Reset the Aid Program to Build Cooperation in Changing World Order

08 May, 2019

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has called for the next Australian Government to undertake an independent review of Australia’s aid program with the aim of creating a new, modernised development cooperation program to match Australia’s altered geostrategic environment, intensified global instability and emerging regional challenges.

ACFID has called for an independent review as part of a five-point policy platform for the next Australian Government.  

In a first for the aid sector, ACFID’s peak-body counterpart in the private sector – the International Development Contractors Community (IDCC) – have come together with ACFID to call for a review, which has been set out in a joint statement. 

This is the first time ACFID and IDCC have joined in a major policy call to Government. 

CEO of ACFID, Marc Purcell said:

“This is an opportunity to build a new, modernised development cooperation program which can alleviate poverty, inequality and injustice to help build resilient and stable nations, while strengthening our international relationships in an era of intensified global instability.

“Australia’s aid program was last reviewed in 2011. Dramatic shifts in our partners’ priorities and geostrategic dynamics have not been matched by changes to the program and a re-examination of its purpose is overdue. 

“Amongst a trade war and geopolitical contest, we cannot lean on our traditional allies as we have before. A bigger and more responsive Australian development program should be a key part of our response.”

ACFID has pointed to growing political instability, civil society repression, democratic backsliding and the shift of nations from lower to high income status as regional trends in the Indo-Pacific which should drive changes to Australia’s aid program. 

Purcell continued:

“Our region is dogged by political instability and civil society repression. In Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, human rights violations, illiberal populism and authoritarianism are spiking. It sets the stage for greater political and social conflict. Australia’s development cooperation program can play a more active role in arresting this trend and strengthening democracy.”

ACFID has argued as part of its policy platform that civil society has a crucial role to play in combatting the growth of authoritarianism and populism in developing countries, factors which pose a threat to international cooperation, and compounds poverty and inequality. 

ACFID has also emphasised the need to adjust to economic growth in South Asia and maintaining strong bilateral relationships. 

“We must consider how we can meet diverse development demands in the region. Indonesia and Malaysia have the potential to become the economic powerhouses of the future but are riven with increasing inequality and their democratic transitions are unfulfilled. We have to match their development trajectories with Australian skills and expertise to forge closer partnerships and help support their transitions.”

In the joint ACFID-IDCC statement both peak-bodies have called for aid to be reframed. 

The statement reads: 

“In a changed world, our international development efforts must be reframed, not as aid, but as a collaborative enterprise in pursuit of shared regional and global interests.

“Those interests include sustaining and broadening prosperity, reducing growing inequality, improving transparency and the rule of law and dealing, much more vigorously with climate change and environmental degradation.” 

The joint statement follows the conclusions of the interim report by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade which recommended that the Australian Government emphasise “the mutual two-way benefits to Australia and recipient nations of our aid program (in terms of social development, trade, defence, security, strategic influence, health, biosecurity, and more)”. 

ENDS

Authorised by Marc Purcell, Deakin, Australia.

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