Australia, as a wealthy nation, should provide care and support for less developed countries and contribute our ‘fair share’ to poverty alleviation and long-term development.
Australia’s overseas aid is at a record low. We are one of the world’s wealthiest nations and can afford to provide assistance to disadvantaged communities in low income countries.
To meet the Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, ensure universal education and gender equity, and improve child and maternal health, the United Nations agreed that developed nations should devote 0.7 % of GNI to overseas aid. In 2000 former PM John Howard committed to reaching this target.
The Greens' Commitment
The Greens plan to increase overseas aid to 0.7% of GNI over the coming decade. The Parliamentary Budget Office has costed this at $7.97 billion over the forward estimates.
Our plan includes provisions for additional increases in the event of natural disasters or conflicts requiring major humanitarian interventions.
Emergency relief should be provided: with impartiality and neutrality; by civilians and independent from the political, economic or military objectives of the Australian government.
It is essential that we ensure the purpose and impact of aid is transparent and accountable.
To this end, we will establish an independent department to oversee aid delivery and effectiveness, including enduring aid programs are not used as a means to subsidise Australian business.
Recognising the ongoing threat of dangerous global warming, we will ensure that Australia’s contribution to meet the challenge of climate change is new money, not funds redirected from existing aid programs. We will target assistance, particularly in the Asia Pacific, for climate change adaptation measures so communities can remain in their own countries and maintain cultural cohesion.
Our commitment will also see a greater focus on strengthening health systems to address sexual and reproductive health, and the prevention and consequences of HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases.
Our plan will also reinstate programs dismantled by the Liberal/National government including in Africa and the Middle East.
Not just more, but better aid
Effective aid is about more than increasing dollar amounts. It is about creating programs that are targeted to alleviate poverty and that empower recipient communities in planning and implementation.
It is essential that Australia’s aid program is transparent and accountable to the Australian government and to recipient communities. In 2006, AusAID established an Office of Development Effectiveness but this office has been a disappointment. Sitting within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it is less able to offer a robust unbiased critique of aid programs and it does not report directly to parliament. It is lacking teeth compared to Britain’s Independent Commission on Aid Impact.
Gender equality is a fundamental issue with women suffering disproportionate impoverishment. It is well recognised that women can drive community change when empowered to do so, and this can be assisted with effective aid. The Greens’ International Aid and Development (Promoting Gender Equality) Bill 2015 would require the Minister to report on how funds were spent, and how these funds help to promote gender equality. The assumption that simply increasing economic activity will benefit people in low income countries fails to recognise the specific historical and cultural bases for gender inequality.