|Headquarters||Canberra, ACT, Australia|
|Employees||1,652 (at April 2013)|
|Website||DFAT, Australian Aid|
Australian Aid is the Australian Government agency responsible for managing Australia's overseas aid program. Australian Aid provides advice and support to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, presently Julie Bishop, on development policy, and planned and coordinated poverty reduction activities in partnership with developing countries.
Prior to 31 October 2013 it was an executive agency under the name AusAID (the Australian Agency for International Development) but was integrated into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The objective of the current aid program is to assist developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia's national interest. AusAID was an independent agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act, part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for the purposes of the Public Service Act which covers human resources and non-financial accountability. AusAID's head office was in Canberra. AusAID had representatives in 25 Australian diplomatic missions overseas.
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The agency saw a variety of names and formats. It was founded in 1974 under the Whitlam Labor government as the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) to fulfill a role that had previously been the responsibility of several departments. It was renamed the Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB) and brought under the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio in 1976 under the Fraser Liberal government. It became the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB) under the Hawke government in 1987, before being given its current name by the Keating government in 1995.
It also saw repeated cuts to aid contributions during its lifetime, as the level of 0.47% of gross domestic product during the Whitlam years was slashed to 0.33% under the Hawke and Keating governments, and has at times been even lower under the Howard government. Cuts have not been limited to aid levels either; in mid-1996, the Howard government slashed the agency's running costs budget by 24% amidst a round of cost-cutting measures.
In 2005 John Howard committed Australia to double Australian aid to about $4 billion a year by 2010. At the time of the 2007-08 budget, the Government announced total aid of $3.2 billion and an expectation "to continue increasing development assistance, to $3.5 billion in 2008-09, $3.8 billion in 2009-10 and $4.3 billion in 2010-11."
In September 2013 the incoming Abbott Government announced it would merge AusAID into DFAT to align aid with diplomacy, causing the AusAID's Director-General Peter Baxter to resign from that position (taking extended leave) and Ewan McDonald taking over as Acting Director. On 1 November 2013 the agency ceased to be an executive agency. From September 2013, the functional body of the old AusAID within DFAT is referred to as "Australian Aid", and most activities and staff were carried over under the new arrangements.
Prior to 30 June 2013, the agency reported to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Australia's first Minister for International Development was appointed on 1 July 2013. The current Director General is Peter Baxter. With the new Abbott government in power, the Minister for the DFAT is also the Minister for International Development.
The Australian government is committed to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals — agreed targets set by the world's nations to reduce poverty by 2016-and incorporates the principles of aid effectiveness into all its activities.
The 2005–06 Annual Report recorded 18 staff in the senior executive service out of a total of 516 public servant staff. 68 AusAID public servants are serving long-term postings outside Australia. These figures do not include locally employed staff outside Australia.
Total Australian Official Development Assistance in 2005-06 was A$2,605 million, not all of it administered by AusAID. AusAID administered $1,587 million of expenses in 2005-06 and also had departmental expenses (i.e. under its direct control) of A$78 million.
AusAID's key manual was AusGuide - A Guide to Program Management, which is available on the AusAID website. However, changes in the approach to aid programming that crystallised in the government's 2006 White Paper have not yet been fully incorporated into a revised version of AusGuide. Many of the changes can be summarised as a move from traditional stand-alone projects managed by contractors to more sustainable, long-term programmes of assistance with untied procurement.
Over most of AusAID's existence, tenders providing services associated with aid programs were generally limited to firms from Australia or New Zealand, or firms doing substantial business in those countries; only in 2005 did the agency liberalise its guidelines to allow firms from the recipient country to apply for some tenders. The agency was considerably more liberal with construction contracts, allowing bidding from any company worldwide, though this has the effect of shutting out many potential bidders from recipient countries.
In 2002, as part of an international initiative, AusAID untied aid to Least Developed Countries. Since the White Paper in 2006, all AusAID procurement was untied (i.e. open to international firms) except for the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD). There have not yet been significant numbers of contracts awarded to international firms.
Australia's aid program leads the way in the fight against preventable disease in our region. Australia's aid effort has wiped out polio from the Pacific. Australia has also funded measles and polio immunisations for more than 1.5 million children in Papua New Guinea.
AusAID works to improve the quality of basics services. Water supply and sanitation programs are providing fresh water for nearly 500,000 people in Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. AusAID funds projects such as the Mỹ Thuận Bridge in Vietnam's Mekong Delta region. The bridge now benefits more than three million people living below the poverty line.
Over the past 40 years:
- average life expectancy in developing countries has increased by 20 years
- adult illiteracy has almost halved
- maternal mortality has decreased by 50 per cent.
Most importantly, despite a rapidly growing world population, the number of people living in poverty has fallen by 200 million since 1980.
Australian aid has contributed to these achievements. By promoting sustainable development, Australia continues to improve the lives of our neighbours as well as make a major contribution to growth and stability in our region.
In 2011, AusAID signed a multi-year agreement (2011-2013) with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in support of the Online Volunteering service. The substantive financial contribution of AusAID enabled UNV to further promote online volunteering with the aim of increasing the number and diversity of organizations, opportunities and volunteers, as well as to respond to the continued growth of the user base and activities.
Emergencies, humanitarian aid and mine action
Australia helps reduce the adverse impacts of conflict, natural and other disasters on vulnerable populations. Developing countries are highly vulnerable to a range of natural hazards, including tropical cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.
