ACFID sets out blueprint for Australian development cooperation and humanitarian assistance

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) – Australia’s peak-body for aid NGOs – has released its election platform and prospectus for the next Australian government and a new international development strategy.

The platform calls on all political parties to recognise Australian development cooperation and humanitarian assistance as a vital and unique national capability, a practical expression of Australia’s values and critical to the nation’s strategic circumstances.

ACFID’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, Jessica Mackenzie said:

“The urgent need for a more ambitious, independent, and self-reliant Australian foreign policy has been propelled to the heart of this election campaign by the security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China.

“This episode is just one symptom of rising human insecurity, global instability, and regional strategic competition. In Australia’s history, there have been rare occasions where the moral, human, and strategic imperative to counteract these trends through development assistance has been as compelling.

“It sits on the shoulders of the next Australian government to deliver it.

“Since the Australian government conducted a full review and refresh of its development cooperation program over a decade ago, COVID-19, climate change and geopolitical competition have been amongst the factors which have fundamentally reshaped Australia’s international environment.

“That environment is now characterised by rising poverty, inequality, increased human insecurity and illiberalism, and heightened disruption and displacement which are threatening prosperity, peace, and resilience. These are challenges which Australian development cooperation and humanitarian assistance can address.”

Released ahead of three international development election forums with the Australian Greens, the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition, ACFID’s platform sets out 7 principles for political parties to affirm which should define Australia’s official aid program and 5 pillars which should be central to a new international development strategy delivered by the next Australian government.

Mackenzie added: “The current policy – ‘Partnerships for Recovery’ – has an end date of mid-2022. It is for the next Australian government to think beyond COVID-19 and examine all the contemporary challenges our partners and allies face.”

ACFID and its members are calling on all political parties to affirm that an effective and inclusive development cooperation and humanitarian assistance program is:

  • Valued and resourced in manner that both reflects Australia’s changing strategic circumstances and lives up to our enduring moral obligations.
  • Defined in terms of poverty reduction, human development and progress toward the globally agreed 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and which must include more ambitious climate change action.
  • Defined in terms of transformative change that expands civic space and elevates the voices, knowledge and solutions of marginalised people and communities.
  • A whole-of-society endeavour that reflects the perspectives and capabilities of our development partners, civil society, Indigenous communities, business, universities, and delivery agencies.

That in doing so:

  • All forms of development finance, not only Official Development Assistance (ODA), must maximise human development impact and must be subject to the same high standards of effectiveness and inclusion, as well as transparency and accountability.
  • Recognises that locally-led development cooperation and humanitarian action delivers the most appropriate and sustainable solutions.
  • That attempts to restrict the vital advocacy voice of the not-for-profit and charity sector undermines Australia’s democratic credentials abroad and inhibits their legitimate role in communicating with the Australian people at home.

As part of a new long-term development policy developed by the next Australian government, ACFID has stated that a new policy must encompass all forms of development finance, linked to legislated budget increases and an enhanced development leadership and aid management capability, that matches Australia’s strategic circumstances and that delivers and demonstrates human development impact.

As part of the new policy, 10-year development partnerships with Australia’s Indo-Pacific partners should reflect shared goals and centre locally led approaches to development cooperation and humanitarian assistance.

Speaking earlier in April, ACFID’s CEO, Marc Purcell called for all parties to put ODA increases on a long-term footing.

“We need to return to investing 0.5 per cent of our income in development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. This was once a bipartisan commitment.”

“The Greens have committed to 0.7 per cent, while Labour has vowed to reach 0.5 per cent. While we have welcomed the Coalition Government’s $1.5 billion in extra investment in recent years, it has not set out where it wants to take the international development budget. We need all parties to agree to 0.5 and a timetable to get there.

“That (0.5%) target should be enshrined in legislation so that we can sustain and deepen partnerships in the Pacific and Southeast Asia and provide our fair share to tackling shared global challenges like climate change. With an enshrined spend partner countries know where you stand and that you are in it for the long-haul. It’s a principled commitment which over time delivers greater peace, stability and cooperation for Australians.”

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