MARY WARD INTERNATIONAL, IRELAND
Mary Ward International Ireland supports Loreto Sisters in this work for the most vulnerable and needy by:
Sister Brigid Tunney is the Co-ordinator of Mary Ward International Ireland.
Donations can be made to: Mary Ward International (Ire) Mission Fund
Loreto Hall, 77 St. Stehen's Green, Dublin
Mary Ward International in Ireland
The Irish Committee is currently made up of a group of Loreto sisters from the Irish Province. They work to fulfil the general MWI objectives in specific ways here in Ireland by:
• Raising mission awareness within our Loreto schools, among colleagues, pupils, past pupils, parents associations, families and friends.
• Ensuring that up to date information regarding conditions and needs in third world countries is readily available.
• Stimulating fund raising in Ireland and disseminating details of various initiatives and work in progress, while seeking creative ideas and ventures in this area.
• Involving our local communities and encouraging them to participate in the work in hand by whatever means available to them.
‘Beyond the MDGs: The Future of Africa and Ireland’s Role’
One of the beauties of my tertianship experience is the opportunity to attend conferences, lectures, on a number of diverse areas which up to now I haven’t had time to pursue. I realise that it’s a pure luxury but one which, I hope, is expanding my horizons and increasing my limited knowledge on so many issues which affect our world.
Last week, together with Eileen Randles and Margo Mulvey, I attended a conference entitled ‘Beyond the MDGs: The Future of Africa and Ireland’s Role’. We heard 15-minute inputs from diverse sources, academic, NGO, and governmental. Each had different perspectives on the same issue but, fundamentally, as one would expect, the government’s perspective is that the Africa Strategy and initiative is all rosey in the garden. Of course it is, because it is because Ireland will benefit in the long-run. After all, who wouldn’t object to Ireland making some economic headway in a time of serious international fiscal challenge?
These links between Africa and Ireland have been very much to the fore in newspaper articles in recent weeks, partly due to the implementation of the government’s Africa Strategy. There is a strong move internationally towards free trade and deregulation but who is benefiting in all of this? Our partners in Africa? It all sounds great, and I’m not meaning to sound cynical about it, but I do have some big questions on the basis of what I heard at that conference last week.
It is necessary to look at what underpins all of this. Who really does benefit from these models of trade? Last week in The Irish Times, Colm Keena challenged the manner in which multinational companies use international structures to minimise their global taxes. One example he used was Microsoft which has an Irish centre with responsibility for retail sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Because Microsoft Ireland Research has the right to sell Microsoft products in that geographical zone, profits on the sales of Microsoft products in that vast portion of the globe end up in 70 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.
According to Social Justice Ireland, countries of the Global South, including Africa, have to pay four times the amount of tax than other countries. Ireland benefits. The model which underpins these trade initiatives is still not attending to the indigenous communities and results often in the weakening of the development of these economies, job losses, food insecurity, a reduction of local industry and environmental degradation.
The conference looked also at the MDGs and, while well-intentioned, they were critiqued in the light of the fact that they were written through the lens of donor-countries and were part of the Aid effectiveness agenda and process rather than from the development perspective; they were written ‘for’ rather than written ‘with’ those whom they perceived to be its intended audience. From that point of view, local ownership was very difficult and countries of the Global South who had to face these challenges every day were being forced to scrutinise their actions and practices constantly. Local reports were usually conducted by officials in the UN Development Programme and the UN had to create in 2003-4 the Millennium Campaign to help build ownership among governments and stakeholders. The issues raised in the MDGs were to be addressed in policy-making; goals and targets were set to be achieved by 2015.
It is clear from the standpoint of development and trade, that current models are not assisting local economies and we are left with serious ethical questions about human dignity, human rights, and equality. Existing models of development are still perpetrating the hand-out approach, albeit couched in the ‘right’ terminology, which reflects mutuality and sustainability, but where Ireland benefits moreso than our global South partners. There is a call to just and ethical practices in the area of development and trade, and to the involvement of members of society, especially the most vulnerable, wherever we are, to contribute to the table and to be engaged in the decisions which ultimately affect them.
There are good signs of development though and I don’t want to portray a totally negative picture. From modest beginnings in 1974, when the aid Budget was £1.5m, Ireland’s programme of assistance to developing countries has grown substantially to its 2012 level of €639m. While this marks a fall of more than €280m since 2008 it is still a substantial contribution and one that should be increased in the years ahead to the UN’s target of 0.7% of Gross National Product. Also, alternative models of development, investment, and trade are being pioneered in the Global South which prioritise the needs of people and the planet over corporate profits. These are encouraging signs. If you wish to see this proposed alternative view, I suggest that you look at the Comhlamh website (http://www.comhlamh.org/new-comhlmh-campaign-southern-alternatives-on-trade-and-development.html). There you will find papers giving the alternatives from the Philippines, Columbia, Zimbabwe, India, to mention just a few. Each paper details a vision of an alternative European trade based on principles of sustainability, democracy, flexibility, human rights, transparency and poverty eradication. Subjects include alternative approaches to issues in international trade such as access to water, agriculture, raw materials, and regional integration.
As IBVM we are not separate from the world developmental models which are in existence. It is important to look justly at how we are in all the countries in which we operate and see what we are doing to empower local people to take ownership. Why is it that the Global North always feels that they have the solutions to the problems of the Global South, many of which have their roots in the ravages of colonialism? How do we consult with and give active - not token - participation to OUR partners in the development work in which we are involved? Developments happening between Ireland and Africa impact on us.
With the review of the MDGs being conducted next year, it is time to put pen to paper, lobby our local TDs, MEPs, MLAs. You’ll find all their contact addresses on the net under the various governmental websites. Also, keep informed about progress. Social Justice Ireland has a very good website which looks at these critical issues affecting our world, and our country as well. Both UCC, UCD, and Trinity have very good academic departments focusing on development and they often have lectures on different aspects of development. Keep an eye out for these and maybe just be aware and go along to something. Awareness and conscientization are so important because all of this impacts on who we are and how we sharpen our engagement with the Church and the world.