Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore visits a traditional village in Uganda to see the impact of his country's aid, which focuses on increasing education access for the poor and disadvantaged. Irish Aid will go through a peer review by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Photo by: The Irish Labour Party / CC BY-ND

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2009 commended Irish Aid for its success in mainstreaming its development activities and described its focus on a limited number of least-developed countries as its strength.

Four years later, how will the agency perform on its upcoming peer review?

In its last evaluation, the OECD raised concerns on the number of skilled staff at the aid agency following Irish Aid’s relocation to Limerick from its original headquarters in Dublin, its often “fragmented” spending on private sector development — which the Development Assistance Committee believes would “strengthen the pro-poor growth dimension of Ireland’s aid program” — and challenged the Irish government to maintain its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of its gross national income on foreign aid by 2012 despite the economic downturn in Europe.

However, Irish ODA has in fact seen a decline for the past few years, and in 2014 the spending-to-GNI ratio has slumped to 0.43 percent from 0.45 percent last year, despite reiterations of Ireland’s commitment to the U.N. target.

The repeated calls by Irish NGO for the government to meet the goal and enshrine it into law have been in vain to date. In addition, a hiring freeze on civil service and salary limits in Ireland has introduced certain challenges on aid monitoring — an issue that came to light after the discovery of misused aid funds in Uganda.

It is unclear how much has the agency progressed in its approach toward private sector development, but the European Union — which receives a huge bulk of its multilateral allocations — has been hugely influential in shaping Ireland’s foreign policy. Now that the bloc is working toward strengthening its private sector development work, following the lead of several EU member states, it would not be a surprise if Ireland adopts a similar approach. In its new policy launched last year, Irish Aid already hinted it would be more interested in economic partnerships in Africa.

Back then, the OECD also suggested the agency improve its reporting on the impact of aid spending, as well as on results to maintain strong public support for the country’s aid program.

Irish Aid started to publish in the International Aid Transparency Initiative platform in July, and made transparency and accountability among its priorities under its new policy — but Publish What You Fund argues it should strive for a more ambitious implementation schedule to the IATI and aim to consistently publish activity-level information about its development programs.

In an interview with Devex last year, Irish aid minister Joe Costello noted the agency would surely score points for its decision to maintain its aid fully untied and to remain in a limited number of countries, which the OECD described in the last peer review as “one of its main strengths.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.