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The Australian Government is currently conducing an independent review of the Australian Aid Program. As part of our ongoing work to campaign for aid effectiveness, the Global Poverty Project today made a submission which you can reach below. Or, download a pdf version here (3 pages).
Structure of the Aid Program
Health, Education & Governance. The Australian public want an aid program that is focused on delivering real results for the world’s poorest. They value the quality of health, education and governance in our country, and see these as building blocks to support countries to fight poverty. Given the size of the Australian aid program, it would be 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.
Health. As Australia seeks to scale up the financial size of its aid program, it must take considerations of absorptive capacity seriously, and make significant investments in proven and effective multilateral instruments. GAVI is regularly noted as one of the most effective aid recipients, and Australia should make a significant commitment at the forthcoming pledging conference to support GAVI’s work to save 4.2 million lives in the next five years.
Governance. Weak governance and corruption is the number one concern of the Australian public when it comes to the barriers in fighting poverty. AusAID has an opportunity, through increased support for the ANCP and NGOs in recipient countries to significantly strengthen civil society and build capacity. Further support for multi-stakeholder governance initiatives – such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and the Natural Resource Charter – are encouraged, as is an ongoing dialogue and program of action to enlist the support of Australian companies working in recipient countries to uphold and promote good governance.
Finish the Job on Polio and Measles. AusAID has previously cited the eradication of polio from the Western Pacific as one of its greatest successes. We wholeheartedly agree, and in tough economic times, we encourage AusAID to focus on areas where clear ‘wins’ can be demonstrated to the public. Polio and measles offer this opportunity, with both diseases having a realistic chance of being eradicated in the coming years.
Polio is a disease that has left a legacy in Australia following the epidemics of the 1950s, scarring thousands for life, yet its global caseload has been reduced by 99% in the past 30 years. It was Australians involved in Rotary who started the worldwide push to eradicate polio a generation ago, and in 2011, we have the opportunity to finish the job. The Polio Eradication Initiative is just $810m short of having sufficient funding to eradicate polio at the time of writing, and a $50m contribution from Australia – the announcement of which could be timed to coincide with World Polio Day and Perth hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in October – would be a huge step towards bridging this funding gap.
Measles has had its death rate reduced by 78% since 2000, with worldwide coverage approaching levels that make imminent eradication possible. Australia can support the global push to contain and then eradicate measles by making a significant investment to GAVI.
Focus on Poor People, not Poor Countries. Across the country, we hear loud and clear from working Australians that poverty is about people, not countries. Andy Sumner’s recent paper for IDS, the New Bottom Billion, captures this sentiment perfectly, and we encourage AusAID to focus its work on poor people, not just poor countries. 72% of the world’s extreme poor live in middle-income countries, and our program should respond to this reality, balancing investments accordingly.
Regional middle-income countries. Focusing on poor people is particularly pertinent to our nearest neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region, several of whom have recently or will soon graduate to middle-income status. Australia has developed significant expertise in many of these countries, and should continue to focus on providing aid where necessary and effective.
Coordination of the Aid Program
Complete Transparency of Activities & Outcomes. In the absence of information to the contrary, the Australian public make assumptions about the effectiveness or otherwise of Australian aid. AusAID should take a radical approach to transparency, and publish in full the tenders, contracts, progress, impact and evaluation reports funded by Australian aid. Australia should follow and extend on the example of the US foreignassistance.gov website, providing simple graphical tools that allow data to be interrogated by the public and the development sector. The Office for Development Effectiveness should enforce this directive, and work to provide public-friendly summary reports alongside the annual statement to Parliament.
Locals not expats. The Australian public sees that aid is about capacity-building, and enabling locals to lift themselves out of poverty. In our work with the Australian public, we are regularly challenged with serious questions about the sustainability and effectiveness of the over-utilisation of expatriate staff, and especially the use of consultants and contractors. To the greatest extent possible, the Australian aid program should reflect the public’s desire, and the evidence base for investing in locals in preference to expatriates.
Long-term outcomes, not short-term outputs. We encourage 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. The Australians we speak to understand that development is often slow and complex, and are dissatisfied with having the aid program being explained to them in terms of money spent and things built. Although a focus on outcomes may make project and program design slower and more costly, it will result in better development outcomes, and greater eventual value for money for Australian taxpayers.
Aid is about poverty alleviation - and should be coordinated by AusAID. We believe that a strong, centrally coordinated AusAID is vital to having an aid program that is focused on poverty-alleviation. The contrasting examples and effectiveness of DFID in the UK and USAID provide ample evidence of the importance of this. The Australian public sees aid as a contribution by citizens to global goods, and as such, do not want to see aid used for security or diplomatic purposes. In particular, we recommend that AusAID is given control of Australian contributions to the World Bank, and that reporting and decisions on all ODA are made through AusAID and the responsible Minister.
