Policy and Advocacy

ODA budget should be increased to 0.7 percent by 2025

Based on commitments made by the current Government, 0.7 percent of national income will be spent on Ireland’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) by the end of the decade. However, we are calling on the new government to speed up the process and achieve that commitment by 2025. Realising this pledge is critical to upholding Ireland’s reputation in the global donor community and delivering on the ambition of its ODA plan A Better World.

The ODA programme was allocated €837 million in Budget 2020, an increase of approximately €21 million on the amount pledged in the previous year’s budget. The funding pledged in Budget 2020 represented circa 0.41 percent of national income (Gross National Income, or GNI, is an improved measure of domestic economic activity), leaving Ireland a long way from its 0.7 percent target.

In 2018, a review of Irish Aid by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade demonstrated cross-party support for restoring Ireland’s ODA budget and called for a multiannual plan to increase the aid budget on an incremental, phased basis.

Any increase in ODA should be complemented by a roadmap and timelines which set out the year-on-year increases to reach the 0.7 percent target. The new government should also commit to replicating the progress of other EU Member States to protect the aid budget by legislating for 0.7 percent and take steps to ensure that Irish Aid is appropriately resourced to oversee and manage these funds effectively.

Alongside quantity, the quality of aid is key, and Ireland has been recognised internationally as a donor that provides effective aid. The policy of providing untied aid and compliance with the Busan aid principles must be maintained and Ireland’s aid must continue to be used for its intended purpose to alleviate poverty and reduce vulnerability. Ireland must also advocate for the protection and integrity of aid in multilateral instruments – particularly in ongoing negotiations on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework – and defend principled EU development cooperation that maintains integrity, accountability and a development focus.

 

We are asking the next government to:

  • Increase our development aid budget to 0.7 percent of national income by 2025, while maintaining the integrity of ODA.
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Ireland must do more to protect refugees, keep families together

At an EU level, Ireland has been complicit in a failed system of migration management which prioritises border security over the needs of vulnerable people. While the numbers crossing the Mediterranean have dropped significantly since the peak in 2015, the situation for many refugees and migrants arriving in Europe has worsened. Reception centres in Greece and Italy are over capacity – asylum seekers are often pushed out of the official system into poor and unsafe conditions. We have seen first-hand the devastation caused by Europe’s flawed migration policies and want to present positive, alternative solutions. 

Cooperation with countries such as Turkey and Libya on migration issues must be based on respect for human rights and international law. Any dialogue must promote inclusive, accountable and transparent processes and work for the benefit of displaced people, migrants and communities in host and destination countries. This means identifying opportunities to support regional migration initiatives which foster cross-border trade and access to markets and not agreeing to migration policies with states with questionable human rights regimes.

 To address these issues, the next government must:

  • Support shared responsibility for hosting refugees equally throughout the EU under a proposed new Dublin system.
  • Support the implementation of an EU asylum system that is safe, fair and effective and that provides access to basic services to all asylum seekers. This includes healthy food, water, medical assistance, and legal information and assistance.
  • Support EU and NGO search-and-rescue operations with the sole objective of saving lives. People saved in international waters should not be returned to Libya as migrants and refugees arriving there have been, according to a 2018 report by the UN, subjected to ‘unimaginable horrors’. 
  • Only support partner countries’ security systems when it contributes to achieving peace and stability, inclusive and sustainable development, state-building and democracy, rule of law and protection of human rights.
  • Address the specific needs of refugee and migrant women and girls within aid programmes and promote their role as leaders for positive and inclusive change.

The right to family life and the protection of the family are enshrined in international human rights law and are shared cross-cultural values. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prescribe that the family is a fundamental unit in society and one which is entitled to protection by society and the State. The Irish Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, mentions the value of the family as ‘the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law’. Despite these clear and accepted international standards, Ireland has failed to take adequate steps to protect the right to family life for refugees.

Forced migration separates many families, wrenching children from their parents and grandparents, separating siblings, forcing partners to live apart, and destroying extended family networks. In 2018, Oxfam Ireland produced a report A Family Belongs Together which detailed the human consequences of the Irish Government’s policy on refugee family reunification, namely the impact on refugee families and on their ability to integrate into Irish society. 

The report shows that family separation has a destabilising effect on refugees living in Ireland and contributes to deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, including anxiety and depression. When families are reunited, the presence of relatives can accelerate integration for both new arrivals and family members already in Ireland. A family provides nurturing and coping strategies, helps to anchor a loved one in a new place, and contributes to building cohesion. It can also help improve the ability to engage with social institutions outside the family unit. The Irish Government’s current policy on refugee family reunification is too restrictive and only allows a very narrow group of family members to apply to be reunited – essentially spouses, children under the age of 18, and parents of children under 18.

Oxfam is calling on the next government to right this wrong. To do so, it must:

· Amend the International Protection Act (2015) to expand the definition of family to include young adults who are dependent on the family unit prior to flight; parents; siblings; in-laws, and any other dependent relative. At the very least, the Minister’s discretionary power to reunite dependents should be reinstated as per the 1996 Refugee Act.

