Irish Aid is the Government of Ireland’s programme of assistance to developing countries. While there is no single sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) policy, the government has consistently supported family planning in political statements and Irish Aid policy documents.
The current economic crisis has resulted in substantial cuts to Irish Aid’s overseas development budget. Irish Aid’s annual reported funding to UNFPA has been maintained at 2009 levels. The category of ‘Health, HIV and AIDS’ accounted for 21% of funding through Irish Aid’s bilateral programme and 20% of its civil society programme in 2010. However, current reporting procedures do not otherwise disaggregate family planning and reproductive health expenditure within health spending.
A general election in February 2011 resulted in a coalition of a left and a centre-right party. A new Minister of Development and Trade was appointed in March 2011. In April 2011, Ireland made its first statement to the Commission on Population and Development since 1999. This is the clearest statement to date on government policy on SRHR. The statement highlighted the links between a woman’s right to the information and means to make autonomous decisions about her fertility and the wider empowerment of women in every sphere of economic, social and political life. The statement also highlighted the transformative effect of access to reproductive health care on women’s vulnerability to poverty, hunger and economic and social discrimination.
Irish Aid’s September 2010 report on the Millennium Development Goals also reiterates Ireland’s commitment to the ICPD and universal access to reproductive health, continued support to UNFPA as a key element of its maternal health policy response and explicit commitment to ensuring access to contraception.
Examples of Irish Aid-funded SRHR initiatives:
The Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) is funded by Irish Aid under a programme entitled ‘Expanding Access to Quality Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Services to Adolescents and Young Adults in Ethiopia’. The overall budget over the five years is €22.5 million. In addition to Irish Aid, two other donors (Netherlands Embassy and Packard Foundation) are contributing to this project. Irish Aid contributes to about 15% of the total budget. Irish Aid has committed €1.2 million since 2009 (€0.4 million to be disbursed in June 2011). This is in addition to €0.7 million from Irish Aid in support of FGAE’s work in the period 2005–2009.
Through its civil society programme, Irish Aid funds a programme entitled ‘Investing in Bolivia’s Most Vulnerable Youth’, which is run by the Centro de Investigación, Educación y Servicios (CIES). This programme delivers sexual and reproductive health services to marginalised young people, including young people who are living in the streets, through a rights-based outreach project in six urban centres in Bolivia.