Public support is more than communications. In speaking to the Australian public about aid, we have found strong support for fighting poverty, but many questions about aid effectiveness and corruption. The Australian public have very few channels for engaging with issues of aid and development – most contacts are the result of charity advertising and news reports, both of which tend to focus on the negative and the need. AusAID must do more to counteract this unbalanced view of development, and should focus greater resources on community engagement – with grants/funds tied explicitly to a battery of development awareness and attitudes indicators that build support not for AusAID and bilateral aid, but for the notion of Australia as a global citizen and the importance and possibility of fighting extreme poverty.
Simon McKeon, Director of the Global Poverty Project Australia, was today named the 2011 Australian of the Year.
Simon receives this prestigious award in recognition of his efforts supporting multiple Australian and international non-profit organizations, including the Global Poverty Project, where he has worked with the team from the inception to develop a community education and engagement program that will catalyse the global movement to end extreme poverty.
Simon’s work within the not-for-profit sector is significant. He serves as the Chairman of Business for Millennium Development, a group that exists to reduce poverty by partnering Australian businesses with developing countries in the Asia Pacific Region. He has served as a board member for World Vision Australia, was the Founding Chairman of MS Research Australia, and is also involved with Red Dust Role Models, a group that works with remote Indigenous communities.
Simon currently works as the Executive Chairman of the Macquarie Group’s Melbourne office, and is a well-known philanthropist, businessman and avid sportsman. Despite being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis ten years ago, he has not slowed his corporate life or his tireless community work.
The Australia Day Council said, “His lifelong efforts to support Australian and international charities have earned him great admiration and respect in the community.”
We congratulate Simon on this momentous occasion and thank him for his ongoing contributions to the Global Poverty Project’s work in Australia.
I’ve spent most of December putting off the inevitable (and sometimes dreaded) - Christmas shopping.
Finding that elusive ‘perfect present’ is tough at the best of times, but I’ve found it increasingly difficult since I started trying to find presents that would not only benefit the recipient, but also the creator.
So I was extremely excited this weekend when I came across the huge range of ethical products at Melbourne’s Fair @ Square fair-trade and ethical festival.
I was so impressed by the vast array of ethical products available, that I thought share them, to help others tick some gifts off their Christmas to do lists.
One stall that grabbed my attention straight away was that of One Seed - a clothing line that sells clothing created by partner micro-enterprises in developing nations - they had a great range of gorgeous high quality clothing available, including: dresses, skirts, shirts and t-shirts, tops and bags.
Two other fantastic ethical clothing options are also 3Ffish and Etiko brands:
3fish are a Fairtrade Certified clothing line passionate about providing good quality clothing that supports producers who pay their employees a fair wage, treat them with respect, provide safe and hygienic working conditions, and who avoid child labor. They sell dresses, camisoles, t-shirts, singlets, sweaters, hoodies and caps.
Etiko are another ethical clothing line, with a great line of t-shirts, shirts and hoodies in print and non-print options, including their trademark “wear no evil” shirt.
Socks and Underwear
Even the standard socks & undies option can be sourced ethically this Christmas:
Pants to Poverty provide a fantastic Fairtrade Certified underwear range for men, women and children.
Sassi sell Fairtrade cotton sports socks, which also help to support the Life Changing Experience Foundation’s SISTER2sister Program.
Fairtrade provider Etiko also have a shoe range available, featuring low-cut and hi-top sneakers and slip-ons produced by fair trade accredited manufacturers and worker owned co-operatives.
The Aware Network sell ‘Mola Shoes’ – handmade, non-sweatshop shoes made from recycled ‘Mola’ textiles, and handmade into an individual pair of shoes.
Sports balls can also be sourced ethically, with Jinta Sport selling Fairtrade Certified Footballs, soccer balls, netballs, basketballs, cricket balls, rugby union balls and futsals.
One of the most exciting finds of my day was at the stall for Mundo Maya - who had a group of Hacky Sacks on display (a fantastic gift for my young cousins). The sacks (and other items in the stall) had been made by indigenous artisans in Guatemala. The group also sell jewellery, homewares, bags and other accessories.
