Should We be Worried About Irish Support for Overseas Assistance?

13 march 2020

Large number of Irish people support overseas aid, but numbers are declining

94% of Irish people believe it is important to support poorer countries through overseas assistance, while 83% believe that overseas aid is effective in improving lives in poorer countries.

This is according to the most recent annual survey on public attitudes towards overseas aid, on behalf of the International development sector in Ireland.

The results of the 2019 survey were published today by Milward Browne/ Kantar on behalf of Dóchas, the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations.

Over half of the people interviewed believed that overseas aid was essential to protect  human rights and ensure States met their legal obligations.  It was also seen as a positive activity for Ireland to be involved in.

Furthermore, the survey found that 73% of people interviewed had taken some action in 2019 to support overseas assistance. By far the most common action taken was the donation of money to an overseas charity (57%).

While the overall figure is high at 83% in terms of support for international development amongst Irish people, the survey does highlight the fact that the belief in the effectiveness of overseas aid has dropped by 4% since 2017.

On the ground many Dóchas members are feeling this drop directly in terms of lower public fund raising. Speaking about the results, CEO of Dóchas, Suzanne Keatinge pointed out that while traditionally Ireland has always punched above its weight internationally in relation to donations, there is a visible decrease in the numbers of people, as well as the actual donation amounts.

She said “I think we have to firstly recognise the amazing amount Irish people do contribute to overseas aid through individual funding and volunteering and through the Government’s overseas development assistance. However, we cannot ignore the fact that less people are doing so. There are challenges facing the sector both because of real domestic issues which need to be addressed such as homelessness. There are also trust issues in terms of some international development organisations.”

“We as a sector and as a society need to deal with these challenges head on so that those who are most in need in this country and in others get the assistance that they need. It should not be seen as an either-or situation.”

The Milward Browne/ Kantar Survey of Public Attitudes towards Overseas Aid is now in its third year. It is jointly funded by a range of partners including Christian Aid, Oxfam, Action Aid, Self Help Africa, Plan International, Concern, Trócaire, Vita and Dóchas.