Australian Aid Ranking Shows ‘Brutal Impact of Government Cuts’ – NFP Coalition
12 April 2017 at 12:46 pm
New OECD figures that show Australia’s aid ranking has dropped another point to 17th as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI) and fallen behind Italy and Canada, have been described as “shameful” by a coalition of aid agencies.
The director for Campaign for Australian Aid Tony Milne told Pro Bono News the government should be “ashamed” of the ranking.
“The government has taken Australia to rock bottom and it’s time it reversed these drastic aid cuts so that we can increase support for those in desperate need,” Milne said.
“The government has cut Australian aid to the lowest level in our history at a time when the global challenges we are facing are huge and they require countries like Australia to step up, [but] what this ranking is showing is that we are going backwards and it is something the government really needs to think about.
“It shows that over the last three years the cuts that have been made are really starting to have an impact in terms of us falling behind other countries’ contributions. We also know other countries are increasing their aid.The UK has legislated to a point seven [contribution of GNI] and we have seen Canada start to lift its game in terms of increasing its contribution.
“Given the scale of the humanitarian crisis the world is facing we think it is time Australia started to step up as well.”
Milne said the government was out of step with Australian values.
“We know that Australian people are generous, they are compassionate. We know that individually Australians are very generous when it comes to giving to aid organisations and we want Australia to reflect those Australian values,” he said.
“Right now, the world is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II with 20 million people in Africa and Yemen facing starvation, unless the global community acts now to raise the $5.8 billion the UN says is needed by July to avert famine. Meanwhile, in March and after six years of devastating conflict, we saw the five millionth Syrian refugee flee their country in search of safety.
“This is a major global humanitarian crisis and if there is ever a time for a government to step up now would be that time.”
In terms of the upcoming federal budget Milne said the sector would continue to advocate and use the public support it has to continue to put pressure on the government to lift its game and start to increase its aid budget.
“It is going to take several budgets to get us to where we need to be, but we need to start seeing in this budget and the next budget some steps forward,” Milne said.
“No country can solve any of the big global challenges that are confronting the world on its own. But we can all play our part.
“The government has an opportunity in budget 2017 to take a stand as a bastion of compassion and human rights, recognising that opportunities in life shouldn’t be based on the luck of where you’re born.”
The Campaign for Australian Aid is a joint initiative of the Make Poverty History and Micah Australia coalitions. It represents over 65 aid and development organisations, church, business and community groups.
Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said: “Australia’s place at 17 in the OECD rankings means we are missing in action on the world stage, giving proportionately less than countries with a lower GDP than our own – including Belgium and Ireland.
“For Oxfam, these statistics could not come at a worse time. Agencies are struggling to cope with multiple humanitarian crises around the globe and simultaneously plug holes left by cuts to long-term aid programs.
“It means less money is being spent on tackling poverty and growing inequality when and where it is needed most.
“Right now, more than 20 million people in four countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen – are at risk of starvation, with the UN calling for strong and urgent action to avert catastrophe.
“And, we are appealing for funds to assist people who have faced more than six years of conflict in Syria. More than 11 million people have been forced to flee their homes, with more than 5 million fleeing to neighbouring countries including Jordan and Lebanon. Almost three-quarters of these refugees are women and children.
“At the same time, agencies are trying to fill the gaps made by government cuts to long-term aid programs – programs that we know transform people’s lives.”
She said it was time for the Australian government to “take its own promises on aid seriously”.
“That means not only keeping its commitment to keep aid in line with CPI in the coming federal budget – but taking steps to reach its own Sustainable Development Goal promise to allocate 70 cents in every $100 of national income towards aid and humanitarian assistance by 2030,” Szoke said.
The 2016 federal budget made further cuts to Australia’s foreign aid.
The budget slashed $224 million from the foreign aid budget after a $1 billion cut the previous year, bringing the total aid budget to $3.887 billion in 2016/17.
The cuts meant Australia would provide 0.23 per cent of official development assistance as a share of GNI – the lowest it has ever been.
Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) CEO Marc Purcell said at the time the coalition government’s fourth successive cut to Australia’s aid program since coming to power had caused widespread damage to life-saving programs.
“It has damaged our relationship with neighbouring countries because we didn’t do what we said we would do in terms of assisting them,” Purcell told Pro Bono Australia News.