Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney appeared on the Global Citizen stage in New York this week, to take a great step in the world’s fight to end extreme poverty.
On Sept. 29, Coveney stood in front of a crowd gathered on Central Park’s Great Lawn, and announced that Ireland will be increasing its overseas aid spending to 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI).
The commitment brings Ireland in line with the international benchmark for overseas aid spending established in 1970 and reiterated in 2005 — and everyone in Ireland should be incredibly proud of what this aid funding will achieve.
“This is about being very public about a commitment that Ireland wants to make to the world,” Coveney told Global Citizen backstage after making his announcement. “Between now and 2030, when we want the sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be complete, we want Ireland also to complete it’s promise to deliver 0.7% of GNI in Ireland to a whole series of incredibly worthy causes.”
“Ireland is a small country, but we’re trying to make as big an impact as we can,” he said. “And I hope what this will do, is it will encourage other countries to do the same, to make similar commitments, to do it over time because nobody can do this in one or two years.”
“But as long as countries are moving in the right direction, in terms of a percentage of their wealth, going towards people who largely have nothing, then I think this Irish initiative will be worth something,” he said.
From the Global Citizen stage on Saturday, Coveney told the crowd: “Tonight, I am committing that Ireland will increase our overall investment in education and spend a minimum of a quarter of a billion euros over the next 5 years.”
“We will do this as part of a sustained increase in Ireland’s development cooperation budget beginning in a fortnight’s time,” he continued. “And we will fulfil my government’s commitment to reach the target of 0.7% by 2030.”
Ireland made a commitment back in 2005 to increase its overseas aid budget, but it never happened. In 2015, for example, Ireland spent 0.36% of its GNI on overseas aid.
But in the run-up to Ireland’s pledge, Global Citizens urged Ireland to deliver on its promise, resulting in tens of thousands of actions, including personally-written emails to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
“A promise made is a debt unpaid, and most especially when to the poorest,” wrote one Global Citizen. Another added that “billions of people are affected by diseases, and millions don’t have an education. I would feel proud as an Irishman if we helped out.”
International development funding is an absolutely vital tool around the world, for driving progress in every one of the UN’s Global Goals — from education, to health, to humanitarian assistance during natural disasters and conflict, to stopping climate change.
As government’s around the world work to achieve the SDGs, a nation’s aid funding can be viewed as a benchmark, in part, for their fitness to lead on the world stage. And the commitment to boost aid funding follows Ireland’s announcement of its candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2021-2022 term.
Coveney further added that “Ireland’s international voice has always been around promoting multinationalism, promoting development, ensuring that every country feels that they are part of a global community.”
“The more Ireland can influence other countries, the more we can show example, the more, I hope, the development agenda can be progressed,” he said.