"Policy coherence is vital; otherwise we will continue to give with one hand and take with the other" - Maureen O'Sullivan TD

author: 
comms
16 april 2019

This is the third in a series of blogs that will be published in the lead up to the Dóchas Conference 2019 – Finding Our Voice: How Civil Society is Countering Uncertainty – on 2 May 2019 in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin 8. Find out more.

We are asking leaders, innovators and thinkers working in the areas of equality, justice and development to respond to a set of questions around the theme of the conference - the key challenges facing international cooperation and how we can shape the Irish response to these challenges, find opportunities within them, and build public support along the way.

Today, we are delighted to feature Maureen O'Sullivan, Independent TD for Dublin Central. Find out more.

Read the other blogs in this series.

Maureen's Response: 

What do you see as the main challenge facing international cooperation between now and 2030?

Trying to identify the main challenge facing international cooperation between now and 2030 is a challenge in itself – as there are many challenges: climate change, conflict, land grabs, displacement, poverty, growing inequality, migration, arms industry, exploitation of natural resources, threats to human rights defenders, tax injustice.

We have report after report; we have the evidence-based studies, the statistics on the extent of these challenges.

We also have all the information we need to address these challenges in a meaningful way, in a way that will make a difference, that will ‘Leave No One Behind’ and create that ‘Better World’ which is at the core of Ireland’s new Policy for International Development.

It is all the more imperative because we are committed to achieving a very ambitious Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.

So, I identify the main challenge, in order to address those challenges, as policy coherence.

We have had too many examples of policy incoherence – where aid is given with one hand – the relatively easy bit – while the other hand is undermining, threatening the effectiveness of that aid through damaging climate change policies, through allowing multinational companies exploit resources and workers, through the arms trade, through not holding to account those guilty of human rights abuses and also through tax injustice.

What role can civil society, particularly in Ireland, play in overcoming this challenge and how will civil society need to change to achieve this?

I think the NGOs have been playing a crucial role in highlighting these issues. But there is a question that we all need to answer – what kind of society do we want, what kind of world do we want, and I believe it is vital that civil society leads that discussion.

I would like to see NGOs coming together on policy coherence, to drive that agenda, work with politicians and those in positions of authority, work with those in the media who are committed to justice – all of whom can forensically examine the effect of policies in the ‘so-called’ Developed World on the Developing World and hold them to account.

Certain NGOs are associated with particular issues, which has been effective, but I believe a common agenda on policy coherence is vital; otherwise we will continue to give with one hand and take with the other or allow others to take with their other hand!

Silence is the enemy – how much awareness is there of the fact that Africa sees some $30 billion in Overseas Aid yet $192 billion goes out in debt payments, profits made by multinationals, illegal logging... the list goes on.

How do we bring the Irish public along with us to believe in and champion the importance of international cooperation?

Ireland is uniquely positioned to lead here and I believe our history of being colonised, being dispossessed of land, deprived of education, language, culture, has influenced our policies and actions.

Consequently, even though we are a small island on the outer edges of Europe, we have a considerable international reputation when it comes to development aid because our aid is untied, poverty-focused and targeted.

The role of Ireland’s missionaries, perhaps the first example of the role of civil society, has to be acknowledged – they were the pioneers in international cooperation; so instrumental in creating that positive awareness of the needs of the Developing World, but more awareness is needed; on-going and not just when a disaster strikes.

Public awareness is crucial; I have been fortunate, honoured and humbled when visiting a number of African countries, seeing the reality, seeing the resilience and determination of people. We need to convey that reality.

I think the Irish public are aware of this importance. Poll after poll in Ireland tell us that the public are behind our Development Aid so there is that groundswell of support; further awareness raising will consolidate that and civil society can lead.

Development education plays a role here; as does the media.

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dóchas.

Dóchas Conference 2019 Website Promotional Image

The Dóchas Conference 2019 - Finding Our Voice: How Civil Society is Countering Uncertainty - will take place on 2 May 2019, 2pm - 5.30pm, in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin 8. Registration from 1.30pm - 2pm. The Conference will explore the key challenges facing international cooperation between now and 2030. It will provide a space for discussion and new ideas about how we can shape the Irish response to these challenges, find opportunities within them, and build public support along the way. Speakers include Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, and Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Chief Executive Officer, Plan International, and more.

Find out more and register.

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