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Ireland No 2 in humanitarian index despite aid cuts

The 2010 Humanitarian Response Index calls on governments to keep their humanitarian aid independent of political, security or economic objectives.Ireland has come second in the 2010 Humanitarian Response Index despite cuts to its overseas spending. The index, published this month by DARA, provides an overview of donor performance to "assist governments in ensuring their humanitarian funding has the greatest posible impact for people in need".

The 2010 report warns of growing politicisation and militarisation of humanitarian aid. It calls on governments to keep their humanitarian aid independent of political, security and economic objectives.

Denmark, Ireland and New Zealand top the index, followed by Norway, Sweden and the European Commission. "These donors do well in prioritizing the needs of people in crisis areas and keeping aid independent of other objectives", according to DARA.

The UK came 8 in the list of 23 donors. The US came 19th, its worst performance since the index was launched.

Ireland scores well despite aid cuts

Ireland scored well for funding and participation in accountability initiatives, and got full marks for timely funding to complex emergencies. However, it performed less well in its funding of reconstruction and prevention.

Ireland's development assistance programme, Irish Aid, has been on the receiving end of some of the sharpest government cuts since the Irish financial crisis began. Dóchas, the national platform of Ireland’s Development NGOs says that Ireland's aid budget has been cut by some 30% since 2008.

According to the latest Irish Aid annual report, Ireland expects to exceed the EU target for ODA/GNI of 0.51% in 2010. The OECD estimates Irish ODA will be about 0.52% of GNI this year.

However, Ireland has cut its 2011 ODA estimate by €35m in last December's budget, and has proposed further cuts of about €125m in the subsequent three years. It is not clear to what extent these cuts are absolute or relate to prior targets.

Whether the 4-year plan is implemented or not will be in the hands of the incoming government: a general election is expected in early 2011. While in opposition, the Irish Labour Party proposed legislation that mandated increasing levels of ODA as a precentage of GNI until Ireland's 0.7% target was met.

In October, Ireland's overseas aid programme was rated among the best in the world in a report published by the Centre for Global Development and Brookings Institution in Washington DC. Ireland was the only country out of 23 major donor nations to score in the top 10 on all four measures of aid quality, the study found.

In the Commitment to Development Index 2010, also published by the Washington-based Centre for Global Development, Ireland was ranked sixth. (The United States ranked 11 and the UK 16. All but three of the 23 countries witnessed an improvement over their 2003 score.)

OECD development assistance rising again

Total ODA from OECD countries peaked in 2005 due to exceptional debt relief operations for Iraq and Nigeria. However, OECD ODA has been increasing in the last few years.

OECD ODA as a percentage of GNI is a long way short of the peak in 1961 and is still below average levels in the 1980s. Aid levels were proportionately higher during the Cold War, often for strategic foreign policy purposes.

In recent years, there has been greater emphasis on governance, anticorruption, and on aid accountability, transparency and effectiveness. According to Daniel Kaufmann of the Brookings institution: "This is in contrast to two decades ago, when official donors would not hesitate to provide major funding to governments like that of Mobutu in Zaire and Marcos in the Philippines. Such extreme misgovernance in official aid by traditional donors is rare today."

However, many humanitarian organizations believe donor governments are still not keeping humanitarian assistance independent of political, economic or military objectives, according to DARA.

DARA contact: Fiona Guy +34 678 826 197/ +34 91 531 03 72; fguy [AT] daraint.org
Dóchas contact: Hans Zomer, Director +353 85 728 3258 / +353 1 405 3801
Irish Aid contact: Fionnuala Quinlan, Press Officer 01-4082653; fionnuala.quinlan [AT] dfa.ie

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