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Trocaire launch Leading Edge 2020 report

Leading Edge 2020 identifies a number of global trends which are likely to effect international development in the next decade. These include themes such as climate change, the geo-political scene, changing global demographies, natural resources and inequality.

23rd March 2011

Opening Address by Jan O’Sullivan, T.D.at the Trócaire Leading Edge 2020   

Opening Address by Jan O’Sullivan, T.D., Minister of State for Trade and Development

Trócaire Leading Edge 2020 ‘Critical Thinking on the Future of International Development’

Radisson Blu Hotel, Golden Lane Dublin 8

Tuesday, 22nd March 2011

I am delighted to deliver the opening address at this important conference on the Future of International Development.  This is one of my first public engagements as Minister of State for Trade and Development, and I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to meet with representatives of Irish Non-Governmental Organisations, International Civil Society, Academia, Media and distinguished colleagues from the European Commission and the World Bank.

Over the coming weeks and months, I look forward to meeting with a wide range of the organisations and bodies focused on international development.  I also plan to make an early visit to some of the priority countries for Ireland’s aid programme, in order to see the practical effect on the lives of people in poor communities of the policy approaches we will discuss here today.

I would say that our new Government is strongly committed to Ireland’s development programme.  We were elected to lead the regeneration of Ireland’s economy and society, but not at the expense of those less fortunate than ourselves.

We are determined that the fight against poverty, hunger and inequality in the world should be at the centre of Ireland’s foreign policy, as we work to rebuild our country’s international reputation.  It is a matter of some pride, and a reflection of the commitment of the Irish people, that there has always been broad cross-party support for Ireland’s development programme.  In this regard, I want to pay tribute to the work and the commitment of my predecessor, Peter Power, who made such a strong contribution nationally and internationally on vital global development issues.

I would like to commend Trócaire for the ‘Leading Edge 2020’ initiative and to welcome the report being launched today.  Our purpose in today’s discussions must be to focus on responding more effectively to the future challenges of the world’s poor and on recognising the global nature of these challenges.  

By definition, global challenges affect us all, in developed and developing countries.  The global crises of recent years – economic, financial, climate, food - have clearly demonstrated the need for a more effective and comprehensive international approach to global poverty.  They have demonstrated to all of us the true meaning of interdependence in today’s world.  They have underlined the importance of bringing fresh thinking into the development agenda. 
Similarly, social and political upheaval in a wide range of countries, and the horrific natural disasters in Haiti, in Pakistan and now in Japan bring home to everyone that no country is immune from change – or, potentially, from disaster.  Ireland has responded to these emergencies – our people and our Government – and we will always be ready to do so.

Emergencies rightly attract public attention.  But we must also remember the millions of people who suffer daily from hunger and deprivation in developing countries, not least the women whose only priority is to provide enough food to keep their children alive.  The Millennium Development Goals are focused on these people and their lives.  They must remain at the forefront of our development policy as we approach 2015.  We have a collective duty, as States and organisations, to redouble our efforts and coordinate them for maximum impact in fighting poverty and hunger, promoting human and social development and ensuring that poor people participate in and benefit from economic growth.

Development is about more than aid.  But Official Development Assistance remains vital, both as a direct contribution and a catalyst for other development funding.  The new Government has stated clearly in our Programme that we are committed to the 0.7% GNP target, and that we will seek to achieve it by 2015.  It is obvious to all that, in current circumstances, this will be difficult to achieve.  This underlines the absolute importance of being able to demonstrate that all funding provided to partners under the aid programme is used in order to maximise the impact on poor people and communities.  We have to be able to measure that impact, and ensure that we avoid any duplication of effort.  We must reinvigorate our approach to development if we are to meet the ambitious targets we have set.  And, looking beyond 2015, we need to focus rigorously on how we can realistically achieve the ambition of ending the need for official development assistance, if not in our lifetimes, then in our children’s.

In this context, I welcome the Green Paper on EU Development Policy which the Commission has produced in support of inclusive growth and sustainable development.  I congratulate Commissioner Piebalgs on launching the debate on how the EU can best support developing countries' efforts to speed up progress on the MDGs by 2015.   Ireland will participate actively in that debate, reflecting the lessons we have learned from our own cooperation with Governments, communities and civil society in the developing world, and especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ireland’s aid programme has always, rightly, been very focused on poverty – and on Africa.   With our partners, we are intensifying our efforts to reduce poverty and hunger; to minimise the burden of poor health and HIV/AIDS, to mitigate and adapt to climate change; to promote education, especially for girls; and to continue to champion gender equality.  These approaches are vital in themselves, and for the promotion of longterm, sustainable economic growth.  Reducing poverty and promoting inclusive economic growth are part of the same agenda.

