Australian aid watchdog condemns new foreign aid paradigm


For immediate release 18/6/2014


Sydney: Aid/Watch has responded to the address of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to the National Press Club where Ms Bishop reiterated a commitment to steering the aid program to support aid-for-trade, and private sector involvement in poverty alleviation and economic development.


Aid/Watch Director, Thulsi Narayanasamy said, “The Minister’s commitment to equating private-sector led economic growth with poverty alleviation lacks an evidence base. To the contrary, evidence shows that economic growth in countries such as India and China has resulted in serious and increasing disparity between the rich and poor”.


“Without question, Australia’s aid program is being used as a promotional vehicle for Australia’s big business abroad and to promote Australia’s commercial and security interests. We fundamentally disagree that the objectives of Australia’s commercial interest and that of poverty alleviation for the worlds poorest are mutually reinforcing”.


The Minister has called the recently unveiled approach a new paradigm for development.


Ms Narayanasamy said, “The suggestion that a focus on economic development is a new approach is misleading. International aid has a long history of focussing on economic growth. This agenda was promoted through an era of tied aid and structural adjustment which was not only ineffective, it overwhelmingly harmed the poor.”


“Similarly, the aid-for-trade approach isn’t new. This was introduced under the Howard Government. The aid budget has long been corporatized, with big business disproportionately benefiting.”


She continued, “Viewing the private sector as a development partner rather than acting on the urgent need to address the lack of corporate accountability and the negative consequences their actions have on the worlds poorest is worrying.”


“The corporate sector has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for human rights and continues to operate with relative impunity in developing countries. We see this through their involvement in land grabs, financing large unwanted development projects, breaches in labour rights, environmental damage and a myriad other issues.”


“The negotiations to secure the PACER-Plus trade agreement with the Pacific demonstrate the lengths Australia will go to in order to secure its own interests at the expense of the people of Pacific Island Nations. Pacific Leaders have repeatedly stated that they can see the benefit proposed regional trade relations will have for Australia, but don’t see how this will benefit them yet Australia presents this as mutually beneficial.”


Aid/Watch is an independent monitor of Australia’s aid and trade.


For media inquiries contact: Thulsi Narayanasamy, Aid/Watch. 0405 801 493