The Move towards Multilateral Aid in Ireland’s Overseas Development Programme (2008–2019)

Walsh, P. P., & Whelan, C. (2021). The Move towards Multilateral Aid in Ireland’s Overseas Development Programme (2008–2019). Irish Studies in International Affairs32(1), 1–11.

Ireland’s international development programme plays a significant part in its foreign economic policy. In this review we examine the trends and evolving structure of Ireland’s overseas development aid from the financial crisis up to 2019, a period before the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular we consider the move from bilateral relationships between donor Ireland and recipient programme countries, and an increasing emphasis on multilateral aid.

Such a change in emphasis reflects the growing shift towards a multilateral policy framework. Ireland’s ability to address global concerns such as security, humanitarian action, climate breakdown and distributive inequality was best dealt with within a multilateral policy framework over the period 2008 to 2019. There has been increasing commitment to multilateralism and engagement with international organisations, particularly the UN and the EU, over this period. This is evidenced by Ireland’s commitment to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, both ratified in 2015. During this period Ireland had also embarked on what was to be a successful campaign to be elected a member of the UN Security Council by 2021.

Using data from official Irish Aid annual reports, we document a shift in the direction of Ireland’s ODA policy towards multilateralism over the past decade or so, up to 2019. Moreover, the changing structure within bilateral and multilateral aid further demonstrates the move toward working in multilateral policy frameworks. This is evidenced by both the expansion in engagement with the EU and UN systems under multilateral aid and the simultaneous expansion of multilateral organisations in Ireland’s bilateral spending.

 [BO1]ODA can’t stand for both overseas development aid and official development assistance within the paper. It can be appended at first use to whichever of these is used predominantly.