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Tom Arnold was previously Assistant Secretary General with the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food and was Senior Economist with ACOT, the Farm Advisory Service.At an earlier stage of his[…]

The CEO talks about his international development work at Concern.

Question: What originally sparked your interest in international development?

Arnold:    I’ve been involved in it for a very long time and interested in it.  I think as a child I became interested in these issues, and, well, I studied Agriculture Economics, which I thought had a connection to this.  I had the opportunity in my late 20’s to go and work in Africa for three years, which I did in the agricoast in Malawi, and then, even though subsequently I was working in the public service in Ireland and at European level, when an opportunity came to work with Concern, some seven years ago, I took it because Concern is, in my view, a great organization, and it was an opportunity to come in as Chief Executive and I think it’s been a wonderful seven years and I really enjoyed it and I think we have achieved a great deal over those [IB].

Question: How does Concern Worldwide confront issues affecting the developing world?

Arnold:    We work in almost 30 countries, almost 20 of those are in Africa, the rest in Asia, apart from Haiti, which is the only country outside of Africa and Asia we work in.  We deal in both emergency response and in long term development work, and we’re particularly involved in the whole area of health, food security, improving livelihoods, education and HIV/AIDS.

Question: Is development work fundamentally a human rights issue?

Arnold:    I think human rights is, you know, at the foundation of development work.  I mean, at the end of the day, people have the right to food.  They have a right to water.  They have a right to the very basic, the existent…  They have a right to all the things that we take for granted as rights in these countries, and I think that has to be the foundation stone of where, of how people go about.  Now, you know, how that’s expressed in different countries will depend on the political climate there.  I mean, Concern doesn’t always trumpet the human rights agenda because the sort of, many of the countries we’re working in, if we were to do that, our practical effectiveness on the ground could well be compromised.  But what we do in our work day in and day out is absolutely trying to vindicate the human rights of the very poorest people and, in my view, that is what, you know, we will be continuing to do for many years to come.