Priorities of AusAID
The official objective of Australia’s overseas aid program is “to assist developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia’s national interest”.[i] The 2006 White Paper, Australian Aid: Promoting Growth and Stability set out a policy framework for the aid program, with economic growth and regional stability at the centre of Australian aid. The paper set out four key themes:
- Accelerating economic growth
- Fostering functioning states
- Investing in people
- Regional stability and cooperation
The Howard Government maintained that accelerating economic growth was the foundation of aid effectiveness, contrary to international action plans in the Millennium Development Goals and 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.
Delivering aid in line with Australia’s own national interests has seen aid used as a tool to promote strategic and commercial concerns over poverty alleviation. This has led to significant increases in funding to governance programs and decreases in funding for health and education over the last ten years.
An Aid/Watch survey showed that only 4% of Australian community members support using aid to advance Australia’s strategic interests, as opposed to 43% of Australian Parliamentarians[ii].
The new Labor government: a new beginning or more of the same?
The change of government in 2007 hailed some changes in Australian aid, however much still needs to be done to make our aid more effective. Setting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as aid effectiveness benchmarks and committing to increasing levels of aid are good first steps. The Labor government has so far been very strong on symbolism with ‘partnerships’ and ‘mutual responsibility’ being the new aid rhetoric. However, there is still a long way to go to meet international aid targets and many aid practices remain unchallenged, such as Australia’s high levels of Technical Assistance and the use of tied aid (Link to :see ‘Australian government’ aid web section). AusAID’s priority of national interest in aid also remains unchanged.
[ii] Aid Watch, Attitudes to Aid – Survey p4.