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

Good evening,

I am delighted to be here in Limerick, the home of Irish Aid, for this ‘townhall’ discussion on Ireland’s new international development policy.

It is a week now since the Tanaiste was in Cork, for the first in this series of townhall meetings to inform our new policy. Since then I have held two meetings in Galway on Monday and in Sligo on Tuesday last. The Tanaiste will close the process in Dublin on the 2 October.

The meetings in Galway and Sligo reinforced my belief that Irish people are passionate about international development, and that they will continue to hold us to high standards.

Considerable work has been done on developing the new policy on international development, which should be published before the end of this year.

This public consultation process began in July. Since then, we have received over 185 substantial written submissions and over 14,000 emails expressing support for the work of Irish Aid.

I am greatly encouraged and heartened by this response, and to see how many of you have turned out this evening. Your contribution is essential to shaping the final policy.

In Cork, Galway and Sligo, people have focussed on how we can do better: better coherence, better targeting, and better research to keep pace with the changing global context we live in.

Tonight’s conversation flows from the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Ireland meets the UN target for overseas development assistance of 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2030. This commitment is at the heart of Global Ireland, the Government’s plan to increase Irish influence and double Ireland’s global footprint. Today Ireland contributes around 0.3% of our GNI to international development.

While our financial contribution is modest, Ireland has a reputation for quality, which I want us to build upon as we grow the budget.

I am convinced that Ireland’s international development cooperation makes a difference. It makes a difference to each of those people whose lives have been saved or transformed by Ireland’s humanitarian and development work.

I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the impact of Irish Aid’s work on the ground. In 2017 I had the honour of launching Africa Code week in Tanzania, a unique initiative built from Irish experience. In the Nduta refugee camp I met with people benefiting from our support.

I am also convinced that our work abroad profoundly matters for Ireland: it helps shape and protect our place, our safety and our prosperity in a global, interconnected world. It helps project our values. Ireland’s international development policy is a statement of who we are as a people.

I am extremely proud of Ireland’s role, two years ago, at the United Nations in brokering agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals. Every country in the world has signed up to make this a better planet by 2030. The Goals are ambitious but essential.

At the centre of the SDGs is the concept of ‘Leave no-one behind’, and in particular to reach the ‘furthest behind first.’ This in many ways updates Ireland’s traditional approach to international cooperation, which has been to help the poorest of the poor.

Tonight, though, is about what you think.
How can we deliver on our ambition?
In our public consultation paper we have set out a number of questions:
The first question relates to Ireland’s impact and track record. Developing a new policy requires, and provides us with, the space to think about what we do and how we do it – to refresh our approach, innovate and change. Our starting point is to build on what we are good at, and be coherent with what we do at home.

We want to know: what we should bring forward?
What can we build on?

The second looks at our rapidly changing world. We need to respond to climate change, and intensifying inequality within developing countries. Unstable politics and changing demographics may challenge the basis for peace and development. At the same time, technology is changing how we grow food, how we work, how we live, where we live. It promises solutions to make better lives for all.

So, what are the implications of our changing world for the new policy?

The third question focusses on our priorities. We are committed to responding to the call to Leave No One Behind. We propose to advance our work on women and girls.

Reducing humanitarian need will also be a central focus. The new policy proposes to strengthen the linkages between different areas of work: humanitarian action, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and long term development interventions.

We will need to do more to address the impact of our changing climate. This will require, in addition to adaptation and mitigation strategies, strengthened governance, fighting corruption and a focus on human rights in all that we do.

I want to hear from you if you think these proposed priorities contribute to achieving our vision of a more peaceful, equal and sustainable world?

The final question: how we can improve delivery of our development cooperation and humanitarian action?
The greatest difference will be in how we do things. We are committed to doing things differently: to better influence, to strengthen coherence, to build our capacity, to learn, to engage.

And while we have posed four questions, can I stress that there is no right or wrong answer – we want to hear your views. And while we have a fifty year record, I want us to look forward, to focus on what we need to do next, to better help those less fortunate than us. In making the world a better and safer place I believe we are also helping make Ireland a better and safer place for us to call home.

I am looking forward to hearing your responses.

Thank you.

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