Oxfam Warns on Government Aid
10 February 2011 at 1:29 pm
Relief agency Oxfam has called on donor governments to allocate life-saving aid based on need not on short-term military gains.
A report released by the international aid agency finds that while global aid commitments rose between 2001 and 2008, more than 40 per cent of that increase was spent in just two countries – Afghanistan and Iraq – while the remainder was shared between 150 other countries.
The bulk of Australia's increase in aid between 2001 and 2007 was spent in just two countries – Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Whose Aid is it Anyway? report says there is a growing trend for donor governments to focus on countries they consider militarily and politically important while overlooking equally severe crises elsewhere.
Consistent with this, the Oxfam report shows that Afghanistan is the fourth-largest country recipient of Australian aid.
It says Australia is likewise seeking to integrate development, diplomacy and defence efforts to promote stability both on Australia’s own Pacific doorstep and in Afghanistan, where Australian troops are engaged.
However, the report says the effectiveness of this integrated approach remains to be shown. For example, Afghanistan is the fourth largest recipient of Australian development aid; but over half of that aid since 2007 has been channelled through the Department of Defence, which is not required to report or evaluate the impact of its aid projects.
The report also highlights the increasing role of the military in the provision of aid.
It says that between 2007 and 2009, more than half of Australia's official aid to Afghanistan was spent by the Department of Defence, which is not required to report or evaluate the impact of its aid projects.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett says aid directed to short-term political and military objectives fails to reach the poorest people and also fails to build long-term security.
Oxfam acknowledges the military can play an important role in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian crisis, particularly through the provision of transport and creating a secure environment, but the report says that relief agencies are best positioned to directly provide food, medical care and support for livelihoods of those caught up in disasters.
Hewett says aid delivered by the military can also put workers and local communities at risk.
He says blurring the role between aid workers and the military can turn aid workers and, more importantly the communities they work with into targets.
The report recommends that both humanitarian and development aid organisations should ensure that their activities do not exacerbate or provide direct resources for parties to conflicts, by implementing standards and guidelines to ensure that humanitarian aid ‘does no harm’, and that development aid is sensitive to conflict.
It says they should refuse any funders’ conditions requiring them to cooperate or provide information to military forces, or to distribute aid or allocate development resources based on the political or military cooperation of recipients.
Hewitt says as national budgets are being reviewed and with more people in need of aid than ever before, a new approach is needed to maximise the impact of aid based on long-term objectives rather than short-term political or military interests.
The report can be downloaded here.