The Irish government launched a new international development policy in 2019, entitled ‘A Better World’, which strongly signals that Ireland will take a proactive, rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health and work towards the fulfilment of sexual and reproductive rights. In a significant departure from previous policies, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is mainstreamed throughout the document, which includes a commitment to a new initiative on SRHR, the incorporation of SRHR into humanitarian programming and a commitment to Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The policy states: “Access to health services, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, is fundamental for realising SRHR and transforming women’s health outcomes.”
Ireland’s third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) was also published in 2019 and provides further evidence of the mainstreaming of SRHR across government policy. The document references the SRHR commitments in ‘A Better World’ and commits Ireland to intensifying and advancing work on SRHR in humanitarian settings and to continue supporting women from conflict-affected countries living in Ireland through access to FGM treatment and sexual and reproductive health outreach. In November 2020, the government launched the 2019 Annual Report on Official Development Assistance, which included multiple references to SRHR and the work Ireland is supporting in this area - this topic was first introduced in the previous year’s report.
Policies & funding
In October 2018, the Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade had committed to bring the annual core contribution to UNFPA up to €3.5 million. At the 2019 State of World Population (SWOP) launch, which was attended by the UNFPA Executive Director, the Irish government committed to working with UNFPA as a key partner in delivering SRHR policy and to maintaining the 2018 increase in core funding. Core funding of €3.5 million was again maintained in 2020.
While overall funding to SRH/FP increased substantially in 2017-18, the level of support reduced by 11% in 2019, amounting to €6.7 million. This reduction was accounted for by reductions in core funding to UNICEF, the WHO and the World Bank. Ireland continues to take an inconsistent approach to multilateral project funding: while some projects do receive year-on-year funding, others – such as UNFPA Supplies – only receive allocations intermittently.
A general election took place in February 2020. The results were inconclusive and government formation was challenging as a result. In a significant development, the two major centre-right parties agreed to enter government together for the first time and a coalition was formed in June 2020, supported by the Green Party. The Programme for Government states that Ireland will continue to champion multilateralism and work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The document further highlights the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Global South and asserts that Ireland must “reinforce our ambition” in the area of ODA as a result.
The previous Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has remained in post and a new Minister for Overseas Development Aid was appointed in July 2020. The new Minister has stated that Ireland will play a full role in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, although it is unclear to what extent SRHR will be incorporated into these efforts.
Ireland has committed €868 million to ODA for 2021, the sixth consecutive year that ODA funding has been increased. There is no specific commitment to SRH/FP in the ODA budget: the spend for SRH/FP is included within the overall budget for health.
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. In September 2018, Ireland endorsed a resolution on maternal mortality in humanitarian settings at the UN Human Rights Council which recognised that SRHR are integral to the realisation of the right to health and that comprehensive SRH services must be available, accessible, acceptable and of quality. In September 2019, the Minister for Health told the High-Level Meeting on UHC: “Reproductive healthcare is a basic human right and should never be a matter of political discretion” and supported a joint statement on SRHR in UHC. Ireland sent high-level political representation to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 where the government again reiterated its commitment to the realisation of SRHR. The only financial commitment made by Ireland at the Summit was in relation to ODA. In May 2020, Ireland joined 58 other countries in signing a joint press statement entitled, ‘Protecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Promoting Gender-responsiveness in the COVID-19 crisis’. Moreover, Ireland is due to take up a seat on the UN Security Council in 2021.
- A Better World: Ireland’s Policy for International Development
- Ireland’s third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security
- Government of Ireland Official Development Assistance: Annual Report 2019
Updated January 2021
Beyond 2020 Roundtable: European donor support to SRHR and FP... January 12, 2021
Rights under pressure September 14, 2020
- European Institutions
- United Kingdom