Micah Challenge Australia Blog

 

The Micah Challenge blog is a space for discussion and debate about the issues of global poverty, faith, advocacy and justice and the Millennium Development Goals. This blog aims to provoke thought and challenge you to learn more about the issues discussed. We welcome your comments.

Micah Challenge is a global campaign of Christians speaking out against poverty and injustice. Click here to visit the Micah Challenge website.

  • Aid. In the national interest. (Part 4)

    Posted by Ben

    20 February, 2014

    In this final post, I simply want to highlight one case study that demonstrates some serious risks and tragic outcomes from an aid project that overemphasised national interest, and the funding of infrastructure to boost economic growth. To be very clear at the outset, the use of this case study is not a criticism of the current Government. In fact, the project in question, the Railway Rehabilitation Project in Cambodia was supported by AusAID from 2010 ($27 million over four years) under the previous Government. However, the aid project failed to protect the rights of poor communities affected by the railway upgrading and construction and, as a result, communities were plunged deeper into poverty and, shockingly, children even died as a direct result. This project was managed by the Asian Development Bank along with the Government of Cambodia, it was partly supported by the Australian aid program, and an Australian company, Toll Holdings (operating in partnership with a Cambodian consortium), had a multi-year contract to build and operate the railway. It was… read more

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  • Aid. In the National Interest. (Part 3)

    Posted by Ben

    20 February, 2014

    In this post, I wanted to pick up on detail of the Government's statement about the purpose of Australia's aid program, namely its focus on "international economic growth": "The department will deliver an effective and high-quality aid program that promotes Australia’s national interests by contributing to international economic growth and poverty reduction." Everyone agrees that aid needs to aim at sustainable poverty reduction – building the capacity of countries and communities to reduce poverty and support human flourishing sustainably over the long-term. Where possible, aid should be about addressing urgent human needs in sustainable ways, ensuring that when the aid is no longer directed to a particular project or sector, then the benefits of the aid don't disappear. Nobody wants an aid-supported hospital to close after the aid is gone, or a bridge to collapse, or teachers to abandon their students. So, supporting ecologically-sustainable economic growth and the provision of decent jobs and opportunities for… read more

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  • Aid. In the national interest. (Part 2)

    Posted by Ben

    20 February, 2014

    A discussion of the place of national interest or a focus on poverty reduction in the aid program is particularly important right now, because not only has the Government demonstrated that it wants greater emphasis given to commercial and strategic interests in our aid program (as well as poverty reduction) but this week an article in the Australian Financial Review (paywalled) suggested that, "The Abbott Government has officially removed poverty reduction from the goals of the foreign affairs budget, smoothing the way for the annual $5 billion spend to be redirected to a program that focuses more on growth and co-investment with the private sector." Understandably, many people were outraged at the idea. But, it turns out, the article was wrong. It's not all good news for the aid program by any means, but "poverty reduction" has not been ditched as a goal of our aid program. What happened was this. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) produced a routine update document, outlining any changes to its plans and budgets, to… read more

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  • 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… read more

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