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A fitting legacy of Ireland’s EU Presidency

New Concern CEO Dominic MacSorley. Photo: Concern Worldwide.With developing countries’ growth rates higher than those of the Eurozone and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals accelerating, there is one challenge which is crippling the economic and social potential of almost a billion people: hunger. It kills 2.3 million children each year and results in 165 million becoming stunted, meaning that their bodies and brains are permanently damaged, with negative impacts on earning potential of as much as 20%.

Last month, President Higgins spoke plainly and passionately about this scandal. At a conference co-hosted by the Irish Government, the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice and others, he described the global food crisis as “the grossest of human rights violations, and the greatest ethical challenge facing the global community”. Those are strong words, important words, necessary words and as long as millions go hungry, they need repeating.

A sense of justice and a spirit of solidarity are deeply rooted in the Irish public. They are rooted too in all those who have supported Concern for over 40 years. They have driven us to respond effectively to emergencies; to work in the most difficult contexts with the most vulnerable people; to develop innovative, scalable solutions and to seek to influence policy and practice at national, European and international levels.

As the largest donor in the world, the EU has a particular role and responsibility. Over these past six months, Ireland – as President of the EU – has taken on the mantle and steered the EU towards a range of decisions endorsed by the meeting of Foreign and Development Ministers earlier this week. The European Commission had already committed to reduce by seven million the number of children who suffer from stunting by 2025 and the ‘council conclusions’ agreed on Tuesday – in the areas of Food & Nutrition Security and Resilience - hold promise of greater EU action in the fight against hunger. These decisions have been negotiated under Ireland’s watch and play to our strengths as a leader in the fight against hunger and as a donor which is recognised by the OECD as honourable, responsible and principled.

That being said, other announcements on Tuesday relating to EU investment in development aid are extremely concerning. The gap is widening between Europe’s stated commitment to reaching the international 0.7% aid target and the figures being reported - with a gap of more than EUR46 billion between current investment and the 2015 target.

If Europe’s ambitions in the fight against hunger and poverty are to be realised the resources must be made available. Ensuring clear financial, as well as political commitment to eradicating world hunger would be a fitting legacy to leave behind as our Presidency comes to an end. This legacy could be all the stronger in light of two significant events taking place in the coming weeks.

On 8th June, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will host the “Nutrition for Growth” conference ahead of the G8 in Fermanagh. This is an important opportunity for Europe to match its policy and political commitments with the necessary financial investments in nutrition.

The second event, just two days later on 10th June, will see Concern co-host a major conference in Washington where Ireland, the US and partners from across the developing world will renew their commitment to the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) movement. This initiative – which the Irish and US Governments have championed together since 2010 – has grown into a remarkable global movement, mobilising hundreds of stakeholders at national and international levels to work together.

The SUN movement represents an opportunity for lasting and real progress in relation to stunting. 35 countries have now committed to increase their efforts to scale up nutrition, of which 30 have put in place mechanisms to ensure country plans are actioned. We need to build on the results we have seen so far, with 13 countries already reducing stunting at an annual rate of 2% and above. The EU has played a key role and contribution to these efforts and must continue to do so.

As Ireland continues to lead internationally on ending the scourge of global hunger, what could be more fitting – almost 165 years after the Irish famine – than a legacy marked by measurable progress on a global agenda to tackle undernutrition and to, ultimately, secure a healthy, prosperous future for millions of women, children and families? This requires EU member states to live up to their commitments to invest 0.7% of national income in overseas development aid. In the words of An Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore “Even at a time of economic difficulty, we do have available to us the resources and the tools to put an end to hunger and empower poor communities. But to do so we have to mobilise our political will and moral courage.” The eyes of the world are upon us.

Dominic MacSorley has chosen to publish his first article as CEO of Concern Worldwide on

A 30-year veteran of international aid and development work, Dominic MacSorley was appointed as CEO of Concern Worldwide in February 2013, succeeding Tom Arnold.

Having started his career with Concern in 1982 he previously held the position of Director of Operations in Concern Worldwide USA for ten years where he represented Concern at key United Nations and United States government meetings on foreign aid. During this time he was part of Concern’s Rapid Deployment Unit, a team of highly experienced and specialist staff available at short notice to respond to emergency situations.

He has spearheaded humanitarian emergencies responses with Concern over the past 30 years in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Darfur, Democratic Republic of the Congo and most recently, Haiti. He has also represented Concern and Interaction, the representative body for US non-governmental organisations (NGOs), at the United Nations (UN).

In 2009, because of his commitment to humanitarian work, MacSorley was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Princess Anne in recognition of his “services to international humanitarian aid.”

In 2012, he was appointed as the Chair of the Interagency Standing Committee Humanitarian Forum and was honoured at a ceremony in Stormont, where he received an award for “Outstanding Vocational Commitment to International Development” for his thirty-year contribution to international humanitarianism from the Northern Ireland All-Party Group on International Development.

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Lar Boland: Solar Grandmothers

Solar GrandmothersPuppetry knows no language barrierFrom student to master
Solar GrandmothersTogoaliseAkouavi
HotitodeMialo TassiHailed by the chief
Student to master 2Going solarMialo Tassi
AkouaviInstalling panels for a clinicSolar power for the clinic
Life in Agome SevahThe river MonoTrade across the Mono
FishingPetrolLife in Agome Sevah

Solar Grandmothers

Supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, Photojournalist Lar Boland documented the solar technology training of 4 Grandmothers (pictured with mentor) at Rajasthan's Barefoot College and their return to Togo.

Puppetry knows no language bar

Puppetry is used for training at the Barefoot College as many of the women being trained are illiterate. Photo: Lar Boland.

From student to master

An Indian instructor who herself trained at the Barefoot College demonstrates the working of electronic panels to the Togolese solar grandmothers. Photo: Lar Boland.

Solar Grandmothers

A trainee working on the installation of a mobile solar lamp. Photo: Lar Boland.


  Togoalise is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.


Akouavi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.


Hotitode is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

Hailed by the chief

On their return to Agome Sevah, the Solar Grandmothers are greeted by the Chief of the village. Photo: Lar Boland.

Student to master 2

Having returned to Agome Sevah after a six month training period at the Barefoot College, the Solar Grandmothers set about training others at their workshop. Photo: Lar Boland.

Going solar

A group of Solar Grandmothers and helpers on their way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agame Sevah, Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi, a Solar Grandmother, on her way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.


Akouavi, a Solar Grandmother from Agome Sevah erecting solar panels at a small village home. Photo: Lar Boland.

Installing panels for a clinic

Solar Grandmothers outside a newly built clinic which they are about to solar electrify. Photo: Lar Boland.

Solar power for the clinic

Solar Grandmothers install solar panels on the roof of the newly built clinic in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

Life in Agome Sevah

A family from the rural village of Agome Sevah have their daily wash in the Mono river which seperates Togo from Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

The river Mono

The much used Mono river which divides Togo and Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

Trade across the Mono

The river Mono between Togo and Benin is regularily crossed by traders. Photo: Lar Boland.


Children fishing in the Mono River. Photo: Lar Boland.


Petrol bought at a reduced price in Benin, and smuggled across the Mono river, is later sold on the streets of Togo, such as the capital Lome. Photo: Lar Boland.

Life in Agome Sevah

Everyday life in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.


A Togo war veteran with his grandaughter. Photo: Lar Boland.


A man builds a small dwelling in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.


Children can now study in the evening with the help of solar power. In Togo, near the equator, it gets dark at around 5:30. Photo: Lar Boland.

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