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Concern Worldwide disappointed at aid budget cut

Concern says it is disappointed at the government's decision to cut Ireland's overseas aid budget by 45 million euro in 2008 as part of a wide-ranging package of cost-saving measures this year.

Chief executive Tom Arnold said: “If the Irish government rows back from its commitment of reaching the 0.7% of GNP aid target it would be the second time it would have reneged on a solemn promise given at the United Nations.”

Mr. Arnold noted the government’s statement remains committed to achieving the 0.7% goal by 2012 and the interim target of 0.6% by 2010, but he said it is “critical” that the Government sticks to that timetable.

“I understand the government’s need to make savings in the current budgetary climate but would hope that the aid budget is protected going forward,” said Mr Arnold.

“If it doesn’t it would have serious consequences for many of the world’s poorest people and would seriously damage Ireland’s reputation as a major player in the international aid and development arena,” he added.

Tom Arnold is a member of the Irish government’s Task Force on Hunger. It is due to publish a series of recommendations in September on how Ireland’s aid programme can make a real difference in tackling the issue.

According to Mr Arnold, the report will provide a “policy prescription” for the Irish government in key areas such as boosting agricultural production and nutrition in the developing world.

“We are faced with an unprecedented global food crisis, compounded by drought in countries like Ethiopia and Somalia and felt by millions in the developing world as a result of rising food prices. Ireland has an opportunity to take a leadership role on the hunger issue. But it will only have the moral basis to provide such leadership if it keeps its promises in relation to the aid target.”