Letter To Minister Martin Foreign Affairs - IMU Justice/AEFJN Ireland

Wednesday, 27 Oct 2010

Mr. Micháel Martin T.D.,
Minister of Foreign Affairs
14th October 2010

Re: Helping in the Developing World and Ireland's New Africa Strategy

Dear Minister Martin,

A recent study from the UK's Charities Aid Foundation, based on a survey in 153countries, suggested Ireland was third in the world's rankings for giving moneyand time to charitable purposes. As members of the IMU - AEFJN we are aware ofthe generosity and compassion of Irish people.
The financial support of our donors, complemented by funding from Irish Aid,has enabled missionaries to provide health, education, and livelihoodopportunities for people who are among the most marginalized and excludedgroups in the developing world. The effective targeting of Irish developmentaid in developing world countries has also helped to prevent avoidable diseasescreated by malnutrition, poor sanitary and the absence of basic healthcare.

But much more needs to be done. It is estimated that 100 million people worldwide haveimpairments which are caused by malnutrition and poor sanitary conditions. Inthe absence of basic maternity care services, estimates suggest at least ninemillion women in the developing world suffer complications of pregnancy andchildbirth that can result in lifelong pain, disability and socio-economicexclusion.
It is critical that the political will to continue tackling chronic poverty andhunger in the developing world remains strong, reflecting the will of the Irishpublic as expressed by the recent MRBI poll showing that 80% of respondents thoughtthe Government should honour its promise to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP, or 70cents in every 100 euro, on overseas aid by 2015.
At a time of severe economic depression and hardship it is surely a matter ofpride and national self-respect that the Irish people have remained constant insupporting starving, hungry, sick and marginalised people in much poorer partsof the world. Countries such as the US, Germany and Italy have ''failed to meettheir commitment to the poor'' by not sticking to the financial promises theymade at the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles. Participants at the summit hadpledged US$50 billion in aid to developing countries by 2010, half of which wasdue to go to Africa, funding was currently about US$17 billion short of target.
The urgency with which governments bailed out the banks in the presentfinancial crisis stands in stark contrast to the way in which governments haveresponded to the lives of the poor. Tens of billions of euros were madeavailable overnight to bail out the banks and yet every day tens of thousandsof children lose their lives for no other reason than that they are born poor.
It is with interest that we learn that The Department of Foreign Affairs isdrafting a new Africa Strategy. As far as we understand this is a response tothe growing economic importance of Africa over the next decade, based onreported average growth rates of 5-6 per cent across Africa's 53 states overthe past ten years.
Our long experience working in Africa has convinced us that a continued focuson tackling chronic poverty and hunger, by means of well-planned and targeteddevelopment aid, will remain essential for poorer African states for years tocome. Ireland's strong track record in development aid has made inroads intothe chronic poverty and disadvantage experienced by the majority of Africanpeople.

Much more remains to be done. There are obvious moral reasons why Ireland should continueits proud record of development cooperation with African countries. There isalso enlightened self-interest, as it will generate the goodwill of governmentsand authorities in Africa towards Ireland.
At this time when poor people are being confronted with a combination of globaleconomic turmoil, food price hikes, and massive natural disasters and when forthe first time in history, one billion people on the planet are going hungryevery day. We urge The Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the 2015commitments Ireland has made to Africa's poor in the Millennium DevelopmentGoals are central to Ireland's New Africa Strategy.

Sr. Nora McNamara
For IMU-AEFJN Food and Water Working Group

The Irish Missionary Union is at the service and support to 2000 missionaries from84 different organizations working overseas. The IMU supports and facilitates agreat deal of mutual sharing and networking of resources and knowledge gainedthrough experience.

The Irish Antenna of AEFJN has members from 20 religious congregations and societies andlay persons from parishes, all of whom are deeply concerned about Africa andits people; we want to contribute actively to bring about more equitablerelations between Europe and Africa. The role of the Irish Antenna is to createawareness on problems of structural injustice found within Irish and Europeanpolicies and which affect populations in Africa. The antenna is a voice for thereform of policies, which have a negative impact on Africa.

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