• Aid. In the national interest. (Part 1)

    Posted by Ben

    20 February, 2014

    I strongly suspect that, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you support Australia's aid program because you think we have a moral obligation help people move out of poverty.

    You might be happy to hear that giving aid helps Australia in a range of ways, tangible and intangible – for example, by helping to build a more stable and secure region, reduce risks of infectious diseases, or create international good-will – but you would probably be offended if someone were to ask, "What should Australians get in return for giving aid?"

    Clearly that's the wrong question. Aid, we understand, is something we give because we should.

    And this is the case whether you understand giving aid primarily as an act of generosity (helping people in poverty) or an act of justice (standing in solidarity with impoverished and marginalised people). Following Micah 6:8, I think there are true and important things in both perspectives (loving mercy and acting justly) which either one alone might lose.

    I'll go further and suggest that most Australians would agree with you. Summing up extensive polling of Australian public attitudes on aid in 2001, the Government aid agency noted, "Our moral responsibility remains the main motive behind aid." The answer people give, when asked why they support giving aid, is "because we should".

    This is also a consistent finding across all aid donor countries. OECD survey research found, for example, that:

    • In the United Kingdom, poverty eradication in developing countries is a moral issue for 68 per cent of respondents.
    • Over 80 per cent of Austrians support aid because it is the right thing to do.
    • Canadians are most comfortable with foreign aid for basic human needs.

    And not only is this the attitude we take when it comes to support for the official Government aid program, we walk the talk when it comes to our own giving. Donations to Australian overseas aid and development organisations has more than doubled over the last ten years, and almost 2 million Australians donated over $800 million to this work last year.

    We give aid because we should.

    Because we should help people and communities to overcome extreme and dehumanising poverty.

    Because we should contribute to a more just and sustainable world.

    Because we should.

    (This is the first of a 4-part mini blog series examining the role that "national interest" plays in shaping Australia's aid program. Click here to keep reading.)

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    Ben Thurley is the Political Engagement Coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia.