gases take place and unless funding goes to environmental regeneration such as re-afforestation, we will not see an end to poverty.
Does the Government have any residual integrity left to keep its word? The wrist bands that many of us are wearing remind the Minister of State to keep his word. The commitment to increase overseas development aid to 0.7% of GNP by 2007 is the promise that has been broken. Before travelling to New York for the UN millennium summit in September, we ask that the Minister of State and the Taoiseach bring this House back from the recess to state clearly the date for the implementation of that promise. They could at least restore some of the lost integrity and trust that has damaged this Government irreparably.
The poor have given the rich cheap tea, cheap coffee, raw materials and oil over the years. In turn, we ask the Government to support the motion in the spirit of consensus building to create international solidarity between the Irish people and the poor. It is only with leadership from countries like Ireland as a post-colonial nation that poverty will be made history. I ask Members, please, to support the motion.
|Ahern, Michael.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Ardagh, Seán.|
|Blaney, Niall.||Brady, Johnny.|
|Brady, Martin.||Brennan, Seamus.|
|Browne, John.||Callanan, Joe.|
|Callely, Ivor.||Carey, Pat.|
|Carty, John.||Cassidy, Donie.|
|Collins, Michael.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Curran, John.||Davern, Noel.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||Dempsey, Tony.|
|Dennehy, John.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Ellis, John.||Fahey, Frank.|
|Finneran, Michael.||Fitzpatrick, Dermot.|
|Fleming, Seán.||Fox, Mildred.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Hanafin, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Keaveney, Cecilia.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Kitt, Tom.|
|Lenihan, Brian.||Lenihan, Conor.|
|McEllistrim, Thomas.||McGuinness, John.|
|Martin, Micheál.||Moloney, John.|
|Moynihan, Donal.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M.J.|
|Ó Cuív, Éamon.||Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.|
|O’Dea, Willie.||O’Donnell, Liz.|
|O’Donovan, Denis.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Keeffe, Ned.|
|O’Malley, Fiona.||O’Malley, Tim.|
|Parlon, Tom.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Roche, Dick.|
|Sexton, Mae.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Smith, Michael.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Walsh, Joe.||Woods, Michael.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Boyle, Dan.|
|Breen, James.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Burton, Joan.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Connolly, Paudge.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Cowley, Jerry.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Cuffe, Ciarán.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|Enright, Olwyn.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Gogarty, Paul.||Gormley, John.|
|Gregory, Tony.||Harkin, Marian.|
|Hayes, Tom.||Higgins, Joe.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|McCormack, Padraic.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McHugh, Paddy.|
|McManus, Liz.||Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.|
|Murphy, Catherine.||Murphy, Gerard.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Pattison, Seamus.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Perry, John.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Ring, Michael.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Ryan, Seán.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Sherlock, Joe.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Twomey, Liam.||Upton, Mary.|
|Last Updated: 04/11/2010 04:04:22||Page of 368|