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Changing People’s Lives: From Delivering Aid to Ending Need

Istanbul Congress Centre, Turkey, 23rd May 2016

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

“From Delivering Aid to Ending Need”. This is a powerful, and necessary, rallying call. It implies – indeed it demands – fundamental reform in the work of sustainable development and the practice of humanitarian action. It speaks to the need for coherent, collaborative and ethically grounded action at national and international levels – recognising that the necessary emergency response, while flexible and efficient, must lead to the empowerment of vulnerable communities over the longer term, through inclusive, culturally respectful, and gender equal institutions.  

Fire-fighting must not impair, indeed must be part of, society building; to move from charity to solidarity, from responding to discrete crises to deep structural change, that surely must be our journey.  

We must be focused in Istanbul on the needs of men, women and children who have endured suffering, deprivation, displacement, disappointment and abuse. We must have as a central concern the civilian casualties of conflicts. Let us take their reality, ideas and aspirations as our starting point. 

For too long now, empty pledges and fine words have died in our mouths – now is the time to turn promises into action for this generation. 

Ireland strongly supports the central thrust of the Secretary General’s report. In response, we will deepen our focus on forgotten crises and fragile states with targeted investment in state-building and peace-building. We will build on existing structures, strengthening national systems and local institutions. We will reinforce the role and resilience of states so they can provide for their own citizens, and reduce their dependency on foreign aid by building their own effective and just tax bases. 

Ireland has prioritised a number of elements of resilience in its programmes – nutrition, gender and capacity to deal with disasters. We have had considerable success in these areas and the Secretary General's report now provides us with a comprehensive vision of how we should channel our efforts to deliver a shift from reaction to crises to building futures that are inclusive and sustainable. This is ultimately how the most fundamental trust – between State and citizen – can be rebuilt.  In doing so, we recognise, however, that we must give a lead in promoting necessary reforms.

We must recognise that what is required of us all is a fundamental restructuring of our economic and development models – to models that are appropriate for preventing and addressing pressing humanitarian needs; models that will be empowering, gender proofed, sustainable and based on food security for all.  Such a model must not be undermined by anything we do to enhance humanitarian capacity or response.  They must rather be supportive of each other.  Integrating emergency humanitarian responses with long-term sustainable development is possible, if made fully transparent.

It is my firm belief that we will only realise the goals of Agenda 2030, and in particular the goal of peaceful and inclusive societies, if we put people, especially the most vulnerable, front and centre in our deliberations and decision making. Ireland will promote humanitarian responses that are empowering, that put decisions into the hands of affected people; that helps to build strong communities; and that supports resilient and robust states.

We all share this fragile planet and thus we share the moral obligation to realise the full potential and dignity of all those who dwell on it. That can be our shared life and joy.

Thank you.