Belfast Telegraph

Expertise can impact on world

By Peter Anderson

The people of Northern Ireland - of all social, economic and community backgrounds - have, time and again, demonstrated our practical solidarity with the world's poorest and most vulnerable.

Through the vital support of people here, Concern Worldwide has helped millions of people in developing countries improve their lives.

This commitment is further epitomised by the many people from Northern Ireland who have spent their professional lives in service with humanitarian charities.

Overseas financial aid is a "reserved matter" to Westminster, but awareness-raising and education about international development fall within the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Stormont has had an active all-party Assembly group on international development (APGID).

In spite of our political ups-and-downs, MLAs from all parties have worked together and in co-operation with Concern and the Coalition of Aid and Development Agencies (CADA).

Over several years, CADA and the APGID have put forward a number of proposals to ensure co-ordination and enhancement of the voluntary work done on the ground, a strategic approach to make it even more than the sum of its parts and to harness local generosity and expertise to have a lasting impact where it is needed most.

Adversity can often provide opportunities.

Thousands of public servants here could be opting for voluntary redundancy and among them are many with expertise in areas like agriculture, conservation management, and delivery of health and social services.

This human resource could be utilised through skill-sharing to deliver know-how and technology with benefit to both the community receiving it and those delivering it.

After decades of support from the international community when we needed it most, the Northern Ireland Assembly has a chance to make a shared and positive impact in the world.

We look forward to hearing how OFMDFM will give voice to people here and make this happen.

Peter Anderson is Northern Ireland director of Concern Worldwide

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