One of the challenges for the EU is to strengthen the links between trade and development, and build greater coherence between all policies which affect development.   As Minister of State for Trade and Development, I will be working for new business opportunities for Ireland in markets across the globe.  However, I also hope to explore the linkages between trade and development.

I also hope to explore further the crucial issue of women in economic development.  This is not a theoretical issue.  The majority of smallholder farmers in poor countries in Africa are women.  And the promotion of smallholder agriculture is one of the most effective ways of achieving broad income growth.

The reality is that women continue to bear a disproportionate burden of global poverty representing close to 70% of the world’s poor.  Women – and their children - in poor countries are more likely to be at risk of hunger because of the systematic discrimination women face in education, health care, employment opportunities and control of assets.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that gender equality stimulates and increases economic development.  When women can acquire assets, earn incomes, accumulate savings and have control over resources, they prioritise helping themselves and their families. Even small resources can make a significant difference.  We cannot adequately address development challenges without addressing gender inequality.   And we cannot even reach this point without addressing the global hunger crisis.  This is why Ireland has taken such a strong lead on hunger issues, and why we, with Hilary Clinton and the Obama Administration, are working so hard with our partners on the UN’s Scaling Up Nutrition Initiative.  It is rigorously targeted at improving nutrition for women and babies, up to their second birthday.

The Trócaire report sets out very clearly the top challenges for development.  It seems to me that the crucial next step has to be to act on the linkages between these challenges and sectors, to build a truly coherent international approach to ending poverty and building sustainable futures.  Today, for instance, we mark World Water Day.  This year’s focus is on the vital area of urban water and sanitation management.  I hope we can use today’s discussions to build a greater understanding of the links between progress in different sectors and the overall goal of eliminating poverty.  Improvements in water and sanitation, for instance, have obvious direct effects for poor families, but they also contribute significantly to achieving other MDGs;  on health, education, food security, and gender equality. For example, the World Health Organisation estimates that improvements in sanitation and drinking water could reduce the number of children who die each year by 2.2 million.

Our task today, therefore, is not only to identify the problems we face in making progress on development but also to focus on creative, joined-up and sustainable solutions.

In looking at international development, and at rebuilding our own economy and society at home, generalised notions of what works are not sufficient.  Important decisions must be informed by lessons from past experience, by seeking new and innovative approaches, and by ensuring that our policies and practices are subject to critical questioning and measured against evidence of what works most effectively.

Responding to the issues presented in the “Leading Edge 2020” Report and to other emerging challenges demands of us a readiness to accept rigorous and honest questioning of current models and ways of working.  Collaboration is important. So too is understanding and respect for the different roles and responsibilities of government and civil society.  But we cannot afford duplication and waste of resources.  We must work to improve the transparency, efficiency and accountability of the aid we provide on behalf of the Irish taxpayer – on behalf of the poor communities with whom we work.

I welcome the focus of discussions this afternoon on the response required from international NGOs, and I look forward to hearing the outcome, as I enter into dialogue with all of you in the period ahead and we prepare to review the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid.

The Irish people have traditionally given great support to the work of NGOs and faith based organisations.  Successive Governments have reflected that commitment by providing very substantial funding and support for the work of the sector.  We recognise that you are partners, and that you play a range of important roles.  Perhaps the most important is to ensure we do not forget the harsh realities of global poverty and hunger.

NGOs bear a particular responsibility to help deepen public understanding of the pervasive social exclusion and inequality that drives and sustains global poverty and hunger.  And, along with Government, to do so in a way which is clear and understandable to the Irish people.  Development must never become a niche, expert area.  It must remain to the fore in the minds and the consciences of our fellow citizens.

I am genuinely excited about the work which we face into, together, in the interests of creating a more equal world.  I wish you well for the Conference today. I want to hear your conclusions and proposed next steps.  And I look forward to the continuation of this important dialogue.  Together, we can continue to shape and influence international thinking and good practice.  This is an important role for Ireland on the world stage.

I am committed to maintaining and developing that role.

Thank you.

For more on the Leading Edge 2020 report  please visit Trocaire at http://www.trocaire.org/leadingedge2020

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