By Garth Luke, Senior Researcher, World Vision Australia
Part 1 of this blog can be found here.
3. Focus on the poorest and weakest
This means allocating our resources more in line with need and less in line with geographic distance from Australia. Australia’s first responsibility is to our closest neighbours, however that is not where our responsibilities end.
We need to guard against giving too much support to neighbours that already receive high or very high levels of per capita aid (i.e. the Pacific receives US$184 per capita on average in total aid) and giving too little to others that may have much bigger problems (India gets US$2 and Indonesia $5 per capita from all donor nations).
We can have an aid program that focuses mostly on our region while at the same time also assisting those most in need. Providing much more finance through effective multilateral agencies (at least 30% of our ODA to multilateral core contributions, and more in partnership arrangements) is a requirement to efficiently achieve this and also necessary if we are to further improve coordination and harmonisation of aid.
Focusing on the poorest within countries is also essential – our other key recommendations to provide essential services and to increase accountability to communities will help to ensure this.
4. Increase accountability to communities and partner countries
As several ODE reports (the Office of Development Effectiveness monitors the quality and evaluates the impact of the Australian aid program) have pointed out, AusAID needs to broaden its notion of risk management and focus on the risks for the poor as much as on fiduciary risk to the Australian Government. Accountability has to be to poor communities, partner governments and the Australian Government. Accountability to poor communities will involve much more active communication with communities and civil society in partner countries – something with which Australian NGOs can help.
As part of greater community accountability, gender equity must be given much greater focus – AusAID needs to lift its efforts for women even further and make sure that women not only benefit from the aid program but also are equal partners in shaping it. The aid program needs to actively support the needs and rights of women, and mechanisms need to be established within AusAID to ensure near-equal gender representation in planning, implementation and review of the program. The development discourse is currently dominated by male economists despite 70% of the poor being women.
5. Ensure coherence of development policy and greater international leadership by Australia
Aid is not the only way that Australia can support international development. To maximise Australia’s effectiveness as a development player it is critical to increase the coherence of government policy and to ensure whole of government support for development. The position of developing countries and their fortunes are shaped by a wide range of international arrangements in the areas of trade, environment and finance.
Australia is an influential middle-level power with significant respect from other nations and is a member of several important international bodies such as the G20, APEC, the Commonwealth and the East Asia Summit. We are also one of the leading donors to the Asia-Pacific. Australia is in a powerful position to promote greater international action on development and to encourage more effective coordinated action to reduce poverty and assist developing countries.
Important actions could include: encouraging full funding by all donor countries for effective multilateral aid bodies; supporting greater action to reduce international corruption and illicit financial flows; ensuring that intellectual property laws do not damage growth prospects for developing countries; providing opportunities for seasonal workers to work in Australia; making better use of Australia’s research infrastructure to address developing country needs.
There is a big risk that come 2015 we will look back and wonder just where all that extra money went. However, if the Australian Government and AusAID take these five steps then we will be able to say that Australian aid has made a large difference and that millions of people’s lives have been saved and improved by our efforts.
Image by Flickr user duncan.