The Australian Government stands ready to help countries in times of natural disasters. Assistance may take the form of relief supplies, medical teams, law and order personnel, transport and communication. Australia also makes contributions to development and humanitarian agencies, such as Australian Red Cross, which have extensive experience in relief operations. For example, Australia provided $60 million to Australian and international organisations for emergency relief in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, which affected parts of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives and East Africa.
To ensure effective responses to conflict and natural disasters, Australia works in cooperation with international and domestic partners to improve disaster preparedness. Australia is also committed to reducing the risk of natural disasters before they occur.
Australia always tries to deliver emergency assistance rapidly to those most in need. AusAID is active from the moment it becomes aware of a disaster. AusAID immediately begins assessing the situation and gathering information to ensure that help is provided rapidly to those in need.
Before Australia can take direct action in an emergency however, the affected country must make an official request for assistance. To take uninvited action would breach international protocols and show a lack of respect for the affected country's sovereignty. On receiving a request for help AusAID's approach will depend on the circumstances of the emergency, including the type of help asked for and the specific response offered by Australia.
AusAID consults with a range of people who might include the Australian High Commission or Embassy in the affected country, the United Nations and Emergency Management Australia. AusAID may also consult with representatives from France and New Zealand, with whom they jointly respond to many of the disasters that occur in the Pacific.
AusAID also seeks the approval of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs for funds if the situation warrants help from other government departments such as the Australian Defence Force. At the same time AusAID consults with the Ministers of other Australian Government departments for the approval of their involvement.
AusAID may also ask for advice from non-government organisations (NGOs) on their ability to help and may activate its Periodic Funding Agreements for Disaster Risk Management. These agreements with six non-government organisations (Oxfam Australia, Australian Red Cross, CARE Australia, World Vision Australia, Caritas and Austcare) allow the Australian Government to respond through organisations with the capacity to provide effective emergency relief.
Humanitarian Action Policy
AusAID is increasingly integrating its humanitarian action and development activities to ensure Australian responses are coordinated. The links between development and humanitarian action are clear. The long-term effects of disasters and crises undermine growth prospects and hard-won development gains. Where capacity to deliver services is low or insecurity prevails, vulnerability to hazards and conflict increases and poverty is exacerbated. Humanitarian action in itself cannot reduce poverty, nor can it prevent or reduce conflict. AusAID's Humanitarian Action Policy  deals with the symptoms of conflict and complements the Peace, Conflict and Development Policy  that specifically addresses conflict prevention, conflict management and reduction, peace-building and post-conflict recovery. The measures outlined in these policies, help counteract social instability, reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen local capacities.
Australia provides approximately 150,000 tonnes of food aid every year—about $65 million—to people in crisis in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Chad. At least half of this tonnage comes from Australian farmers and suppliers.
Australia provides funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other key humanitarian agencies to provide protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). Australia also supports programs that promote finding durable solutions to refugee and IDP crises and the reintegration of returnees, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Rehabilitation and reconstruction
In many cases long term relief is required after an emergency. The Australian Government therefore selectively supports rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in areas that have been struck by disaster or conflict. To reduce the likelihood of a similar disaster happening again, recovery and reconstruction efforts are underpinned by the ‘build back better’ principle. This means taking steps to ensure that disaster affected communities will be more resilient to future natural hazard events.
Landmines and other explosive remnants of war pose serious obstacles to sustainable development in many of the world's poorest countries. They can be found anywhere and often deprive affected populations of basic needs such as access to water and health facilities, use of fertile agricultural land, and communication. Australia is a significant contributor to international mine action, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region. The Australian aid program provides support to mine clearance, mine risk education, victim assistance and advocacy activities, in collaboration with a range of international, regional and local actors.
Controversies and criticisms
AusAID's most vocal critic is the left-wing NGO AID/WATCH. AID/WATCH argue that "The flow of aid can be constructive particularly in programs of emergency relief and health. However, development projects can have detrimental effects on local communities when the donor country imposes decisions without the appropriate assessment of social, cultural and environmental needs." Specific criticisms of AusAID include allegations that it services Australian commercial interests through its procurement policies; promotes particular economic and trade policies that AID/WATCH regards as detrimental to the poor; lacks transparency; and has seen aid been misused to support foreign policy, such as promotion of the so-called Pacific Solution for processing people seeking asylum in Australia.
AID/WATCH critiques of AusAID's procurement policy have not been updated to reflect the untying of most aid procurement from April 2006.
AusAID has also been criticised from the right-wing, particularly the Centre for Independent Studies. Helen Hughes of the CIS has argued that "aid has failed PNG and the Pacific" – a criticism of the broad policy and approach of aid rather than the specific administration of AusAID.
There has been media criticism leveled at AusAID over the selection, equality, effectiveness and transparency of its contracts with consultants and advisors. One article claimed consultants are being paid more than Australia’s prime minister.
In February 2012, based on information provided by the Israel Law Center, World Vision Australia (WV), a non-government organisation not affiliated with AusAID, allegedly provided "financial aid to a Gaza-based terrorist group," the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which they also alleged is a "front for terror group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine." WV had "suspended its dealings" with UAWC until the outcome of the investigation. WV resumed working with UAWC after AusAID and World Vision found the allegations were unfounded. According to The Australian newspaper, 'AusAID has written to Shurat HaDin to confirm that a detailed investigation has been conducted into the claims and no evidence has been found to substantiate them'. However, an investigation by the Jerusalem Post "revealed that the PLFP’s Arabic language website includes detailed reports on the UAWC’s work."
- ASEAN Australia Development Cooperation Program
- Australia Bali Memorial Eye Centre
- Developmental Leadership Program
- Wangdu (activist)
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