International development agency Oxfam Australia said the Government’s response to the aid review will significantly strengthen Australia’s growing aid program and increase its impact in the fight against poverty.
Oxfam Australia acting Executive Director James Ensor welcomed the Government’s statement that the fundamental purpose of Australian aid is to help people overcome poverty.
“We congratulate the Government for its plans to tailor the aid program to individual country needs and circumstances, which should allow Australian aid to focus on what is best for a country and its people, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.” Mr Ensor said.
“We welcome the introduction of an overarching four-year strategy to guide and coordinate the
efforts of all government departments that deliver aid.
“While it’s important to demonstrate to Australian taxpayers that their money is being well spent, the key focus should be to make sure people living in poverty have a say on the effectiveness of Australian aid.
“But aid is just one part of the development picture, and we need to make sure the Government’s approach to issues such as trade, immigration and climate change do not undermine the good work being done by our aid program,” Mr Ensor said.
Positive steps in the Government’s response include a new Transparency Charter for Australia’s aid program, recognition of the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and a greater focus on humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction.
Mr Ensor said while there are many positives in the Government’s response, there are also areas that need more emphasis, such as tackling growing inequality between the rich and the poor and men and women.
“If the aid program is serious about helping people overcome poverty, it needs to better recognise the strong link between inequality and poverty. This is more urgent than ever, with three-quarters of the world’s poor now living in middle-income countries such as Indonesia. Inequality makes it harder for economic growth to effectively reduce poverty.
“Gender inequality also remains a major obstacle to the eradication of poverty, with women and girls making up 70 per cent of the world’s poorest people.
“While we welcome the Government’s increased focus on women’s empowerment and the overarching goal of promoting gender equality, this needs to be placed at the very heart of all of Australia’s aid efforts.
“In a world where more than a billion people live in extreme poverty, and in the context of growing inequality, increasing competition for scarce resources such as land and water, and greater demands for humanitarian relief, it is critical that Australia’s aid program is as effective as it can be in helping to lift people out of poverty.”
Oxfam Australia’s acting executive director James Ensor is in Canberra on Wednesday July 6 and available for comment. For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795.