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How to focus aid by income level?

posted by: ADG Team, 27 Jan 2011, 13:59 PM     category: 1. Structure of program

What should the focus of the aid program be between low and middle-income countries?

As Stephen Howes, now Aid Review Panel member, said in LowyInterpreter (Oct 2010) (bit.ly/ggQg9U), Australia has promised that 0.15% of our Gross National Income (GNI) will be dedicated to least developed countries (LDCs) by 2015 (approx. $2.5 billion p.a.) (bit.ly/e45z2Y). Stephen Howes goes on to say that Australia's major aid recipients – PNG and Indonesia – are not classified by the UN as LDCs, though some other Asia-Pacific countries are, such as Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. By 2015, they might lay claim to, say, $500 million, which still leaves about $2 billion for Africa, home to the great majority of the LDCs...

So, what do you think? You might have a different opinion on the balance between low (or LDC) and middle-income countries, or maybe you agree. Please let us know - we'd like to hear from you.

 
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Disability inclusive development

posted by: Karina Okotel, 27 Feb 2011, 19:11 PM     category: 1. Structure of program

Two-thirds of the global population of persons with disability live in the Asia Pacific region,[1] of which 82% live below the poverty line.[2] Disability inclusive development is a clear area of comparative advantage for the Australian aid program. It is important that we maintain and build on our leadership in disability inclusive development as a means by which Australia can play a particularly unique and specialised role.

A summary of key recommendations from CBM Australia and the CBM-Nossal Institute Parntership for Disability Inclusive Development’s submission to the Aid Review includes 36 separate recommendations under 5 key areas:

1.        Maintaining a regional focus;

2.        Taking an effective leadership role in disability inclusive development;

3.        Strengthening AusAID structures and functions for disability inclusive development;

4.        Facilitating inclusion of people with disabilities;

5.        Improved transparency, accountability and coordination.

 A public copy of this submission is available at : http://www.aidreview.gov.au/publications/sub-cbm.pdf


[1] Commonwealth of Australia, Development for All: Towards a disability-inclusive Australian aid program 2009-2014 (2008) 5.

[2] Disability and the MDGs, Include Everybody <www.includeeverybody.org/disability.php>.

 
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Australia's performance as a humanitarian donor

posted by: Marybeth Redheffer, Policy Research Officer, DARA, 16 Mar 2011, 01:30 AM     category: 2. Perfomance & lessons

DARA has been measuring the performance of Australia’s humanitarian aid since 2007 through the Humanitarian Response Index. In 2010, Australia ranked 13th out of 23 OECD/DAC donors for applying Good Humanitarian Donorship principles in support of humanitarian action. Our analysis is based on extensive field interviews with humanitarian organizations supported by Australia and comprehensive statistical data.  In 2010, we found that Australia could improve the quality, effectiveness and impact of its humanitarian assistance by providing more flexible funding, allocating its aid to crises based on the level of needs and vulnerability, and improving its support and commitment to humanitarian accountability initiatives.  Australia should also consider increasing the proportion of funding allocated to NGOs, often the first-line providers of aid in case of emergencies. 

For a more detailed assessment of Australia’s performance, see http://daraint.org/humanitarian-response-index/humanitarian-response-index-2010/donor-assessments/Australia/# .

For more information on the Humanitarian Response Index, see http://daraint.org/humanitarian-response-index/humanitarian-response-index-2010/

 
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Aid Dependency

posted by: Martin, 24 Feb 2011, 23:00 PM     category: 3. Efficiency & effectiveness

I am an expatriate resident of Vanuatu and was pleased to hear that Kevin Rudd had initiated a review of Australia’s overseas aid and I hope it will be more than a “Yes, Minister” review.

When I lived in Australia, I firmly believed that the overseas aid budget should be significant; a rich country like Australia should help poor countries – simple.

However, it’s not that simple. Providing aid to a country like Vanuatu creates the same problem that has dogged African nations for decades – aid dependency.  Vanuatu receives or has received aid from Australia, New Zealand, France, China, USA, Japan, the EU, UK, Canada, Cuba, Israel and India and probably others to the point now where approximately half the GDP of the country is via aid.

If all this aid had been used to improve the lives of average NiVans, then I wouldn’t be writing this letter. The country has the second worst education standard (after Kiribati) in the region; a quarter of the population can’t read or write; the life expectancy of a NiVan male is about 63; the two major hospitals – in Port Vila and Luganville – both recently ran out of drugs and food; almost all businesses are expat-owned; electricity charges are among the highest in the world because a previous government signed a 44 year monopoly deal with a French Company, Unelco; most MP’s have little education and Parliament sits for 2 to 4 weeks a year. MP’s voted themselves an 83% pay increase last year. There are 52 federal MP’s and dozens of provincial councillors for a population of 220,000.

Governments are regularly ousted by no confidence motions as MP’s shift allegiances in their quest for the holy grail – to be a government minister. Being a minister not only provides a chauffeur-driven car and other similar benefits, it provides paid-for overseas medical treatment for the MP and members of his family. This ensures that the MP doesn’t have to seek treatment at the local hospital. The ‘premier’ school in the country, Malapoa College is literally falling apart because no money is spent on maintenance yet almost every day a new G (government) registered car appears on the roads. The Natapei government was ousted late in 2010 during a closed session of parliament. The speaker, George Wells – in breach of the constitution – prevented all access to parliament house, so who voted for whom is not known.

