Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 00:21 | SYDNEY
Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 00:21 | SYDNEY

Email of the day II: No single answer on aid


Fergus Hanson


5 March 2008 12:57

The last word on our foreign aid discussion (which started here and continues here, here, here, here and then here) goes to Maree Nutt, national manager of RESULTS Australia:

There is no single answer in the messy and complicated world of human needs and development: the economic models that may work in Viet Nam are not necessarily the same as those for Cambodia, let alone for Vanuatu and PNG. What is critical is that the people of these countries be given support to develop their own ideas of progress rather than have them imposed by countries like Australia.

We will never have a perfect program and we need to recognise that it will always be a complicated and veering path forward. We also need to make sure that we do not hold aid up to higher standards than Australian domestic programs, which are not immune from inefficiency.

There are many aid successes – improvements in key indicators such as child mortality, education and the management of major diseases in almost every country in the developing  world – are due to a combination of improved governance, economic development and development assistance. Development assistance has helped to solve the threats of small pox and polio, slashed the deaths of children, saved millions of people’s lives threatened by diseases such as TB and AIDS (which need to be addressed immediately to prevent further escalation),  provided essential education and helped countries dramatically reduce the impacts of natural catastrophes. We need Australia’s aid program to do all of the following:

  • support the development plans of our partner countries
  • focus on helping the poorest people achieve their basic rights
  • improve governance and the environment for individual initiative
  • reduce waste from corruption and high fees to Western consultants
  • work cooperatively with other donors to maximise effectiveness and to help meet our international agreements such as the Millennium Development Goals
  • support a wide range of approaches based on 'what works where'
  • learn from our successes and failures
  • ensure it is targeting the poorest people and objectively measuring its impact in terms of reducing poverty. 

Australia’s aid program  is heading in this direction and it can be improved further. Those who advocate for more aid are not seeking a bottomless pit of money – just 0.7% of GNI or around 3% of the federal budget.  These  relatively small levels of aid can and do make a difference to millions of people’s lives and they can make even more difference.