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Minister Cannon T.D. Remarks at the Public Consultations on the New International Development Policy

It falls to me to close what has been an excellent discussion on our emerging new international development policy. I wish to thank my fellow panellists and you the participants for your engaging questions and responses – many of which will challenge us as we begin to put pen to paper and undoubtedly our new policy will be enriched by responding to these debates.

Through our work at the UN and through our development cooperation programme, Irish Aid, we have helped build a better world over the past 50 years. Over this time we have seen unprecedented progress in the fight against poverty. I am proud to say that Ireland has contributed to this progress. We have responded to crises, assisted in resolving conflicts and in bringing about greater stability. We have promoted and mobilised climate action, supported the building of national systems, the building of better communities, and in doing so have helped save and transform many people’s lives.

I am extremely proud of the role that Ireland played in brokering the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Our challenge now is to follow through with our contribution to international efforts to reach these goals and support developing countries in their efforts. In our proposed interventions, Ireland’s track record, and a number of SDGs shine through in particular:

Ireland is well recognised internationally for its commitment to the reduction of poverty and vulnerability, and on those most in need, the overarching focus of SDG 1, to end poverty in all its manifestations. The gendered impacts of poverty, inequality, climate change and conflict will be at the heart of our new international development cooperation policy. A priority focus will be ensuring that women and girls are not left behind, responding to SDG 5 on gender equality, and the gender aspects of all of the SDGs.

We propose to set clear priorities for addressing gaps in education and health coverage. In this, we will build on the tradition of Irish teachers and health workers bringing our values to the developing world. SDG 3 focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all. SDG 4 commits us “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. As a former Minister at the Department of Education and Skills, I am acutely conscious of the importance of quality learning, especially for girls. We propose that ensuring continuity of education for children especially in crisis situations will be another priority. We need to think about education holistically – and link what we do to research.

Ireland’s development cooperation programme has long prioritised the fight against hunger and under-nutrition, goals now reflected in SDG 2, the goal to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. We are a country which has known famine but which has grown to have a world class food industry. Bringing in the replicable aspects of our own experience of agricultural transformation and strengthening alliances with public and state agencies will lead to a more integrated government response to these global challenges. There may also be elements of our marine knowledge – from fish to mapping underwater assets - that could be of value to others.

Our commitment to the prevention of conflict and principled humanitarian action responds to SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions. We will take an integrated approach to peace, humanitarian assistance and development. We have a strong tradition of humanitarian engagement, of conflict resolution and peacebuilding to build from. Our work on Women Peace and Security will continue to be a central element.

How you can input
Strengthening public support and engagement with the development cooperation programme is central to delivering the ambition of the SDGs and our new policy. SDG 17 calls on us to build on all our partnerships for the goals.

Strong public support in Ireland cannot be taken for granted and connections need to be continually strengthened. It is not enough to build on existing partnerships; we need reach out beyond our usual circles in the development community. We will need to work in new and better ways. We are open to new ideas, to new ways of working, to innovative and build new partnerships.

Development education is critical to strengthen public understanding of the interconnectedness of global and national poverty and inequality. It supports the Irish public to become aware of, and engage with, the underlying values of each of the SDGs. The activism and communications of our NGO partners is another aspect. The relevance and impact of our development cooperation must be ‘brought home’ to Irish people: that development cooperation is the right thing to do, that it is good foreign policy, and Ireland is good at it.

This public consultation is an opportunity to bring the Irish public into the discussion on development. It is a way to engage them on the global challenges facing Ireland and developing countries. Together, we can start building a whole of society approach to development cooperation.

The SDGs speak of leaving no one behind, of reaching the furthest behind first. That should be our watchword. You all have copies of our public consultation paper where we lay out the framework for our new policy for international development. We need your input and responses, and your support in calling others to engage, by making written submissions and by participating in the public meetings in September.

These will take place in Cork, Galway, Sligo, Limerick and Dublin – the details of which will be on the new policy website which goes live today and can be accessed through the Irish Aid website.

Finally, let me thank you again for your participation in this launch event and your contributions to what has been a rich and stimulating start to this important consultation.

Thank You.

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