The World We Want – Seizing Opportunities

By Cliona Doyle

Coordinator of the Dóchas EU Presidency Project.

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty provides a much needed opportunity for reflection amongst the global community involved in the fight against poverty. We must not let such opportunities pass, without assessing the success of the relevant battles thus far and addressing what needs to be done to win the war.

This time next year, the UN will have just held its summit to review the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to plan for the post MDG framework from 2015 onwards. This represents a significant opportunity for the global development community to shape the future of their work in improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.

In this context, a significant opportunity is also set to arise for Ireland to help shape this future. In January 2013, Ireland takes over the Presidency of the European Union. Dóchas, the Platform for Development NGOs in Ireland, is determined not to let this opportunity pass at such a crucial moment in global campaign to eradicate poverty.

This is the opportunity to think about the world we want. A world without poverty. A world where principles such as fairness, justice and equality are highly valued but also acted upon.

The Missed Opportunity of Rio+20

Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development which took place in June of this year, was another opportunity – in this case, a missed one.

The theme of the Rio Summit was “The Future We Want”. Unfortunately however, Rio+20 was widely regarded as a disappointment in terms of both visualising that future and planning for it. There was a failure on the part of the world’s leaders to deliver for the planet, for the world’s poorest people or for future generations.

The Outcome Document produced at the Summit was long on lofty, idealistic language and short on any real vision or goals. Crucially for example, there was no reference to the fact that current levels of consumption both exceed the planet’s physical capacity and leave millions of people below a threshold of minimum human dignity.

Hans Zomer, who as Director of Dóchas represented 49 Irish NGOs at the Rio Summit, said that while the text to come out of Rio was disappointing, it “should be a call to arms for civil society to ensure that the good points from the document are implemented”.

Two such good points included the reaffirmation of a commitment to making every effort to accelerate the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and explicit inclusion of the need for a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the potential for these SDGs to provide a basis for a new, internationally agreed Development framework, to succeed the MDGs.

A New Opportunity – the Review of the MDGs

The September 2013 Summit to review the MDGs is now an important target for many development NGOs and NGO platforms, such as Dóchas, globally.

This is what makes the timing of the Irish Presidency of the European Union, which lasts from January to June 2013, so crucial.

Dóchas is determined not to let this moment pass. Our website dedicated to the Irish Presidency of the EUsets out the three opportunities, as we see them, to create a better Ireland and a better world.

  1. Ireland is in crisis. In many ways, we need to reinvent our country, and ourselves. We need a new vision for our future.
  2. The Irish Presidency of the EU puts us in the driving seat, just as the EU needs to set new priorities for itself for the next 7 years and for its role in the world.
  3. The United Nations need to agree a new set of ‘sustainable development goals’ in September 2013. This means we have a chance to create a vision that puts first the needs of poor people and the planet.

Both Ireland and the EU are overcoming periods of severe economic difficulty. Despite this the European Union remains the world’s biggest aid donor. In Ireland, attitudes to overseas development aid remain strong despite the current economic difficulties. A public opinion poll commissioned by Dóchas in May of this year showed that 85% of Irish people rated overseas aid as “important” or “very important”.

A new and unified European approach was needed to tackle the economic crisis. There is no reason why we cannot bring such an approach to our reassessment of what Development Cooperation means. If the current global economic and ecological crises provide the driver, then the Review of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provide the opportunity – for change.

The Irish Presidency of the EU- Understanding the Opportunity

The Irish Government already seems to understand this opportunity for the fight against global poverty in the same way that we in Dóchas do. Ministers have made statements on the importance of prioritising Development Issues and the potential for Ireland to make a positive contribution to the eradication of global poverty.

According to Minister for Europe Lucinda Creighton, the EU Presidency will allow us to “find ways of advancing policies that will improve the lives of people in Ireland and abroad.”

The Irish Government plans to host a meeting of EU Development Ministers early on in the Presidency period, and it is also proposed to organise a high-level conference on issues relating to Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Change.

According to Joe Costello, Minister for Trade and Development, “The Review of the White Paper, and the Irish Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013, present us with an opportunity to draw from [the Busan, Rio+20 and MDG Review] processes, and – critically – to bring the various strands together – breaking down any artificial barriers that exist between sustainable development, hunger, climate change, human rights, gender and other priority issues.”

Both the Irish and the EU overseas aid programmes are at an interesting crossroads. The Irish Government intends to publish its Review of the Irish Aid Programme, just weeks before the start of the EU Presidency. The European Commission has also indicated that it wants to change the direction of EU aid, by publishing its “Agenda for Change” document. In addition, it has proposed that the EU’s new budget should see a 9% increase in funding for “external relations”, which includes overseas aid.

The Dóchas EU Presidency Project- Seizing the Opportunity to Effect Change

The Dóchas EU Presidency Project will lead the way in encouraging the Irish Government to have a positive influence during its Presidency of the EU at this critical moment when the EU is shaping its position in advance of the UN MDG Review Summit next year.

With 2013 to be the European Year of Citizens, it is imperative that we seek to involve Irish citizens in this process.

Dóchas has begun a national dialogue about the priorities of Ireland’s civil society organisations, for a better Ireland, a better Europe and a better world. The discussion is taking place through a series of events, seminars and also through interaction on our website:

This dialogue will culminate in the production of a “manifesto“, to be presented to the May meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers.

The Dóchas EU Presidency Project will be working to ensure that the post-MDG framework does not simply articulate an extension of current practice, but rather captures an inclusive, sustainable and just set of solutions to some of the biggest global challenges that are facing mankind: economic inequality, social instability, environmental degradation, resource scarcity, climate chaos and political exclusion of vast numbers of people.

It is time for Ireland to seize the opportunity to help shape the World We Want.


Formed in 1993, Dóchas is the association of Irish Non-Governmental Development Organisations. Dóchas provides a forum for consultation and co-operation between its members and helps them speak with a single voice on development issues.

Institutional Filiation (University, Faculty and Department, if case): Dóchas

Address: 1-2 Baggot Court, Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

Phone number: 003531 4053801 e-mail:



This article was published on October 17th: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in Global Education Magazine


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