During the festival I also declared my love Cocolo Chocolate. After trying all 5 sample flavours, I consider this a well informed decision. Not only is all of Cocolo’s chocolate range Fairtrade Certified, but it tastes amazing, and covers the flavour ranges I needed for a few family members who are notoriously tough to buy for. I invested in a block of dark mint crisp, dark orange chocolate and white with almond crunch, but there are also: dark almond chocolate, dark bitter sweet, milk, milk hazelnut and dark 70%. (I’m told two of these flavours are gluten free, which is a bonus for any friends with gluten intolerance.)
But there are also a number of other Fairtrade Certified chocolate blocks available:
At supermarkets: ALDI’s Just Organics, Alter Eco, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Green Black’s Maya range, Lindsay & Edmunds handmade chocolates and Scarborough Fair.
Chocolatier have a Fairtrade Certified gift box chocolate, which you can buy at their North Ivanhoe store, or at Priceline, an Oxfam Shop or select Myer stores.
The Oxfam Shop are also a fantastic source of Fairtrade chocolate options, including the Oxfam Shop range.
Tea & Coffee
Universal Village’s Rhino Coffee recently won 2nd place in the Espresso Class at the National Golden Bean Coffee Awards. It won’t appear in stores in February, but can be bought online in time for Christmas. They also distribute tea – selling Qi branded green and white teas.
If you’re not sure about the kind of present you’re after, but just know you want to source it ethically, The Oxfam Shop is a fantastic resource. They have a huge range of gifts available, including a special Christmas range (which you can view online here). Their general range includes home decor items, kitchen accessories, bags, scarves, jewellery, toys, CDs, books and even wine sourced from small and medium Australian wineries.
I hope this list has helped you with your Christmas shopping. If you want to share any ethical product finds you’ve made recently, please leave a comment below.
Wednesday 1st December marks the world's 24th commemoration of World AIDS Day. With Australia having only recently recorded our 30,000th positive status in more than 25 years of testing it's worth pausing to remember the magnitude and complexity of the global pandemic that has claimed roughly 30 million lives in three decades. More critical is the reminder of the hopeful nature of the response that can be achieved with greater focus and collaboration.
For me AIDS switched from being list of horrifying stats from far off places to something very real when I met Princess Kasune Zulu through World Vision in 2002. One of few people in southern Africa who'd admit to being HIV positive, she was on a one woman mission to warn the world about the pandemic. It wasn't long before I was absorbed in the fight, travelling through her homeland Zambia and neighboring countries preparing to write a book that would come to be known as Warrior Princess, documenting the story of her life and in turn the story of AIDS.
This travel brought home the realisation that the lottery of latitude dealt me a winning hand. My life had followed avery different course to Princess, who had lost her parents and baby sister to the virus and had become infected herself, simply because I had been born in Australia.
It sticks in my mind that most African native languages have no word that equates to the English, orphan. The extended family, the village, was there to embrace any child whose biological parents passed. Today, not only is the word orphan common place, but so too is another more melancholy term, serial orphan. This term describes a child whose parents have died and who has then moved from carer to carer each perishing from a virus that many describe as the greatest moral challenge facing our generation.
The reasons for the prevalence of AIDS in southern Africa, home of two thirds of the world's HIV infections, are worth exploring - partly to help us understand the complexity of the response required and also to dispel the myths and prejudices that lurk atthe back of our minds.
The primary reason AIDS was able to take hold lies with its deadly ally, extreme poverty. With too many of southern Africa's number living on the Australian equivalent of less than $2 per day families have scarcely enough money for one or two daily meals.On that kind of income, even the most basic medical care and education remainselusive.
Historically, the impoverished medical system itself has played a lead role in enabling the spread of the virus. Take a country like Zambia. In 2002 there were just three HIV testing centres across the country and each HIV test cost $3. If you live onless than $2 a day - transportation to the testing centre is prohibitive, before you even contemplate the cost of the test. Historically, the medication to treat HIV cost up to $10,000 annually. A positive diagnosis was simply a death sentence, so why would you fight so hard to find out in the first place?
Part of the reason the medical system is a crumbled mess lies with international lenders who imposed conditions on countries with excessive borrowings that preventedany more than 5% of GDP being spent on a country's civil service - this meansdoctors, nurses and teachers. When the health of a nation is so perilous, medical care must be obtained somehow. A country like Zambia with less than 1000 'western' medical doctors for a population of 11 million people instead relies on its 40,000 'traditional healers' for medical care. These healers, who were slow to believe in HIV and AIDS, remain the primary carers of their destitute, remote populations. Rather than diagnose HIV, all too often they made pronouncements of witching and curses and prescribed treatments such as sleeping with a virgin girl or cuts with dirty razor blades to cure one's ills.
