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New international development policy reframes Australia’s development program

Aug 8, 2023 | ACFID News, Government News, Media Releases

 

The Australian Government has this morning released its eagerly-awaited new development policy, “Australia’s International Development Policy: For a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.” 

The policy sets the stage for Australia’s development cooperation agenda and priorities for the years to come, and is the first substantive development policy setting for a decade. It comes as a welcome reprieve from the focus on shoring up defence capabilities over the past year.

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the aid sector’s peak body, warmly welcomes the release of the new development policy. In particular, the policy is noteworthy for its repeated focus on climate as a major driver of instability and a challenge for our times.

The development sector welcomes the new policy’s explicit references to poverty alleviation, as it believes human development must remain the overarching priority of Australia’s development program.

The policy is also noteworthy for being the first time a development policy has recognised the need to incorporate First Nations input, leadership and traditions.

The challenge will now be in its implementation, which the NGO community hopes to help translate into action.

 

Said ACFID CEO, Marc Purcell:

“International development is a vital lever of Australia’s global outreach.

“This new policy brings coherence and a centre to Australia’s aid program. Our development program is all about helping our neighbours tackle common challenges, where we can help improve people’s lives and livelihoods, and keep building great relationships. Australia has a strong record in doing this, and we want to see this improve even more.

“We know for a fact that when people have adequate food, healthcare, access to education and livelihoods and live in a system that is equitable and just, there will be peace and stability. Conversely, when those fundamental building blocks are neglected, then this leads to instability.

“A hallmark of good international development is when the wider public had little reason to know there was ever a looming crisis in the first place,” said Mr Purcell.

ACFID will be conducting an assessment of progress against the policy on its one-year anniversary.

Making the case for a development program

In 2023, the world is in a state of flux and upheaval. Coming out of a global pandemic, we are seeing multiple intersecting and compounding crises that are driving inequality yet further.

Said ACFID Chief of Policy Jessica Mackenzie:

“Australia’s diplomacy and defence arms have been well-showcased as priorities since this government came to office.

“We have seen an intense diplomatic effort, with Ministers building relationships across the Pacific and Southeast Asia. At the same time, regional tensions and submarines dominate the news cycle.

“This policy makes it abundantly clear that the time has come for development to gain the prominence it deserves,” said Ms Mackenzie.

“We’ve all seen the world’s refugee flows, the pandemic outbreaks, our rising temperatures and sea levels.

“None of these critical challenges that we face today will be solved by military hardware. The best tool we have is a responsive, high-quality development program that invests in common solutions.

“This is projecting a positive role for Australia in the region, as a nation committed to helping solve global challenges,” said Ms Mackenzie.

ACFID and its member organisations note that the new policy is just the beginning, and marks the start of rebuilding the international development program. The development sector has a long and strong track record and relationships in the Indo-Pacific, and is eager to work with the Government to ensure the document is converted into action.

The solid commitment to climate change in the policy underscores the need for Australia to step up its climate funding as part of its bid to co-host COP31.

DFAT is releasing a separate policy for the humanitarian sector, in line with ACFID’s recommendations. This will be launched on a date yet to be determined.

 

We applaud:

  • Humanitarian strategy: a standalone public-facing policy on Australia’s humanitarian program, rather than one that is folded into the broader development policy, acknowledges the growing need for a robust humanitarian sector that is well-placed to respond to disasters and crises.
  • The announcement of a new Civil Society Partnerships Fund, which will be co-designed by the Government and partners including civil society organisations. Shrinking civic space is one of the key threats to regional stability and resilience, and we are pleased to see the government prioritising civil society strengthening through this policy.
  • Introduction of a new target for programs over $3 million to achieve a climate change objective. This will ensure that Australia’s development program effectively addresses one of the most pressing challenges facing our region and world.
  • We welcome the recommitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, which Australia agreed to in 2015. The SDGs commit countries to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.

What needs more work: 

  • Acknowledging the unique needs of children and young people and LGBTQIA+ people. These are groups with unique vulnerabilities and risks, and the policy should do more to emphasise how the development program will address these. With particular reference to LGBTQIA+, the Government’s prior comments and language that spoke to this group’s needs are absent from the policy.
  • The lack of a whole-of-world approach. The policy focus on the Indo-Pacific, with its countries remaining the predominant beneficiaries of Australia’s development efforts. However, the greatest need for humanitarian assistance and human development lies outside the region. We strongly advocate for a position that prioritises need over geography.
  • Tangible commitments on how the development program will lift people out of poverty. The policy describes how achieving a stable, peaceful and prosperous region will require addressing poverty, but there is little detail on how this will happen. We look forward to receiving more information on programs and concrete steps that will ensure our aid reaches people and communities who need it most.

We look forward to: 

  • Actions that deliver on the Government’s commitments to increasing transparency. With the announcement of a publicly-accessible online portal, there should be improved access to data and reporting on the performance of Australia’s development program, as well as increased resourcing for critical capabilities within the department such as coordination, design, monitoring and evaluation.
  • The creation of new Development Partnership Plans (DPPs). We anticipate that these plans  will do the heavy lifting in turning this policy into action. We look forward supporting an inclusive engagement process for these plans, which prioritises vulnerable and marginalised groups.
  • Increased capability within DFAT, and dedicated Senior Responsible Officers (SROs) at overseas posts. With much development expertise lost from Government over the past decade, rebuilding capability requires resolve. Today the Government announced dedicated SROs at overseas missions to monitor development programs in their patch. We look forward to seeing how these positions will be resourced.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact [email protected] or call 0401 721 064.

 

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