CARITAS Australia, the international aid and development organisation of the Catholic Church, has expressed disappointment that the government in its Federal Budget has not followed through on its long-standing commitments to increase the foreign aid budget to 0.5% of Gross National Income.
Caritas CEO, Jack de Groot said they’ve delayed this bipartisan agreement twice now, which means that Australia was continuing to break international commitments. Mr de Groot added that Australia is lagging behind in its ability to be a responsible international citizen and breaking promises that quite simply save lives.
However, Mr de Groot welcomed the announcement of $390.9 million to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Asia-Pacific region.
This funding will target malnutrition among women and children, lift universal education and include increased access to maternal and child health services.
“This money will help Australia in its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals,” Mr de Groot said.
“However, delaying the target of spending 0.5% of GNI to the 2017/18 financial year will make life harder for the poorest of the poor.
“The aid sector already had a major cutback in December 2012, when the government siphoned more than $375 million from the aid budget to pay for domestic “in-donor expenses” primarily refugee processing.”
Mr de Groot said this further delay represented approximately a $2 billion cut in aid over the next four years.
“We don’t want to see any further aid cuts or diversions. Australian foreign aid saves lives and has been proven to be effective time and time again,” Mr de Groot said.
“You can see this in the recent OECD report which gave Australia’s $5 billion dollar aid program the tick of approval.
“In terms of value for money in the last year Australian aid saved the lives of at least 200,000 people according to World Bank figures and provided basic education for half a million children, not to mention giving access to clean water and adequate sanitation to thousands more.” Mr de Groot welcomed the cap on the amount of the foreign aid budget that will be spent domestically, but still expressed disappointment.
“Australians know that foreign aid is for overseas, yet we are the third largest recipient of our own aid. We even spend more on our own country than the whole aid program to sub-Saharan Africa,” Mr de Groot said.
“Our aid money is money well spent. We want to make sure the government and opposition stick to their commitments to foreign aid, so that we can continue to support and empower the world’s poorest to be the architects of their own development.”
Media contact: Nicole Clements – 0408 869 833 or Nicolec@caritas.org.au
More information – A glimpse at what Australian aid money has achieved in 2011/12
• In PNG – 10,494 adults and children were provided with lifesaving HIV treatment, including to 28 per cent of HIV positive mothers.
• In Sub-Saharan Africa – Nearly 2.5 million children were vaccinated against measles, 2.6 million against polio and 25,000 against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Facilitated 7000 safe deliveries, ante-natal care for 10,000 women and mentored 150 students at health training institutes. Safe water was delivered to 1,042,355 people (including 526,231 women) and delivered basic sanitation facilities to 849,098 people (including 427,108 women). Approximately 510,000 people with increased access to safe water, and around 110,000 additional people with access to basic sanitation or a public toilet as a result of Australia’s program in Indonesia.
• In the Pacific – 166,274 more children were enrolled in school, including 76,627 girls (46 per cent) 16,715 additional births were attended by a skilled birth attendant, 164,755 children were vaccinated against measles, 7,870 people have increased access to safe water, 3,448 kilometres of road were constructed or maintained, 3,258 police and other law and order officials were trained, 10,280 women survivors of violence received counselling services.