The current government took office in 2020 and is made up of the two major centre-right parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil), supported by the Green Party. This is the first time Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have entered government together. The next general election is expected to take place in late 2024 or early 2025. A significant change in the make-up of government is anticipated, but unlikely to cause major changes in ODA policy related to SRHR.
The 2020 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.
Following a Cabinet reshuffle in December 2022, new ministers were appointed to the Foreign Affairs and ODA portfolios. The current Minister for Foreign Affairs is the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and a party leader.
Policies & funding
UNFPA is a key partner for Ireland in the implementation of its SRHR commitments. In 2018, the Minister for Foreign Affairs committed to bringing the annual core contribution to UNFPA up to 3.5 million Euros. Core funding was maintained at this level across 2019-21.
Notably, there has been a clear strengthening of the Ireland-UNFPA relationship with increased funding in both 2022 and 2023.
At the 2022 State of World Population (SWOP) report launch, the Irish government announced a 500 million Euros increase in funding, bringing its core contribution to 4 million Euros. Also in 2022, Ireland provided 1.5 million Euros to UNFPA’s Appeal for Ukraine and 2 million to support its work in response to drought in the Horn of Africa.
In a further significant development, in 2022 Ireland provided core funding of 300,000 Euros to the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) for the first time. Ireland has signed a multi-year agreement with the IPPF to provide 1 million Euros in core funding per annum, beginning in 2023.
In 2023, Ireland increased core funding to UNFPA again, bringing the contribution up to 4.5 million Euros. Significantly, Ireland also announced plans to provide multi-annual funding to the UNFPA Supplies Partnership Trust Fund, beginning with a 2 million Euros allocation in 2023. This is Ireland’s first contribution to UNFPA Supplies since 2017 and the first multi-annual commitment.
In 2022, Ireland spent 38 million Euros on sexual and reproductive health and family planning (SRH/FP). While this indicates an overall trend of increase on previous years, it should be noted that this is mostly a result of more comprehensive reporting methods by Irish Aid. Ireland disbursed funds through the multilateral system, government-to-government cooperation, and to specific organisations. In addition to these disbursements, Ireland allocated 27 million Euros to the broader SRHR agenda, including support to HIV/AIDS and integrated responses to sexual and gender-based violence.
Ireland has allocated an addition 60 million Euros to ODA for 2024. This is the ninth consecutive year that ODA funding has been increased. There is no specific commitment to SRH/FP or SRHR in the ODA budget: the spend for SRH/FP and SRHR is included within the overall budget for health.
Launched in 2019, Ireland’s international development policy, entitled ‘A Better World’, strongly signals that the country takes a proactive, rights-based approach to SRH and works towards the fulfilment of sexual and reproductive rights. In a significant departure from previous policies, 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.”
The Irish government used the occasion of the 2023 State of World Population report launch, hosted by the IFPA, to announce details of its long-awaited SRHR initiative. Through this initiative, Ireland will scale up and expand its work on SRHR, with a focus on SRHR in emergencies, young people’s access to SRHR and the unmet need for contraception. An additional 7.9 million Euros per annum has been allocated to fund this work, with UNFPA and IPPF identified as key partners supporting implementation.
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.
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’. In November 2023, Ireland delivered a joint statement at the UN for the adoption of a resolution on youth. The statement highlighted the importance of ensuring the SRHR of young people. Subsequently, the representative for Ireland expressed regret that the full realisation of SRHR was not fully reflected in the final text and called for a stronger text in next year’s session.