Responding to the Coalition’s announcement on its foreign policy agenda, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:
“We are disappointed that the Coalition’s foreign policy announcement fails to address calls to increase funding for overseas development assistance at a time when recent cuts have taken Australia to the least generous we have ever been.
“While we welcome the Coalition’s recognition of the importance of enhancing Australia’s crisis response capability, an investment of $8 million over four years for this purpose is woefully inadequate to meet the rising scale and frequency of disasters and conflicts around the world.
“This investment represents a less than 0.6 per cent increase to the Australian Government’s current levels of aid funding for humanitarian programs, emergencies and refugees.
“The Government’s humanitarian funding allocations have remained largely unchanged over the last three Federal budgets, despite the fact that humanitarian funding needs have increased by more than 60 per cent since the Coalition took office in 2013, with a record US$20.3 billion requested by the United Nations this year.
“With the aftershocks of a super-charged El Nino still affecting an estimated 60 million people worldwide, including millions in the Asia-Pacific, the Syria humanitarian crisis showing no signs of abatement, and disaster risks likely to increase due to increased exposure and the impacts of climate change, Australia should substantially increase its capacity to respond to humanitarian crises in order to contribute its fair share to total needs.
“Oxfam Australia welcomes the focus on women, but there is a gap between the promise to empower women in the region and the money allocated to the commitment.
“The $5.4 million over five years to set up a mentoring program for women in the Pacific is welcome, especially if this initiative comes as the result of significant consultation with Pacific women about their particular needs.
“But we also need to see money directed back to services supporting the huge proportion of Pacific women and girls experiencing violence, a reality that undermines women’s ability to capitalise on leadership and economic empowerment opportunities, especially when the service sector is particularly suffering from overall cuts to aid.”
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