Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 18:50 | SYDNEY
Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 18:50 | SYDNEY

Aid review: not before time

16 November 2010 16:24

Today, Foreign Minister Rudd announced an 'Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness'. According to his media release, the review will look at the effectiveness of the Australian Government's aid program and guide its strategic direction.

It's a very welcome initiative and not before time. The Lowy Institute, along with other Australian aid policy commentators, has been urging the government for some time to put robust strategic flesh and muscle onto the aid policy skeleton.

While this review is ostensibly about aid effectiveness, its terms of reference point to a product which promises to be significantly more influential and policy–shaping than an aid technocrat's review of efficiency. It will be looking at the program's geographic focus, aid modalities and the program's own performance and approaches. It will also be making recommendations on the organisational structure for the aid program, although this comes after major changes were already implemented earlier this year. The program's own internal arbiter of effectiveness, the Office of Development Effectiveness, also comes under the review team's scrutiny. This office was created under the Howard Government when the aid agency came under pressure from other parts of the Canberra bureaucracy which were concerned, and not a little envious, at the program's exponentially increasing budget.

Major reviews of Australia's aid program are now traditional fixtures on the government policy–setting agenda, and justifiably, given the size of the investment. In 1984, the Hawke Government commissioned the Jackson Report. The Howard Government initiated the Simons Review in 1996 and then followed it up 10 years later with the release of the first ever White Paper on Australia's aid program. Each of these substantial exercises was pivotal in setting a clear direction and rationale for the program well into the future. And between each of them, smaller reviews have been used to refine and re-calibrate according to altered circumstances.

With the aid budget set to reach 0.5 per cent of Australia's gross national income by 2015/2016, there will be big expectations of this review and even bigger ones for the implementation of its findings.

Photo by Flickr user Stuck in Customs, used under a Creative Commons licence.