Corruption is rife, especially in the Lands Department; Air Vanuatu is terminally ill (current debt 3 billion vatu, about 32 million AUD) and constantly propped up by government bailouts; public servants are on a 4 and a half day week because there is little for them to do - many are allegedly ‘ghosts’ who only turn up on payday; the government recently installed a Chinese-supplied intranet system which they thought was a gift. It wasn’t, so they now owe China over 30 million USD. Many Chinese workers are here doing jobs theoretically reserved for NiVans.

Slums (laughingly referred to as informal settlements) are found throughout Port Vila but there is no government policy on public housing, water supply or sanitation. In fact there is no government policy on almost anything. This includes requiring the police to do their job. In 2009 a prisoner (who had escaped and been recaptured) was beaten to death by the police while in custody. The coroner, Justice Nevin Dawson from NZ called for proper homicide and assault investigations to be performed; nothing to date has been done or is likely to be done. 

Politically I am 180 degrees away from Helen Hughes and the Centre for Independent Studies however I have just re-read her 2003 paper “Aid Has Failed the Pacific” and feel that what she wrote then still applies today. With emphasis on one simple statement – Aid appears to be inversely related to growth. And I would suggest that it has also engendered corruption and cronyism of championship proportions.

Theoretically, carefully targeted aid should work. Practically, it doesn’t because the government here will always plead that their sovereignty is being taken away.    

Providing huge amounts of aid to countries like Vanuatu is akin to giving a 10 year old an unlimited supply of money and wondering why it’s not spent very well. Fifty million dollars will supposedly come in this year from Australia alone; about the only good thing that could be said is that it’s only a tenth of the money that will disappear in PNG.

 
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Better expression of Australia's needs

posted by: David, 15 Feb 2011, 03:54 AM     category: 1. Structure of program

It's in the nature of aid — one country helping another — that all of the focus in on the needs of the aid recipient. But if we're going to move towards a more authentic expression of "development partnership", the way aid is structured should more overtly reflect the needs of both countries. In other words, as well as transparently expressing the needs of the recipient, programs should also transparently express the reasons and expections and interests of Australia: "stronger bilateral ties", "regional security", "electoral expectations", etc. By expressing programmatically the outcomes desired by both partners, the effect might be:

• a more equal partnership

• better understanding of the aid process by the publics of both countries

• clearer direction to the program managers (now generally focused solely on recipient outcomes) as to GOA expectations, with consequent better overall stakeholder management. 

 
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About 'Reviews, evaluation & risk'

posted by: ADG, 06 Jan 2011, 15:23 PM     category: 5. Reviews, evaluation & risk
This 5th topic has gained plenty of attention in recent years. The Review Panel will also focus on the review and evaluation of the aid program. Are current arrangements best? What can be done to strengthen the evaluation of the aid program? How can fraud and risk in the aid program be best managed? Big questions... so, any early ideas?
 
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Are Australians generous on aid?

posted by: ADG Team, 11 Jan 2011, 12:32 PM     category: 1. Structure of program
A key premise of the Independent Aid Review is a doubling of the aid budget by 2015-2016 (say $8.6 billion, or what 0.5% GNI will then equate to)... Ref: The Lowy Poll 2010 (http://bit.ly/frkYk9) that found a majority (55%) of Australians surveyed think the government is providing 'about the right amount' to developing countries. Also, 81% of Australians polled thought compared to other countries, that Australia's foreign policy is either 'about average or above average'. We seem to think well of our altruism or giving. What do you think? Does the aid program reflect our belief that we're generous and giving 'about the right amount'?
 
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Lessons: How does aid perform?

posted by: ADG Team, 04 Feb 2011, 14:56 PM     category: 1. Structure of program

What do you think of the aid program's performance and lessons we have learned?  

Late 2010, AusAID's 3rd Annual Review of Development Effectiveness (ARDE) report was released. As Ian Anderson in a DevPolicy blog points out (http://bit.ly/hxzVha), between 70 - 88% of all aid activities were rated satisfactory on criteria like: implementation progress, achieving objectives, sustainability, Monitoring and Evaluation.  

This week's Discussion Paper on Aid Effectiveness by Stephen Howes at ANU's Dev Policy Centre (http://bit.ly/hojKfO) takes a different approach. It notes that "In such a varying context, it is simply not possible to make a broad-brush conclusion about the overall performance of aid". He discusses 'what determines aid effectiveness', and some areas for improvement.

So, what are your views on this? Do you agree or not? What 'lessons learned' might you share - from your perspective, whether at an activity level, in-country, or for broader programs? 

 
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More focus on subnational governments

posted by: David, 15 Feb 2011, 04:10 AM     category: 1. Structure of program

The aid program in PNG is strongly focussed on Port Moresby. But Port Moresby is very far from the rural poor. I would like to see yet more focus on subnational government. Provincial governments are directly visible to their electorates, who can -- and do -- come and pound on their doors. The districts are where the services hit -- or should hit -- the ground. When districts don't function, nothing reaches the rural majority. 

A focus on subnational government might also include locating program offices in the provinces, rather than in Port Moresby. Day to day contact with rural realities helps managers keep on track. 

 
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Intro to 'Performance & lessons'

posted by: ADG, 06 Jan 2011, 15:27 PM     category: 2. Perfomance & lessons
The 2nd aspect of the Panel's TORs is this: the performance of the aid program and lessons learned from Australia's approach to aid effectiveness. Where do we start on that? Any takers on, say, lessons learned/stories from your own experiences? Sometimes it's good to start small...
 
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