Australia’s aid program must be squarely focused on helping the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, Oxfam Australia said today.
Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke acknowledged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s commitment to lead an innovative and effective aid program, outlined in her address to the National Press Club today, but urged the Government to ensure poor people remain at the heart of the Australian aid program.
“Whether it’s talking about the contribution that the private sector can make to international development or ensuring Australian aid yields the right results, our focus must always be on delivering real change in the lives of poor and marginalised people,” Dr Szoke said.
Dr Szoke said it was heartening to see a commitment and energy from Julie Bishop to ensuring effectiveness in government funded aid programs.
“Oxfam welcomes this opportunity to demonstrate the value for money, effectiveness and accountability that is fundamental to our own aid programs,” Dr Szoke said. “It is disappointing that due to the $7.6billion cut to Australian aid announced in the May budget there will however be significantly less aid to deliver.
“The new aid paradigm can be positive if implemented with poor people at its heart but if we are to reverse trends like just one per cent of the global population owning almost half the world’s wealth; and one in eight people experiencing hunger every day, then we must stop cutting aid,” Dr Szoke said.
“It is also disappointing to see less Australian aid going to Africa given the enormous need there.”
Dr Szoke said Oxfam also challenges the government to apply rigorous thinking to the way it enhances innovation in the aid program and expands engagement with the private sector.
“Oxfam acknowledges the important role of the private sector in helping to reduce poverty through job creation and stimulating economic growth, but unless businesses operate ethically, sustainably and with respect for human rights these benefits will not flow to the people in society who need them most.
“Poverty and inequality are enormous global challenges that need an all hands on deck approach, but the aid program will need to put in place strong checks and balances to ensure engagement with the profit-driven sector works to reduce poverty and does not further entrench inequality.”
Dr Szoke said it was disappointing that climate change was not mentioned in the Abbott Government’s “new aid paradigm” given it is one of the biggest challenges in the fight against poverty and inequality.
“The most savage impact of climate change is increased hunger and poverty,” Dr Szoke said.
“From the low-lying Pacific Islands to drought-prone regions of Africa, many of the communities with whom Oxfam works are already suffering the devastating consequences of rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns and other climate impacts.”
Dr Szoke said Oxfam welcomed the aid program’s focus on the empowerment of women and girls.
“The Minister for Foreign Affairs has been unequivocal in her commitment to advance women’s equality and rights in the region. Now we want to see action on the ground, through increased investment in long-term programs to support women bring about change,” Dr Szoke said.
To arrange an interview please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.