This letter was sent to Senator Bob Carr on 22 March, 2012, shortly after he was sworn in as the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Congratulations on your recent appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Given your responsibility to oversee Australia’s expanding aid budget, we are heartened by your strong and continuing commitment to international development, and look forward to working with you.
As a collective of civil-society organisations that support Australia’s increasing leadership on issues of global health, we urge you to make the battle against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria a priority. In demonstrating this, we request the Australian Government to contribute an additional $AUD 100 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) this financial year.
1. The Global Fund – a decade of life-saving aid
Established in 2002, the Global Fund is the leading international funding mechanism for AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria: supporting over half of all those on antiretroviral treatment and representing 83 percent of international commitments for TB and two-thirds for malaria. Since its inception, the Global Fund has helped to save nearly 8 million lives - an estimated 4,000 lives saved every day, making it one of the most successful public health efforts in history.
In the fight against AIDS alone, 6.6 million people in low and middle-income countries now have access to life-saving AIDS treatment, up from 200,000 a decade ago. Today, 48 percent of all people on AIDS medication depend on the Global Fund for their treatment. According to recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) the numbers of deaths from TB and malaria have also fallen dramatically thanks to the Global Fund. Such progress would not have been possible without the funding provided by the Global Fund over the last decade.
2. Funding crisis threatening Global Fund’s life-saving work
Against this backdrop of success and impact, the Global Fund’s live-saving work is now at risk. Following lower than expected financial contributions by some developed countries – not matching the pledges they made in 2010 - the Global Fund Board meeting in November 2011 was forced to cancel its next round (Round 11) of grant-making and announced that it would not be in a position to make any new grants until 2014. This not only prevents the needed expansion of activities but threatens many existing programs.
Much of our own experience in many of the world’s poorest countries, coupled with the latest scientific evidence, makes clear that this funding crisis could not have arrived at a worse time. 2011 not only brought the first reduction in fatalities from HIV/AIDS, but also a series of major scientific breakthroughs against the disease, including a landmark scientific trial which showed that treating HIV positive people early with life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) has the added benefit of preventing sexual transmission of the virus by 96%. Expanding access to ART could thus be one of the best ways to turn the AIDS epidemic around.
Additionally, despite the emergence of ever-more resistant forms of TB, efforts to expand effective diagnosis and treatment for people with drug-resistant TB will now be further delayed as a direct result of the shortfall in funding being faced by the Global Fund. The introduction of better treatment for young children with malaria that could save many more young lives, as recommended by WHO in 2011, might also now be delayed. For each of these three diseases the downward trend in their morbidity graphs achieved over the last two years will now inevitably be reversed to an upward trajectory as the current successful impact of the programs in place will be reduced.
3. Opportunity for Australian leadership
We applaud the Australian Government for increasing its contribution to the Global Fund by 57 percent at the last replenishment round in 2010. This established Australia as a significant player in the international donor community. We now ask that you continue this leadership role by working with other key donors - such as the United Kingdom and United States - to provide supplementary funding to the Global Fund. Specifically, we request the Government to contribute an additional $100 million this financial year. Such a commitment will actively encourage other donors to do the same, generating sufficient new funding so affected countries get a new opportunity to submit proposals in 2012, in particular for HIV and drug-resistant TB treatment scale-up.
In addition to contributing an additional $100 million to the Global Fund this financial year, Australia should continue to explore ways to increase funding for bilateral HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria programs in those countries in our region most in need. In particular, we encourage AusAID to scale up HIV and drug-resistant TB programs in countries that will be most impacted by the Global Fund shortage, such as Myanmar. Finally, any additional funding announced this financial year should not detract from the need for Australia to contribute its fair share - a significantly increased amount over that pledged in 2010 - in full at the next crucial replenishment round of the Global Fund, currently scheduled to take place next year. Our per capita support for the Global Fund is currently $3.40(USD) per Australian – too low given the proven effectiveness of the Global Fund and considering the size of the challenges from these three diseases. In comparison, Norway is contributing $16.40 per Norwegian this year, France $7.30 and Canada $5.30.
