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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 worldandmedia.com

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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