International development commitments must resonate beyond electoral cycles

Campaigns and Advocacy, Foreign aid, Media Releases article written on the 02 Jun 2022

As Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy MP, is welcomed to the Australian Government’s ministry, a new group of Australian NGOs – known as ‘The Ripple Project’ – has set an ambition to increase Australian aid through legislated targets.

Seeking to build public and cross-party political support for graduated increases to aid spending levels of 0.7% of Australia’s national income by 2030, ‘The Ripple Project’ has launched to show the vital role development assistance plays in Australia’s region and the world.

Hayley Cull, Deputy CEO of Plan International Australia, and co-chair of the ‘The Ripple Project’ said:

“This is a new era for Australian aid. As an Australian politician today, if you turn to the public, Australia’s allies like the US or to defence and diplomacy leaders, you will find strong support for increasing effective development assistance.

“We think the time has come to build a movement to lock-in our moral obligations and the strategic importance of development assistance through legislated aid targets. By doing so, we can move our investment in development assistance beyond election cycles.

“Long-term poverty reduction and the development of our region takes time, sustained effort and establishing trusted partnerships. Australia must demonstrate to our neighbours and partners that we are in it for the long-haul.

“When you look across the election commitments of the political parties, we now have the most pro-aid Parliament in over a decade. The moral, human and strategic case for scaling-up development assistance has rarely been stronger in Australia’s history and broad political will is solidifying.”

According to the ABC’s Vote Compass, only a small 13% minority of the Australian public want the Government to spend less on foreign aid, with 45% saying we should be spending somewhat more or much more.

Leaders from across the political spectrum and Australian society, including former Foreign Ministers, Julie Bishop and Gareth Evans, OECD Secretary-General, Mathias Cormann, Business Council of Australia CEO, Jennifer Westacott and former US Ambassador to Australia, Arthur B Culvahouse, are amongst those who have either decried Australian aid cuts or called for an increase.

The Ripple Project has welcomed comments by Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese who said last week that Australian aid was “not only the right thing to do to developing countries, it is in our national interest to engage and to provide support to developing nations.”

Amy Smith, Chief Advocate for International Justice Mission and fellow co-chair of ‘The Ripple Project’, said:

“COVID-19 and climate change have been a catalyst in showing that human and security challenges go beyond our borders and that they need to be matched by spending and political action which does the same.

“We need preventative aid spending to head these issues off at the pass, whether that’s the emergence of a new infectious disease or helping to prevent our neighbours from being forced from their homes by rising sea levels and harsher climate disasters. This is exactly the sort of challenge faced by countries like the Solomons Islands today.

“The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance is growing exponentially; we are at the heart of a region surrounded by developing countries; and there is an immediate need to strengthen Australia’s cooperation with our neighbours, particularly in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. That is a resounding rationale for this new Parliament to work towards greater spending on development assistance.”

The Ripple Project has launched a short report to demonstrate the impact of Australian aid projects and the ripple effects which resonate through generations and the communities, nations and regions in which they live.

Cull continued:

“Australian aid projects are life-changing and have ripple effects which build more peaceful, more prosperous nations.

“Building a primary school means a child gets an education and creates a better future for their entire family. Building a road means people can more easily get from A to B, allowing them to travel for school and work, and build an economy.

“This all adds up to create the region and the world that the Australian people want to see. It also helps us align with partner-nations through helping with their most difficult development challenges.”

The Ripple Project will write to all political leaders in the new Parliament seeking their support for legislated aid targets on a trajectory to reaching the UN-agreed target of spending 0.7% of Official Development Assistance of Gross National Income by 2030.

For interview requests with Hayley Cull or Amy Smith, contact 0401 721 064.