6 July, 2011
Is the government's response to the aid review, released today, good news for the world's poor?
We think so!
Our submission to the aid review had nine recommendations. Here's a little game of We Said/They Said through the lens of those nine recommendations.
1. We said: Make poverty-reduction the central and overarching purpose of the Australian aid program.
They said: 'The fundamental purpose of Australian aid is to help people overcome poverty.' This, in turn ‘serves Australia's national interests by promoting stability and prosperity both in our region and beyond.'
2. We said: On aid quantity, reach at least 0.5% GNI by 2015/16, and provide the framework for a sustainable growth path to 0.7%, if not by 2015/16 then as quickly as possible.
They said: The government's commitment to reach 0.5 percent of GNI by 2015-16 will, subject to future levels of economic growth, see the aid budget almost double again, to around $8 billion.
Mr Rudd suggested we can do more: ‘In 2007, both Australia's major political parties signed up to an aid target of 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015. This represents a big change from the 0.23 per cent we fell to in 2002-03. When we reach 0.5 per cent, we will have reached the average of the world's wealthiest countries, but no more.'
And: ‘Beyond 2015-16, as economic and fiscal conditions permit, Australia has an aspirational goal of raising aid to 0.7 per cent of GNI. This is a long-standing policy adopted by Australian governments since 1970.'
3. We said: Make sure you develop AusAID, so it can handle the growth, and direct more funding through multilateral and NGO channels.
They said: We will invest significantly in the management of AusAID and improve processes by implementing a four-year plan for aid from 2012/13 - 2015/16 that will allow for effective longer term planning.
And: We will make ‘greater use of multilateral partners, civil society, and Australian non-government organisations to deliver our assistance, particularly in regions where they have a greater capacity to deliver results for poor people than we do.'
4. We said: Ensure that the geographical spread of the aid program is primarily determined by need - that will mean greater efforts in South Asia, Africa and through multilaterals.
They said: The ‘Asia-Pacific region, including our nearest neighbours, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor, will remain the primary focus of our efforts.'
And: We will increase aid to South Asia and Africa, but through effective multilateral rather than bilateral programs.
5. We said: Ensure that existing commitments to direct 0.15% of GNI to the least-developed countries are met.
They said: Not much at all about this....but we assume they will stick to their commitment!
6. We said: Ensure that we invest in sectors where there is the most need and where Australia's potential contribution is great - like health, sanitation and rural development, along with the existing focus on education.
They said: We will prioritise saving lives with a particular focus on:
- Improving public health by increasing access to safe water and sanitation.
- Saving the lives of poor women and children through greater access to quality maternal and child health services (for example, skilled birth attendants and midwives) and supporting large scale disease prevention, vaccination and treatment.
And: We will reduce the negative impacts of climate change and other environmental factors on poor people, as well as focus on education, gender participation, disability inclusion, food security, governance and disaster preparedness.
7. We said: Take a lead in addressing climate change that is impacting the poor.
They said: That's important to us, but didn't give any details or commitments beyond existing funding.
8. We said: Educate the community in Australia about aid and encourage discussion by improving the accountability and transparency of the Australian aid program.
They said: By the end of 2011 we will introduce 'a new Transparency Charter for the Australian public so that taxpayers have greater visibility of how their dollars are being spent, and what results are being produced.'
9. We said: Strengthen participation from the poor in the developing world in the design, monitoring, and evaluation of all Australian funded aid projects.
They said: We will develop 'a new Civil Society Engagement Framework. This will set out how Australia will work more effectively with civil society organisations, in Australia and overseas, to increase the impact of aid for the world's poorest.'
So what's my evaluation?? A good result...and a good day for all of you have supported these calls to government over the last five years. It seems that the panel that undertook the review listened to your voice and the voices of the many agencies that make up the Micah Challenge coalition....and it seems the government has listened to the voice of the review.
Obviously, implementation is the big challenge now - but if we can get that right - this really will be good news for millions of the world's poorest people.
And watch out for a more detailed analysis from Micah Challenge in the near future.
John Beckett (known to most of us as JB) is the National Coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia. JB desires to see more and more Christians taking on justice, mercy and humility as a way of life and speaking, praying and acting for and with the global poor.