DAC's recommendations as Ireland prepares for a USD 1 billion development co-operation programme


20/11/2003 - In a major review of Ireland's development co-operation programme, the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) noted that Ireland's official development assistance (ODA) rose dramatically over the past decade, to USD 398 million or 0.40% of its gross national income (GNI) in 2002 compared to USD 70 million or 0.16% of GNI in 1992. Demonstrating its commitment to poverty reduction, Ireland channels half of its ODA to least-developed countries. This is the largest share among the 22 member countries in the DAC and contributes to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Ireland's ODA is expected to continue growing - the government's goal is to reach the United Nations target of 0.7% of national income by 2007. This USD 1 billion commitment reflects the strong Irish tradition of helping the poor and dispossessed. However, as Ireland did not meet its interim target for 2002 - 0.45% of GNI - and only modest ODA budget increases have been provided in 2003 and 2004, there is concern about the likelihood of Ireland achieving the 0.7% target by 2007.

A multi-year funding agreement with the Department of Finance allowed Development Co-operation Ireland (DCI) to make medium-term forward plans as its programme grew rapidly. This agreement has lapsed, making it more difficult for DCI to implement its own aid programme and to fulfil its commitment to long-term partnerships and multi-annual funding arrangements with partner countries, United Nations development agencies and Irish development NGOs.

Ireland's longstanding focus on health and education is now complemented by a strong commitment to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. A prime ministerial commitment in 2001 of at least USD 30 million annually to fight HIV/AIDS through multilateral/global, regional, national and community efforts supports DCI's mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS issues throughout the programme.

The DAC Chairman, Richard Manning, summarised the Committee's main recommendations to build on the progress Ireland has made since its last Peer Review by the DAC in 1999:

  • The vast majority of people in Ireland support development efforts. It will be important to build public awareness and ownership of DCI's vision, achievements and challenges as its ODA grows to reach and sustain the 0.7% objective.
  • Ireland should plan now how it will manage and implement a USD 1 billion programme so as to: maintain focus on the least-developed countries especially in eastern Africa where its aid is concentrated; support selected multilateral agencies; continue to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis which is such a significant issue in Ireland's main area of concentration; and promote its forward-looking debt strategy.
  • To provide a predictable growth path for the expected rapid and substantial growth in ODA and to help DCI get best value from its multi-annual funding agreements, Ireland should re-introduce a multi-annual agreement on ODA allocations.
  • Ireland has addressed some of the critical human resource issues identified in the 1999 DAC Peer Review but should further increase DCI's staff, specialist expertise, and development management skills as its ODA volume continues to grow and Ireland repositions itself as a medium-sized donor. There should be more opportunities for a strong development focus within career patterns in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
  • Ireland has done well to concentrate its main bilateral partnerships on just seven programme countries. It should continue deepening its engagement in these countries, including by engaging more with and supporting local civil society organisations and the local private sector, and bringing regional perspectives to bear on its programme. Ireland should maintain a cautious approach to designating new programme countries.
  • By comparative DAC standards, Ireland devotes a large share of its ODA to co-financing activities by NGOs. DCI should continue promoting more strategic approaches, greater mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues (gender, governance, HIV/AIDS and the environment) and more systematic auditing, monitoring and evaluation by NGO partners.
  • DCI is managing Ireland's emergency and recovery assistance more strategically, placing greater emphasis on quality and accountability issues and on achieving results. DCI could take this further by developing clearer guidelines, including an exit strategy for humanitarian assistance, or, where appropriate, for continued support integrated into longer-term post-conflict development strategies.
  • To maximise its opportunity to make a profound contribution to addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis, DCI should strengthen its mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS by recruiting additional specialists and developing a significant HIV/AIDS training programme for all staff. When up-dating its strategic framework in 2004, DCI should highlight its mainstreaming approach and develop guidance on addressing gender, human rights and equity concerns in its growing access-to-treatment programmes. DCI should initiate a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of its HIV/AIDS activities.
  • The DAC welcomed the creation of a unit responsible for assessing policy coherence for development issues and disseminating the results of analyses conducted. This should enhance Ireland's capacity to address the effects of broader government policies on developing countries

At the DAC's latest Peer Review of Ireland's development co-operation policies and programmes on 17 November 2003, the Irish Delegation was headed by David Donoghue, Director General, Development Co-operation Ireland. The examiners were Belgium and Switzerland.

For further information on OECD work related to development, journalists are invited to contact Helen Fisher, OECD Media Relations Division (tel: [33] 1 45 24 80 97).

See table and graphs .


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