Ultimately, the Australian public want an aid program that is focused on delivering real results for the world’s poorest. By demonstrating leadership through contributing additional funds to the Global Fund, Australia has the opportunity to draw public attention to the life-changing impact that our foreign aid dollars are having. Such a life-saving intervention will highlight very clearly, and publically, that aid can and is making a huge difference, buoying public support for the Government's commitment of achieving the Millennium Development Goals through increasing foreign aid spending to 0.5% of gross national income by 2015-2016.
Under your leadership, Australia has the opportunity to lead the world closer to the end of three horrific diseases which currently kill over 4 million people each year, by ensuring that the Global Fund has the resources it needs right now to continue to fund the expansion of effective, high-impact, life-saving programs. Australian leadership—in contributing additional funding to the Global Fund alongside other key donors—will determine the future of the fight and the futures of millions of people around the world. We look to your support in helping to bring this about and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this request in person.
Bill Bowtell, AO
Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Médecins Sans Frontières Australia/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
World Vision Australia
Rob Lake and Don Baxter
Executive Director and Advisor for International Programs
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)
On the 29th October 2011 in response to the Global Poverty Project's The End of Polio campaign, the Australian Government committed $50 million to polio eradication efforts - helping to close the funding gap currently limiting global vaccination work.
To celebrate this important announcement, organisation co-founders Hugh Evans and Simon Moss sent this message to campaign supporters -- sharing the grassroots beginnings of a campaign that is helping realise the end of the second human disease in history.
Australia gathers pace on aid transparency, but should be more ambitious.
It’s great news that the Australian Government has accepted the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness’ recommendation to set up a “Transparency Charter” by the end of the year, which will “promote a ‘warts and all’ approach to reporting”.
But the format information is provided in has a very strong bearing on what you can do with that information. If your budget data is locked away in a PDF, putting that online is roughly as good as providing it in a printed format. What you really want to be able to do is to take that information and analyse it in different ways – and probably from a different angle to the way it was originally presented.
As one of the founding signatories to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), Australia has demonstrated its commitment to providing more and better information about its aid activities, in a way that will be useful not only for Australians, but also citizens and governments in partner countries.
Here at Publish What You Fund, we’re very pleased that Australia will follow through on its commitment to publish to IATI this year. This month, it will publish documents, and in October we will start to see the first basic project data published. This will place Australia among the most transparent aid agencies in the world. And because it will be in a standard and comparable format, AUD 50 billion of annual aid expenditure from 12 aid donors by the end of the year can be seen all together, in an accessible way.
To monitor and encourage improvements in the levels of aid transparency in the run up to the Fourth High Level Forum at the end of the year, Publish What You Fund and its partners across the world, including colleagues at the ANU’s Development Policy Centre, have been developing an Aid Transparency Tracker. The Tracker looks at whether donors publish specific pieces of information about their aid activities, for none, some, or all of their current projects. The pieces of information are those that we feel are necessary for donors to make their aid transparent, and to meet the commitments they made in Accra in 2008. The data is still being collected, and we’ll publish the results in September.
Still, we know that – through IATI – Australia is going to be publishing a lot of data in the coming months:
The Government has committed to publish all ODA spent by AusAID, representing 87% of all Australian ODA in 2010-11
Data will be published every 6 months, with a 3 month gap between collection and publication. We encourage Australia to publish even more frequently: the UK’s Department for International Development is publishing its latest data to IATI every month.
All approved projects, including the title, implementing organisation, activity dates and expenditures will be published. We encourage Australia to provide as detailed (granular) data as possible. This will significantly increase the value of the data, both to AusAID, its partners and to other donors, so they can make more informed decisions in allocating resources and trace projects down to the ground.
We encourage AusAID to publish commitments and not just expenditures, and to publish details of planned activities in the pipeline or identification stage. This will help Australia to coordinate better with other donors in the initial design of projects, ensuring that aid is properly targeted and has greater impact.
So, what can you do to make sure this happens? In partnership with 75 civil society organisations, Publish What You Fund recently launched the Make Aid Transparent campaign (see animation above).
You can join the more than 5000 people from 115 countries who have already signed, here.
Mark Brough is a Research Officer at Publish What You Fund, the Global Campaign for Aid Transparency. To find out more about their work, visit their website.
When I was a kid, I never understood why my Mum walked funny, and always needed to rest.
