A major United Nations summit on financing international development and aid held in Africa this week will shine a harsh light on Australia’s retreat from supporting some of the poorest people in the world thanks to the government’s savage cuts in aid to the continent, says NGO Plan International Australia.
The UN will be hosting heads of state, finance ministers and development ministers from across the world at the third international Financing For Development conference in Addis Ababa from today (July 13-16). But the conference comes at a time of unprecedented aid cuts: the Abbott government has slashed the aid budget by $11 billion in the past year – 20 per cent has been torn from Australian aid in this financial year alone.
Nowhere have those cuts been felt more painfully than in Sub-Saharan Africa which, despite being home to some of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, has borne the brunt of government cuts in aid. In the last Budget, the Government cut aid to Africa by a staggering 70 per cent.
“Africa is home to at least 18 of the poorest countries in the world, so it is clear that the continent should be a focus of our aid budget. After all, developing poor nations is the whole point of Australian aid,” says Dave Husy, Director of International Programs for Plan International Australia.
“But this Government is demanding that some of the world’s most vulnerable people carry the biggest burden of these cruel and unjustified cuts in Australian aid. This week’s conference in Addis Ababa just serves to highlight what a misguided and unfair move this is,” Husy says.
“We are not just talking about numbers when we talk about aid cuts, we are talking about real people paying a real price – and that price is very high indeed,” he says. “A great example is right on the doorstep of this conference for any Australian official participating to see: Plan is being forced to end one of our projects in Addis Ababa that has had a powerful positive impact on many, many children’s lives.”
“That project is our Community Led Action for Children project, which works to improve the health, development, learning and protection of young children through a low cost and high-quality early learning program,” Husy says.
“This project includes a mobile library carted into remote areas by donkey to give poor children access to books and to help them learn to read for the first time. This project is to close as a direct result of budget cuts to Australian aid.”
“We have reached 1,572 children in the past year, and were due to reach more than 4,000 in the next two years. It’s likely that we will reach none of those. So it’s clear to see how aid cuts hurting vulnerable people in genuine need.”
“The Australia government needs to genuinely consider the impact aid cuts are having on people and on development in Africa, and restore aid to Africa to levels we as a nation can be proud of,” he says.
Facts on foreign aid cuts:
- In 2014, the Federal Government announced $11 billion in cuts to its foreign aid program.
- The aid budget will be cut by 20 per cent in the 2015 financial year.
- In 2016/17, Australia will give a third less than it did in 2012/13.
- By 2017/18, Australian aid will fall to just 0.22 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI), down from 0.34 per cent in 2012/13 and the lowest it has ever been. The internationally accepted target is 0.7 per cent of GNI.
- By 2016, Australia will be one of the least generous developed countries, falling from 13th out of 28 countries to 19th. We are likely to rank below almost every country in Western Europe, as well as NZ and Canada.
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 77 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.