 · Introduce legal aid for people seeking refugee family reunion through increased funding to the Legal Aid Board by the Department of Justice.

 · Waive the income requirements for those who have received international protection who apply for family reunification through non-EEA general administration mechanisms.

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Know their score: Where the parties stand on GE2020 issues

At the start of the election campaign, we released our manifesto highlighting the most pressing global issues we want the next government to address – issues such as the climate crisis, sustainability, tax justice, gender equality and migration.

We have since reviewed all the main parties’ manifestos against the seven asks in ours and have created a scorecard highlighting their position on these issues.

In general, the Green Party and the Social Democrats scored the highest, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael scored the lowest, with the other parties falling somewhere in between.

irish election scorecard

1.      Increase Ireland’s development aid budget to 0.7% of national income by 2025 

Most parties (except People Before Profit) make a clear reference and commitment to increasing Ireland’s aid budget, but only the Green Party commits to reaching the target of providing 0.7% of national income to the aid budget by 2025. Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil and the Social Democrats do not set a specific date for when the target will be reached, while Fine Gael have set 2030 as their deadline.

 

2.      Deliver annual reductions in emissions of at least 8% a year, and support poorer countries to cope with the climate emergency 

Most parties commit to some level of emissions reduction, with the Green Party, People Before Profit and the Labour Party having by far the most ambitious targets. However, it is disappointing that none of the parties have committed to supporting poorer countries to cope with the climate crisis. The effects of climate change are hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and people in poorer countries are suffering with more frequent droughts and other climate-related disasters.

 

3.      Support sustainability by incentivising circular economy practices in the textile industry and ensuring more transparency and producer responsibility in the textile chain.

The corporate world has a huge impact on sustainability. Every decision can affect the most vulnerable people and ecosystems and can threaten livelihoods and exacerbate poverty.

The textile sector, especially in terms of fast fashion, has huge potential in terms of circular practices. We need strong regulations to ensure that tonnes of clothing don’t end up in the landfill every year and to secure living wages and good working conditions for workers.

The Green Party is the only party that refers to the circular economy in its manifesto committing ‘to gradually move Ireland from a linear economy to a circular one. This will be done by developing a stronger recovery industry, reducing imported goods, and developing an associated manufacturing industry.’ Unfortunately, none of the other parties mention how the circular economy could be developed in the textile sector in their manifestos.

 

4.      Invest in our care system to help address gender inequality

When we think of gender inequality, our minds tend to leap to wage packets and glass ceilings. But for women and girls, the gender gap may be better illustrated by the countless hours they spend caring for others, as well as cooking and cleaning. Women and girls carry out more than three-quarters of unpaid work in the world and make up two-thirds of the paid care workforce.

So, considering how care work and gender equality are so interlinked, it is good news that all parties acknowledged the important role care has in our society and pledge to support care work. The strongest commitments to invest in our care system were made by the Green Party, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats.

 

5.      Support a fundamental reform of the global corporate tax system  

All parties agree that the current system is flawed, that corporate tax avoidance is a problem and that engagement is needed with the OECD BEPS corporate tax reform process. However, no party commits to supporting a fundamental reform of the corporate tax system, as set out by Oxfam Ireland. Some parties go further than others, with the Labour Party, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit committing to a minimum effective tax of 12.5 percent and Sinn Féin supporting greater transparency and ending the Intellectual Property loophole and the Apple Case appeal to the European Court of Justice. Meanwhile, People Before Profit and the Green Party support the ‘Robin Hood’ tax on financial transactions.

 

6.      Develop a rights-based approach to offering refuge to those fleeing persecution and climate breakdown, including an amended Family Reunification Act

Most parties (except Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) commit to ending the Direct Provision system. However, there is no solid commitment from any of the parties with regards to reforming the EU asylum system or supporting EU search-and-rescue missions. Millions of people are being forced to leave their homes due to conflict, persecution and disaster. So, it is important to ensure we have a migration system based on human rights, and international law that promotes inclusivity, transparency and accountability.

 

7.      Pass mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation in Ireland and support the call for such legislation to be passed at the EU level.

Although some businesses and financial institutions are already taking steps to meet their responsibility to respect human rights and the environment in their global operations, too many others are linked to serious abuses. Sinn Féin, the Green Party, Labour and Fianna Fáil commit to adhering to human rights and environmental standards in future trade agreements and procurement policies, especially in relation to Palestine. However, the Social Democrats is the only party to make a clear commitment to implement mandatory human rights due diligence, including reporting on human rights practices outside of Ireland.

 

Note: Our analysis is based on 2020 party manifestos.

Investing in our care system will help tackle gender inequality

When we think of gender inequality, our minds tend to leap to wage packets and glass ceilings. But for women and girls, the gender gap may be better illustrated by the countless hours they spend caring for others, as well as cooking and cleaning. All these invisible tasks traditionally belong to them but are neither counted nor valued.

