There is no single Irish Aid policy document on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the context of development. However, the Irish government consistently makes statements of support for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in intergovernmental and national policy forums, including in parliament. Irish Aid’s overseas development policy statement ‘One World, One Future’ includes a strong commitment to ICPD. Among the “priority areas for action” under the heading “essential services” the policy states: “Consistent with the ‘Cairo Programme of Action’, we will support efforts that reduce maternal and infant mortality, and promote universal access to reproductive healthcare, including ante-natal care and family planning services.” The policy also includes contraceptives among the priority information and essential commodities and undertakes to support efforts to increase both information flows and the availability of essential commodities through the private sector.
Although there is no specific SRHR language in the framework, there are priority outputs on improving access to and the quality of essential services (which includes RH/FP). Ireland’s second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (2015-2018) also includes a commitment to support access to reproductive healthcare, including family planning services, for women and girls in humanitarian crises.
Policies & funding
Ireland has almost sustained annual funding in 2016, with over €12.5 million disbursed. Whilst support to SRH/FP organisations and initiatives increased, support to earmarked multilateral funding for SRH/FP decreased. A cabinet reshuffle and a new Prime Minister in 2017 has seen reaffirmed commitments to ODA and upholding SRH/FP commitments.
In mid-2017, the leading party in government (Fine Gael) held an internal leadership contest. This resulted in both a change of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and a Cabinet reshuffle in which new Ministers were appointed to the Foreign Affairs and Overseas Development portfolios. The new Taoiseach recently reaffirmed the government’s commitment to increasing the ODA budget in the years ahead. No roll-back on policy commitments to SRHR are anticipated under the current government and the environment is generally positive. The new Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Overseas Development have both reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to FP/SRH and for the work of UNFPA in particular, recognising that improved maternal and reproductive health, including access to contraception, is an important focus of Ireland’s aid programme and is critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Successive ministers for development and foreign affairs have made political commitments to ICPD in parliamentary speeches and debates. This commitment has been reaffirmed at the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Population and Development. Ireland also played a strong role within the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals to push for SRHR with its troika partners, Denmark and Norway. A statement on behalf of Ireland at the September 2014 UNGASS on Follow Up to the Programme of Action of the ICPD reiterated that the principles, objectives and outstanding commitments of the ICPD “simply must be at the centre of the development agenda”.
In May 2016, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins addressed the World Humanitarian Summit and made a strong statement of Ireland’s commitment to universal reproductive health as a key aspect of gender equality and critical to the SDGs. While no statement was delivered, the presence of the Irish ambassador to Belgium at the SheDecides conference in March 2017 was a significant indication of political support.
Updated January 2018
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