Sector fury over Australia’s stagnant global aid ranking
12 April 2019 at 5:29 pm
Aid groups have labelled the nation’s latest development aid spend ranking as “shameful”, with Australia falling well behind prosperous countries such as Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures, released on Wednesday, revealed that development aid spending had dropped globally by nearly 3 per cent, especially to the neediest countries.
It said the drop was in part due to less money being spent on hosting refugees in donor countries, as arrivals of refugees slowed and rules were tightened.
Australia ranked 19th out of 28 countries for the second year in a row, spending 0.23 per cent of its Gross National Income (GNI) on development aid in 2018.
Sweden ranked highest out of all OECD members, spending 1.04 per cent of its GNI, and the Slovak Republic ranked last, with a spend of 0.13 per cent of its GNI.
Andrew White, spokesperson for World Vision Australia, said Australia’s relative position to other countries was one of the more concerning parts of the figures.
“Australia is investing around 20 cents for every $100,” White told Pro Bono News.
“But countries like the UK are investing around 70 cents for every $100 – almost three times as much [as Australia]. So that’s really a concern.”
Claire Rogers, World Vision Australia CEO, said the “shameful position” on the international scoreboard was due to the government’s decimation of the aid budget, and failed to reflect the generosity of Australians.
“Last year we were ranked second in the world out of 146 countries in the Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index. But the message we are sending with the dismantling of our aid budget is completely out of step with the kindness of its people,” Rogers said.
She said at a time when organisations like World Vision Australia were responding to unprecedented numbers of displaced children and multiple humanitarian crises, Australia couldn’t afford to lag behind.
“We can’t simply tread water at a time when the global cry for help is deafening,” she said.
Bridi Rice, director of policy and advocacy at the Australian Council For International Development, told Pro Bono News the ranking was alarming, as it showed Australia wasn’t paying its share of global commitments to achieve international targets.
“The government’s decision to continue to decrease the Australian aid and development budget is alarming – primarily for the lives of people in the world’s poorest countries,” Rice said.
“But this is also alarming globally – Australia isn’t paying its fair share of global commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”
Australia’s foreign aid budget is the least generous it has ever been, following a failure in this year’s budget to lift the spend. Aid spending has fallen from $5.05 billion in 2013/14 to $4 billion in 2019/20.
Rice said the declining aid spend wouldn’t just affect vulnerable people, but business and foreign trade too.
“We are veering into a withdrawal from large parts of Asia without consideration of the human and strategic costs,” she said.
“Cutting one part of the budget to pay for another does not add up to a long-term plan for international development cooperation and building Australia’s relationships. It’s strategically short-sighted.”
But White said the bipartisan parliamentary report released last week calling for Australia’s aid budget to be boosted over the next decade, signalled “a glimmer of hope”.
“We think that’s a really positive development despite a poor budget outcome, and we’d like to think that this represents a significant shift,” White said.
“We’re really calling on the next government after this election to make sure that these recommendations are implemented and that they do genuinely move forward with a bipartisan commitment.”