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Shock at government's 17% overseas aid cuts

Ireland's third overseas aid cut in nearly six months throws spotlight on government's international promise to world's poorest and most vulnerable people.

 Update: Irish Aid agencies seek emergency meeting with ministers on unfair and disproportionate aid cuts (pdf file) 

Concern Worldwide has today reacted with shock to the Taoiseach’s announcement that Ireland’s official aid budget is to be cut by €95 million.

This is the third cut in overseas aid in just over six months, following a €45 million cut last July and €15 million in October. This represents total cuts in overseas aid of 17%.

Tough choices to make

“We realise that the government finds itself in extremely difficult circumstances with tough choices to make,” said Concern Worldwide CEO, Tom Arnold, “but it is shocking that the option taken has hit at the poorest and most vulnerable. We believe that everyone must share the burden in these challenging economic times but, even before this aid cut, the poorest of the world’s poor were already taking the brunt of the impact of the global recession. Today’s announcement will inevitably make their situation even more perilous.

Who will cuts affect?

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 Public and private sector cuts

“Across the public and private sectors, average cuts of 10% have been the subject of much discussion and dispute. Today’s aid cut - combined with the previous two – means a 17.2% cut, hitting directly the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We are dismayed that it is these people who will be hardest hit.”

Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s announcement represents a major u-turn from the government. Only a few weeks ago, the Taoiseach’s New Year message reaffirmed Ireland’s international commitment to spending 0.7% of GNP on overseas aid by 2012.

Make poverty history, again? 

This latest cut puts the government off its own target, calling to mind mass movements like the MakePovertyHistory campaign. This attracted over 20,000 Irish people on to the streets of Dublin in a show of solidarity with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Today’s cuts also follow the recent appointment of Ireland’s first Special Envoy for Hunger. 

Remaining committed 

“Ireland can’t stand on the world stage saying one thing and get the plaudits for it and then take it away when no-one is looking…it is also important to Ireland’s reputation in the international community that we stick to our pledge,” added Tom.

Last year alone, an additional 40 million people in developing countries joined the ranks of the hungry and malnourished. 963 million people are now suffering from hunger on a daily basis.

This is expected to reach one billion people by the end of 2009.