I remember walking to school with her once – I would have been eight or nine. I ran off ahead, and she shouted after me to stop. I didn’t – I thought it was funny. She tried to run after me, but couldn’t. She seemed really upset, so I came walking back.
She explained that she couldn’t really run – because her legs didn’t work properly.
She’d had a disease called polio as a kid, having caught it as a baby. It meant that she never crawled, and couldn’t walk until she was almost three.
She was upset, she said, because she remembered trying to walk to school when she was my age. And, even at the age of eight, she couldn’t do it.
She’d get half way – a few hundred metres – and her legs would collapse from under her. She’d be left on the footpath, crying, not from the pain, but because she was different to all the other kids.
Me running off had reminded her of what her life had missed.
At the time, I was sad because she was sad, but now, as I reflect on her story, I’m sad because it’s a story that has been all too common.
As Mum always says to me, she was one of the lucky ones.
She caught polio in a country with a great health care system, an education system that didn’t exclude her, and a job market that still had space for someone who couldn’t stand up for very long.
But millions of kids around the world haven’t been so lucky. Some have died, and many more have suffered the debilitating effects of polio.
Polio has been reduced by 99% over the past 30 years, and its end is within our reach.
It’s truly amazing to think that a disease that loomed so large, so recently in the lives of so many could be eradicated in just a couple of years.
In the fight against extreme poverty, it’s often hard to know what progress looks like – but winning the fight against polio would be a clear and monumental achievement.
Polio hits the poorest hardest, and it in the poorest communities that it still survives. When I asked Mum about it recently, she said, “I can’t imagine how ghastly it would be to have polio and be stuck in poverty.”
Global efforts so far have delivered incredible progress: immunising more than 2 billion children and saving more than 5 million children from life-long paralysis or death.
But right now the critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is constrained by a US$590 million funding gap, putting this historic opportunity at risk.
Today, we launch THE END OF POLIO, a campaign calling on Governments to commit to eradicating polio and to filling the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s funding gap so we don’t let this chance slip from our grasp.
Today, the Federal Government announced its response to the recommendations of the Independent Review on Aid Effectiveness - the first major review of the Australian aid program in over 15 years. Of the 39 recommendations put forward by the Review Panel, the Government agreed in principle with 38 (the Government noted the remaining recommendation, which dealt with the name of the Ministerial portfolio covering the aid program, and committed to responding to this later). The Global Poverty Project is pleased to see that many of these recommendations reflect the suggestions put forward as part of our submission to the Aid Panel earlier this year.
We believe that in the absence of information to the contrary, the Australian public make assumptions about the effectiveness or otherwise of Australian aid. Thats why in our submission, we called for "a radical approach to transparency" and for the Government to publish in full the tenders, contracts, progress, impact and evaluation reports funded by Australian aid. In light of this, we welcome today's announcement by the Government to issue, by the end of 2011, a Transparency Charter to provide more accessible information on where Aid funds go and the results it achieves.
Given the size of the Australian aid program, we also believe it is wise to focus our efforts on just a handful of sectors in which we have a comparative advantage, and a successful history. We believe that health, education and governance are well suited as these focus areas. In light of this, we specifically called for the Government to contribute to successful multilaterals, like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), that already have a proven and effective track record. Given this, we are thrilled by the Government's announcement that it "will increase support for multilateral organisations" and "also develop a global ratings system, as the British have done, that assesses the relative effectiveness of all multilateral agencies." In coming months, we will encourage the Government to contribute to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the partnership tasked with the global eradication polio, in order to highlight the life-changing impact of our aid dollars.
Finally, in our submission we also encouraged AusAID to focus on the long-term outcomes – three, five years and beyond – of aid programs, rather than the outputs too often used in announcements and reporting. We are pleased the Government has taken this onboard by its announcement to "develop a rolling four-year whole-of-aid budget strategy, covering for the first time, the aid efforts of all relevant Australian Government agencies under one coherent plan that outlines the results they aim to achieve." The progress of these agencies will be analysed annually against "the results outlined in the four-year budget strategy to make clear what is working and what is not."
GPP believe that these announcements represent a positive step forward in ensuring we have an aid program that delivers real results for the world’s poorest. Of course, much more still needs to be done and our work will be ever crucial in holding the Government to account for implementing these recommendations. One way you can do this is to show your support for a transparent approach to the delivery of aid by signing the petition below.