The fight to end extreme poverty and hunger in the world remains one of the most pressing global challenges. But it is important to bear in mind that, working together in partnership, developed and developing countries have achieved some remarkable development results over the last 10 years. Between 2005 and 2010, the total number of poor people around the world fell by nearly half a billion. Millions of child deaths have been avoided thanks to greater access to vaccines and mosquito nets. 40 million more children are going to school today than at the turn of the millennium.
Yet, evidence clearly shows that progress has been uneven within countries and between countries.
Sub-Saharan Africa, which is the focus of Ireland’s aid programme, continues to bear a great burden of global poverty. On current trends, it will be home to approximately half of the world’s poor by 2030. The 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching and, despite some progress, many serious challenges remain. For example, undernutrition remains one of the world’s most serious, but least addressed, health problems. Ireland is playing a leading role in drawing international attention to this problem, and to the fact that the world has the resources and the knowledge available to address it.
When world leaders gathered to review the Millennium Development Goals in September 2010, they agreed to strengthen their resolve in the fight against poverty and hunger. They committed to working towards greater transparency and accountability, in developed and developing countries, as an important way of accelerating progress.
This is because good governance and accountability are critical to ensuring that we get the results we seek, whether in education, health, hunger or any of the other Millennium Development Goals. For instance, in developing countries where rule of law and anticorruption legislation is stronger, maternal mortality rates tend to be lower. Stronger accountability is also important in enabling people to realise their human rights, and to address the discrimination, exclusion, and powerlessness that lie at the root of poverty.
Ireland places accountability at the heart of its aid programme. Irish Aid, in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is accountable to the Irish people for the investments being made in poverty reduction, and for the results that are being achieved. In these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that we achieve maximum value for money and impact from our aid funding, and that we can demonstrate our results clearly to the public. We are equally accountable to the partners we work with, and to the people who benefit from our efforts.
The OECD Peer Review of the Irish Aid programme in 2009 praised Irish Aid’s “rigorous process of internal checks and controls” We are accountable to the Oireachtas, to the Public Accounts Committee and to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.
We are also accountable to the independent Audit Committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. An internal Audit and Evaluation Unit undertakes regular audits and evaluations of the aid programme, as outlined on page 57 of this Report.
At a broader level, Irish Aid is held accountable by the OECD and others who challenge us on an ongoing basis. Irish Aid strives to improve the quality and impact of our aid by implementing international agreements which aim to deliver better results. These include the new global Partnerships for Effective Development Cooperation agreed in Busan, Republic of Korea, in November 2011.
Irish Aid takes its domestic and international accountability obligations seriously. As a result,
Ireland’s aid programme, the Irish people’s aid programme, has been consistently ranked as world class.