Care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our global economies, businesses and societies turning. It is driven by women and girls who have little or no time to earn a decent living or go to school, get involved in their communities or have a say in how their societies are run. Instead, they remain trapped at the bottom of the economy.

Women and girls undertake more than three-quarters of unpaid care work in the world and make up two-thirds of the paid care workforce.

They carry out 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day. When valued at the minimum wage, this would represent a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.

Like the global situation, care work (paid and unpaid) in Ireland is highly gendered and undervalued in terms of pay and recognition. Provision of care services (e.g. childcare, care for older people) by the State is relatively low, leaving households to provide these services themselves or to source them from the market, if they can afford it.

The levels of support for combining paid and unpaid work are still well behind the EU average, while State supports for those who wish to receive care in their own home are limited. This issue is also poorly integrated into social and economic policy deliberations. Ireland provides the least support to care work among the European Union – this sits uneasily with Ireland’s reputation as being a good place to raise a family. Meanwhile, any cutbacks or delays in investment impact women disproportionately.

Women in Ireland put in 38 million hours of unpaid care work every week, adding at least €24 billion of value to the Irish economy every year. This is equivalent to 12.3 percent of the Irish economy.

 

Oxfam Ireland is asking the next government to:

  • Implement the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality related to care work. This will require significant extra investments in public services and social infrastructure. For example, increase investment in early years education to bring overall expenditure in line with the UNICEF recommendation of 1 percent of GDP.
  • Ensure care workers employed or funded by State programmes are properly compensated to at least a living wage level.
  • Hold a referendum on Article 41.2 of the Constitution to amend the language so it is gender neutral and recognises the value of care work in Irish society.
  • Deliver integrated changes in social and employment policies that support carers, facilitate the combination of care and employment, while at the same time encourage greater male participation in care.  For example, agree to more paid shared parental leave and more non-transferable paid parental leave for men. Reform the pension system to ensure that women do not lose pension rights as a result of stepping out of the workforce due to care responsibilities.
  • Require all government departments to produce an equality budgeting impact statement on a statutory basis, to provide proper scrutiny of the impact of economic and taxation policies, as well as spending priorities, on women and girls. This process should involve women’s organisations and civil society.
  • Ensure that the CSO collect better data on the levels and distribution of unpaid care work on an ongoing basis and incorporate the contribution of unpaid care work into overall macro-economic statistics. That would enable this currently hidden sector of the economy to be considered as part of future economic development planning.
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Support sustainability by developing the circular economy

The corporate world has a huge impact on sustainability. Every decision can affect the most vulnerable people and ecosystems, threatening livelihoods and exacerbating poverty. For example, the fashion industry has shaped our attitude to clothes. A combination of overconsumption and a lack of regulation means we are buying vast amounts of low-quality textiles. Not only are these garments unfit for long-term use, they cannot be recycled, resulting in a worldwide waste problem that is hugely detrimental to the environment. Meanwhile, the wages and working conditions of mostly female textile workers in countries like Bangladesh often fall well below basic human rights standards.

Textiles have been identified as one of the waste streams with the highest untapped potential to implement circular practices. Throwaway fashion is unsustainable and is stretching the planet’s resources beyond its limits. Every year, Irish people dump 225,000 tonnes of clothing – a huge waste of water and energy considering that it would take 13 years to drink the amount of water needed to make one t-shirt and one pair of jeans.

The circular economy concept brings a holistic perspective to the lifespan of a product from design, material choice, sustainable production processes, product use, reuse and recycling. Circularity benefits the environment and can go some way in helping to address climate change. It also has the potential to generate innovative and sustainable economic opportunities.

The aim is to move past the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model using three key principles:

  1. Designing waste and pollution out of the lifecycle of a product
  2. Keeping products and material in use
  3. Reviving natural systems

Oxfam Ireland works with a wide range of companies committed to sustainability – these business partnerships directly improve the lives of millions of people worldwide by making it easier to keep excess stock out of landfills. However, a lot more needs to be done to develop the potential of the circular economy.

To that end, Oxfam Ireland is calling on the next government to: 

  • Create a textiles action plan for the textiles industry that contains measures on waste prevention that adopts key legislative frameworks such as the EU waste hierarchy. The plan should also ensure that retailers are signatories to the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
  • Offer support solutions to incentivise circular practices, especially involving social enterprises, including reducing VAT for services that prolong a product’s life such as repair, resale or specialised washing; work to make secondary raw materials more financially viable in comparison to virgin raw materials to incentivise their use, and dedicate research and funding to secondary raw material so as to optimise its quality and longevity.
  • Design and implement policy guidelines to encourage innovation. A lifecycle assessment can assist with policy design as it can be used to determine the relevant measures to reduce environmental impact.
  • Insist on transparency in the textile chain so that consumers are aware of where and under what conditions their clothes are made. This includes making consumers aware of where donated clothing products end up.
  • Implement the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework. Stemming from the European Waste Framework directive, this framework can be used to implement the regulatory requirement to separately collect textiles by 2025.
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