COVID-19 Spikes Across Asia, Australian Aid Falls

11 May, 2021


The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) – Australia’s peak-body for international development NGOs – has expressed concern that against the backdrop of an Asia-Pacific at the epicentre of the pandemic, Australia’s development assistance is declining.

Responding to the budget, ACFID CEO, Marc Purcell said:

“The Australian Government did the right thing by front-loading its immediate regional response to COVID-19. But despite COVID-19 deaths rising alarmingly across the Asia-Pacific, Australian development assistance is now declining.

“The situation is fast evolving, but our budget response is not. Beyond the two-year package for India, there are no new, additional investments in this budget for tackling the pandemic.

“DFAT is working around the clock on our response in the region, but we need a greater speed and scale of investment from the Government.”

Ahead of the budget, ACFID’s members called for investments in global mechanisms for COVID-19 vaccines for developing nations, regional health security and in addressing growing humanitarian crises. The Government has not responded to those calls.  

“About 120 million people have been plunged back into extreme poverty and developing countries across the Asia-Pacific are being consumed by the virus. We need to get on the front-foot and counter the unprecedented rise in poverty, inequality and instability which is threatening the region.

“Development assistance saves lives and builds livelihoods and is a multiplier of peace, security and cooperation. Australia needs strong relationships with our neighbours in an uncertain strategic environment.

“We must leverage our success in managing the pandemic at home, assist our neighbours and deepen our ties through development cooperation. This budget does not give us confidence that the Government has this long-term strategy in mind.”

ACFID has welcomed the new investment in diplomatic, policy and consular staff as part of a $198m increase. Purcell added: “DFAT staff have been under immense pressure and this boost to its capacity is much needed.” 

ACFID has expressed deep disappointment that the 25% cut to the Central Disability Fund has been retained.

ACFID looks forward to engaging further with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on areas in the development assistance budget such as, disability, gender, youth and climate change in the coming weeks.


Notes to Editors

Total Australian Official Development Assistance

The Australian Government revised its 2020-21 estimates for the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget to $4.479bn.

In 2021-22, the ODA budget reduces to $4.335bn. In 2021-22, Australia’s ODA/GNI figure will be 0.21%.

The Official Development Assistance/Gross National Income ratio remains the internationally recognised measure of a nation’s generosity for development assistance.

The OECD’s (DAC) Development Assistance Committee average for 2020 was 0.32%. In 2015, Australia ranked 14th in the OECD DAC. In 2020, Australia’s ranking dropped to 21st.