Demand for Fresh Approach from Government to Ireland’s Development Cooperation Policy

Posted on: 16 June 2005

The Irish government has come in for some strong criticism in recent months that it is not on course to meet its stated commitment of contributing 0.7% of Gross National Income to development aid by 2007 and that its present review of development cooperation is simply a delaying tactic. The Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS) at Trinity College is hosting a high-level conference on Wednesday 15th June to explore some of the contentious issues that must be dealt with in drawing up Ireland’s development cooperation strategy. The conference on ‘Meeting Global Development Challenges: Ireland’s White Paper on Development Cooperation’ includes among its speakers the highly controversial Danish Speaker, Professor Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Copenhagen Consensus, who has been a strong public critic of the incoherence of many western countries development strategies, which are designed to “make people feel good, rather than do good”. The contentious issues which must be faced include deciding on which countries and which types of activities should be supported; how to make sure that the aid is not wasted through spending on bad projects/programmes, excessive bureaucracy or misappropriation in recipient countries; whether to form alliances with other EU countries in giving aid or to keep a distinctive Irish Aid profile; and how much aid to channel through NGOs and which NGOs. Professor Frances Ruane, Conference Organiser, believes that dealing properly with these issues will be very testing for Ireland. “The Irish Government needs to take a new approach to its development cooperation strategy, adopting what people now call a “whole of government” approach. This means the involvement of a whole range of government departments and agencies in drawing up the policy and not just the Department of Foreign Affairs. It means recognising that Ireland is one of the most globalised economies in the world, and as such our global development strategy should, for example, at the centre and not the periphery of government policy and hence should be on the agendas of the National Economic and Social Council and the National Economic and Social Forum. “ Professor Ruane also believes that it is timely now, given Ireland’s economic progress over the last decade, to look at greater private-sector involvement in the process. “Should we be planning participate in the development process actively through private as well as public sector involvement, and what role if any has the government in stimulating such private sector involvement? Should our industrial strategy now involve our helping to build the productive investment in developing countries, just as the US has helped to build up our productive base in recent decades? Should our educational strategy involve forging links between institutions here and in the poorest countries – both schools and universities? Should our health strategy involve training of medical professionals for these countries? How should our agricultural and trade strategies recognise the importance of market access to developing countries? What approach are we willing to take in the EU and WTO on these difficult issues?” The other speakers at the conference include Mr Myles Wickstead, a key author of Tony Blair’s “Commission on Africa” report, Mary McClymont, an NGO export from the US, and James Mackie, who has written extensively and critically on European Development Cooperation Strategies.