LENORE TAYLOR | The Guardian | Extracts
AUSTRALIAN AID GROUPS ARE ACCUSING the Federal Coalition government of breaking an election commitment after it revealed their funding would be cut mid-year as part of a $650 million reduction in budgeted foreign aid spending, leaving 2013-14 spending $107 million below what was spent last year.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop announced the cuts for aid groups as well as a complete defunding of international environmental programs. The government is redirecting a pared-back aid budget towards the region but will maintain spending on countries such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Nauru, whose co-operation is necessary for the success of its asylum policy.
Organisations such as Care, Save the Children, Caritas, ChildFund, Plan International and the Fred Hollows Foundation – who have partnership agreements with the government – have had their current year funding cut by about 8%.
They say that means they are losing money already allocated to programs related to water and sanitation, elimination of violence against women, disaster reduction work and small-scale agriculture, among others.
The organisations say the cuts clearly break a Coalition promise not to cut funding when it announced a $4.5bn cut to the aid budget over the next four years two days before the federal election.
At the time of that cut, the government said “the Coalition will reprioritise foreign aid allocations towards non-government organisations that deliver on-the-ground support for those most in need”.
The government said it needed to redirect the $4.5 billion towards domestic infrastructure.
The government has minimised cuts for countries in the region and those involved in its asylum policy. The $448 million promised to Papua New Guinea has been retained. Nauru’s funding has also stayed the same.
The cuts put Australia even further away from meeting the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal of developed nations spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) in aid by 2015. Labor governments had already twice deferred Australia’s target of 0.5% of GNI by 2015. Bishop made no mention of the target in her statement.
She said she intended to “ensure the Australian aid budget is managed effectively and directed to organisations delivering on-the-ground support to those most in need”.