Next we are faced with challenges of geography, Zambia is a landlocked country bordered byeight neighbours, all similarly poor. Historically roads have been in terrible condition - I have seen children walk along ahead of a car and offer to fillpotholes with a bucket of soil for money. It takes an inordinately long time topass from one side of the country to the next and then more days still to clear its borders. With less than sea five ports to the whole of Africa, the transportation of goods by roads is a necessity. The reality of women living through desperate times is a pressure to resort to the provision of sex for money just to survive. There's always a ready assortment of girls at African border posts waiting for weary drivers who have been away from home for months. Many of these girls have been orphaned by AIDS themselves. Sexual interactions cancome as cheaply as $1 or $5 if a man doesn't want to wear a condom.
Social structures have also enabled the HIV to spread. Up until and including 1997when Princess Zulu wanted to be tested, women needed the permission of their husbands. When condoms are available, women are often powerless to insist they are used in cultures so dominated by men.
The HIV virus also gives itself a running start in southern Africa. The region is home to aparticular strain of HIV that may take 8-10 years to exhibit physical symptoms after infection. By this time the virus can spread from person to person from community to community and country to country with no one realizing.
The truth of the matter is a perfect storm of conditions joined forces to effectively laydown a red carpet for this insidious virus, allowing it to silently infect ageneration of the region's most productive members before they ever even knew what hit them.
The response required to undo such a tangled web is equally complex, though by no means impossible.
Partially at the encouragement of Princess Kasune Zulu on her visit to the Whitehouse in 2005, the international community pledged to provide treatment to all who require it, a commitment known as the provision of Universal Treatment. A key element of the response, this was the right and only decision to take. However, this pledge has myriad consequences. On the upside, 5 million people in developing countries now receive life saving treatment. On the downside, for each two who gain access to treatment another five become infected.
The financial costs of providing universalaccess to treatment are high, with over 80% of the cost incurred not from the medication itself, but from the infrastructure: the testing centres, doctors and hospitals essential to administer the complex cocktail of drugs currently available.
The result is an exponential increase inpeople requiring treatment at an ever-increasing cost. Much of the US government's international aid budget is currently consumed by the provision ofAnti Retroviral Drugs (ARVs), while essential and right, this is money tha cannot be spent on education other aspects of health reform or infrastructure.The budget cannot be reduced as once a person commences ARVs they must continue the regime for life, lest HIV progress to AIDS.
While the international humanitarian agencies continue to argue for governments to increase all forms of Overseas Aid, we must recognize the response is not the responsibility of governments alone.Countries like Uganda, and to a lesser extent Zambia, have shown that the tidecan be turned on HIV. Uganda's world famous success story saw governments,humanitarian organisations, churches, community groups and schools unite to reduce infection rates from around 20 percent to five percent.
When we hold the virus firmly in our sights we can win. The number of new cases of HIV/AIDS has dropped by about one-fifth over the past decade.UNAIDS has plans in place to eliminate the passing of the HIV virus from mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding by 2015. The cost of the drug required to achieve this outcome is a meager four dollars. Earlier this year UNAIDS released a report entitled Treatment 2.0 that advocates for a new, less expensive treatment regime that can be administered by nurses, at a greatly reduced cost and with reduced side effects. We now know that if people can begin accessing treatment before they are on death's door, it can also prevent the spread of the virus.
The best scientists declare both cure and vaccine to be some way off. While they pursue these most important of goals, the moral challenge before each of us isnot to turn our heads, but to retain hope and to unite and innovate. The solutions are there, they require an un-precendented level of commitment and collaboration and a focus on that which no longer makes headlines.
While Australia remains far removed from the epicentre of this storm we must hold it at the forefront of our minds. The spread of AIDS means the erosion of decades of progress in development.
When we need a reminder as to just why this is so important, take a looks at a group of Aussie kids playing together be they your own children, your neighbours' children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren - imagine for a moment one in three has tragically nursed their parents to their early death. Imagine the term 'serial orphan' applying to our own. Imagine Australia's sons and daughters living alone at eight year, 10 years, hungry and frightened, trapped in a cycle of precarious vulnerability and extreme poverty. If we wouldn't allow this to happen here, why is it so much easier to tolerate on the opposite side of the world?
Our exciting new campaign Live Below the Line has been getting some serious media attention in the past few weeks, and we’re excited that over one thousand Australians will be feeding themselves with just $2 a day this August, to raise awareness of the challenges inherent in extreme poverty.
To show our appreciation of the commitment of our supporters, we’re offering Live Below the Line participants that raise over $1,000 the chance to win their body weight in Fairtrade chocolate!