"A Better World" - One Year on

17 february 2020

Dóchas members gathered in the historic House of Lords Room of Bank of Ireland on College Green on Friday 24 January 2020 to hear an update on “A Better World”, Ireland’s Policy for International Development.

The policy was launched on 28 February 2019, so it was an apt time to check in and see what progress had been made over the last year. “A Better World” has aligned closely with the ambition of the SDGs to reach the furthest behind first, and sets out four key policy areas:  gender equality, climate action, reducing humanitarian need and strengthened governance.

But how is it being implemented? 

Nicola Brennan, Head of Policy at Irish Aid, gave a wide-ranging presentation that focused on progress made in the last year particularly in relation to strategy development, policy influence, ensuring a whole of government initiative, and the new programme funding commitments.  She pointed out at the outset that “A Better World” was a policy which would run until 2030 and that is how the Department was implementing it.

Ten years to go and counting….

Starting with the topic of gender, Ms. Brennan stated that Ireland’s third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security was launched on 21 June 2019 by the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney TD.  There is now a renewed focus on gender-based violence both in Ireland and overseas as well as improving access to education for girls. On the latter, the Government has committed to spending at least €250 million over the next five years.

In the area of health, Ms. Brennan outlined how the Government is supporting the global ambitions towards ending the epidemic of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Ireland was one of the first donors to pledge a 50% funding increase in this area bringing it to over €50 million over the 2020 to 2022 period.

A new initiative is also being developed on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Minister Katherine Zappone’s attendance at the Nairobi summit on ICPD25 offered a strong statement of intent to do more in this area, and progress has been made in analyzing what is already being done and developing recommendations and guidelines to intensify the work.

Climate Action – “front and center”

In relation to Climate action, Ms. Brennan emphasized that this is front and centre within the Department and within Government. The Government is set to scale up funding on climate action and explore innovative approaches to climate finance, risk insurance and climate adaptation. Irish Aid has almost tripled its climate action work, so much so that the Government has already achieved its Programme for Government’s commitment of spending €175 million in climate finance in 2019 - a year ahead of schedule.

A key strand within this policy priority, and one that is relatively new, is Ireland’s support for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), especially those most vulnerable to climate impact. The SIDS Strategy was launched in June 2019 and a range of investments and supports are either already in place or being established. For example, a €12 million Irish Trust Fund has been established at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for disaster and climate support to SIDS members. DFA also funded the Regional African Final of the Climate Launchpad initiative which included participation by 30 start-ups focused on business ideas related to the circular economy, sustainable production systems, urban transitions and zero hunger- all through a climate lens.

Prioritising Gender-based violence in Crises

Reducing humanitarian need also remains a critical priority, she said.  Irish Aid is currently chair of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Donor Support Group, and has made prevention of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) one of the two key priorities.  They have also entered into a three-year Strategic Partnership with the International Rescue Committee worth €4.5 million to address GBV emergencies.

Other notable areas of progress on the policy include:  the new Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM) initiative (Oct ’19); the new Africa Strategy (November ’19); the Oceans Initiative, and their policy on safeguarding which is almost complete. Irish Aid also hosted the OECD DAC’s Task Team on development effectiveness which focused on the issue of shrinking civil society space.

Much done, still more to do….

Ms. Brennan concluded her presentation by sharing some of Irish Aid’s priorities for 2020 including:


  • Strengthening internal institutional systems to promote co-ordination and coherence, including the set up of an Inter-Departmental Group which will guide and monitor the implementation of the policy. 
  • Providing further strategic and operational guidance to advance implementation, noting that the governance and gender priorities need most attention in terms of dialogue with the sector
  • Strengthening Ireland’s development co-operation influence at EU and UN levels – particularly in light of Brexit and the Security Council campaign [voting takes place on 17 June]
  • Delivering on country strategies, the civil society policy, and more on private sector engagement – an issue that the DAC review has highlighted as needing more progress 
  • Communication and public engagement – this needs a lot more conversation and engagement as it is clearly an issue of growing concern to us all.  Dóchas work will be critical in this area.

When asked where she felt most progress had been made, she said she was pleased with the step forward on climate action – both at home, as part of the new SIDS strategy, and the innovation component.  In terms of least progress, it was in relation to governance and institutional change, which was taking a lot of time in terms of getting the new systems in place and strengthening their capacity in this area.  She also suggested that migration was going to be an issue of growing concern, particularly at EU level – and one where Ireland often finds itself in a different position to others.

She urged Dóchas members to continue to engage with her team and the Civil society unit in Irish Aid in shaping and delivering on this policy, and acknowledged Dóchas’ role in keeping up the pressure to meet Official Development Assistance (ODA) targets.  Resourcing the new policy will remain vital to its success.  


If you wish to have a copy of the Nicola Brennan’s presentation from our event, please contact niamh(at)dochas.ie