Speech by Nora Owen at Launch of One World, One FutureIrish Aid Expert Advisory Group - 2/5/13
Speech by Nora Owen, Chairperson, Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group
Launch of One World, One Future: Ireland’s Policy for International Development
May 2nd 2013, Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre, O’Connell Street, Dublin
Thank you, Tánaiste, Minister of State Costello, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very pleased to be present here to-day at the launch the Government’s new Policy on International Development – appropriately titled One World, One Future.
The Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group was established in 2010 to provide independent advice to the Tánaiste and the Minister of State on the direction of the aid programme.
The major focus of our efforts to date has been to provide independent oversight of the Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid and in the development of this new policy.
A number of the members of the Group are present here today, and I would like to acknowledge Prof. Patrick FitzPatrick from University College Cork; Ronan Murphy whom you all know is a former Director General of Irish Aid, Prof. Tom Lodge from the University of Limerick, and Donal McNally, recently retired from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Naomi Ngwira from Malawi was an active and valued member of our Group but she has recently been appointed Deputy Governor of the Central Bank in Malawi and so has had to relinquish her role. Prof. Jane Harrigan from the School of Oriental and African Studies in the UK unfortunately could not make it here today but sends her good wishes.
Let me say at the outset that this Review exercise was not undertaken by an outside agency or a team of external consultants. Rather, it was managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In providing independent oversight we held a number of matters to be of great importance.
Firstly it was our view that the process needed to be transparently and efficiently undertaken.
Secondly, we deemed it important that the extensive public consultation be genuinely open and truly participatory.
And thirdly we needed to ensure that the end product accurately reflected the evidence that was accumulated in the course of the review and the views and inputs of those who were consulted.
Today, as this new policy is being launched, and speaking on behalf of my colleagues in the External Advisory Group, I am happy to confirm our satisfaction that these criteria have been fulfilled.
I can give assurance that the independent oversight we were able to provide, therefore, has ensured that the process was a credible one – and that this new policy, well reflects the consultations that have taken place.
As I said in my foreword to the policy, travelling around the country as Chair of the public meetings that were held, I was struck by the levels of energy and by the deep wells of experience we have here in Ireland when it comes to international development and the fight to end global poverty and hunger.
I see here today many of the stakeholder groups we met and listened to - volunteers, community activists, returned missionaries, NGOs, members of the African and other diaspora, the private sector, members of the third level sector, TDs and Senators.
I would like to thank you all for so energetically participating in the Review and contributing to the policy-making process. The many written submissions that were received, all of which we discussed with great interest, provided an excellent basis for the development of this new policy, and we are confident that your voices have been heard.
In fact, I think we can be proud of the recognition the Review process has received for its openness and genuine participatory nature. It was described in the Dáil last year by Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan (who unfortunately can’t be with us to-day) as a “prototype for the way forward in terms of its providing space for written submissions and the holding of open forums throughout the country”.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, in their report on Developing a Model of Best Practice for Public Participation in Constitutional Reform, noted how the Review should be utilised in the design and implementation of a robust mechanism for consultation.
What we have is a bold and yet realistic agenda for the Government’s contribution to international development. The policy will provide the framework for the focusing of resources, and for the efforts that are needed to ensure that every cent that is spent on overseas aid is done so with maximum impact.
We have seen in the public consultations that there remains considerable public support for the Government’s strong role in international development. This now needs to be maintained and built upon over the coming years.
The fact that we are maintaining our solidarity with the poorest nations in the world at a time of economic hardship at home is something to be extremely proud of, but not complacent about.
We have also heard from you as stakeholders the importance of policy coherence across Government, the central role that human rights and gender equality should play, the need to stay focused on vulnerability, poverty and hunger, where Ireland is playing a leading role, the value of exploring cooperation in trade and partnership through the private sector, and the continuing need for strong accountability.
These have become central aspects in the new policy. It is now important that we as development stakeholders join efforts in realising the goals that are outlined here. We all have our part to play.
For us, as the Expert Advisory Group, our role now shifts to that of advising the Government on the implementation of the new policy. How this can be translated into practice. This and perhaps other issues will form our agenda in the coming period. We look forward to continuing our engagement with all of you and with the Government in that regard.