Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development
On Monday night, in Galway, you can influence how Ireland can help build a more peaceful, more sustainable and more equal world. A public consultation on a new White Paper on international development is being held in the Aula Maxima in NUI Galway, where your views will inform the final policy.
This new policy will build on Ireland’s existing international development programme, recognised as being amongst the best in the world. Building on the work over decades of many thousands of missionaries, volunteers, educators, health workers and peacekeepers – our aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and friends - Ireland’s official development programme has at its heart a commitment to helping those most in need. Last year, Irish Aid made a difference in over 120 countries.
The key question where your views will be important is how can we do better, in ways which are authentic to our own Irish experience. The new policy is an opportunity to draw from the Irish experience. We can continue to build on our strong track record in areas such as hunger, education and peace. The ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals also demand innovation.
New approaches, new thinking and new partnerships can unlock greater impact. In this, we can explore how better to build on Ireland’s reputation for academic excellence, for innovative agribusiness, for technological knowhow.
I am conscious, as are the countries with whom we partner, that Ireland’s development story is recent. We have grappled with profound change within living memory.
We know, for example, the difference that access to education has made to our economic prospects – from a country in the 1950s where only the privileged managed to complete secondary school to today, an island with the highest level of third level attainment in Europe.
We know that it is through education that people are enabled to live more productive lives. Technology and digital literacy are especially important as they are the key to the future.
What lessons can we draw from this experience, and others, that we can share with others?
Ireland is a country which has known famine but which has grown to have a world class food industry. There are opportunities to tap into Irish agricultural expertise and experience to lead a global response to the challenges of hunger, nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Our marine knowledge – from fish to mapping underwater assets - could also be of value to others.
In developing others’ potential, in addressing global poverty and humanitarian challenges, we are helping ourselves. Ireland thrives when the multilateral, rule-based order on which we depend is in rude health. As poverty reduces, we will be safer and our companies will find new opportunities. We are healthier in a healthier world.
Our new development policy must build on Irish Aid’s reputation for impact, results, and team work. Central to this is a rigorous focus on value for money, transparency and accountability.
The Sustainable Development Goals, which Ireland helped broker in the United Nations, speak of leaving no one behind, of reaching the furthest behind first. Our new policy for international development needs your insights, direction and support to define and refine Ireland’s role in making our world a better place.
The public meetings, like the one in Galway on Monday, are an opportunity to have your say. We want to hear your voice. Let’s see you there. Find more details and register online at bit.ly/TransformOurWorld