Aid Groups Pledge to Hold Government Accountable
16 January 2019 at 5:16 pm
Australian aid organisations have pledged to hold the federal government accountable for its efforts protecting children in conflict with the help of a new humanitarian checklist.
The checklist – launched by nine leading aid organisations including World Vision and Save the Children – outlines a range of tools available to the Australian government and NGOs to prevent, influence and respond to conflict-related crises.
The tool was released as the United Nations estimated 132 million people will be in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in 2019.
“We live in a world where children are increasingly bombed, forced to fight and attacked as they go to school, and where those inflicting the suffering often go unpunished,” Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said.
“This checklist will help everyone concerned with the treatment of children caught up in conflicts assess the Australian government’s efforts in seriously addressing humanitarian crises around the world.”
The Australian Checklist for Action will be used to assess whether Australia has taken steps such as: applying diplomatic pressure on states responsible for rights violations; providing humanitarian funding in line with Australia’s responsibilities; and banning the export of weapons that could be used to violate human rights.
What should be Australia's role when dealing with #humanitarian crises? We've teamed up with 8 leading aid agencies to deliver a Humanitarian Checklist – a range of tools available to help prevent, influence and respond to conflict-related crises. https://t.co/7nEmbfw847 #auspol pic.twitter.com/NBOmoDl7nG
— Save the Children (@savechildrenaus) January 16, 2019
Rebecca Barber, author of the checklist report and associate lecturer in humanitarian studies at Deakin University, noted that Australia campaigned hard to have a seat at the table in various UN forums.
“And yet, our performance does not always live up to expectations – particularly in ‘hard cases’ where Australia has political or economic ties to states involved in conflicts,” Barber said.
“Australia should leave no stone unturned in its efforts to restore a safe and free environment for families living in conflict zones.”
The checklist report said it hoped the tool would create more targeted and strategic dialogue between civil society and the Australian government in relation to conflict-related humanitarian crises.
Caelin Briggs, World Vision Australia’s senior policy advisor, told Pro Bono News civil society would use the checklist to get a better sense of what was being done in response to specific crises and to assess opportunities for additional action.
“So it’s not necessarily presupposing one specific path to respond to any particular crisis but it is acknowledging that there are a huge range of opportunities available to the Australian government,” Briggs said.
“It’s about trying to be a bit more systematic in assessing which options are being used and potentially why others haven’t been pursued.”
Briggs said the checklist was somewhat of a multi-step process, and would firstly be used to structure conversations bilaterally with government, and was not intended to be an inherently adversarial tool that put government on the spot in response to every crisis.
“It’s a checklist that can only be filled out by civil society in conjunction with governments because a lot of it is trying to understand the workings behind the scenes,” she said.
“When it comes to actually using the checklist it will be starting a conversation with government, and then if as a result of that conversation we don’t feel enough action is being taken… that’s when I think we would probably [inform the public] that we’re not convinced that the Australian government is doing enough.”
The checklist is also designed for use by the staff of Australian NGOs, “to assist them in their collective advocacy on country-specific, conflict-related humanitarian crises”.
Briggs said it was a tool that could be used for a lot of different purposes.
“Part of the idea behind the tool is structuring the advocacy that we do as aid organisations and helping us to be more targeted in understanding what to ask for and where to push,” she said.
“I think it absolutely will be something that will help aid organisations to be more effective in the way they go about their advocacy and campaigning.”
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Pro Bono News: “The Australian government recognises the checklist as a valuable resource for Australian NGOs and other civil society actors that will inform their ongoing dialogue on actions to prevent and respond to conflict-related humanitarian crises.”