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Debates

Promoting foreign aid

19 Jul 2010 08:30

Paul Davies responds to Danielle Cave:

Danielle Cave writes: 'With our mainstream media now commenting regularly on Australia's overseas development assistance and often highlighting only faults and inadequacies, isn't it time the Australian Government, through AusAID, made a greater effort to promote the success stories and engage the Australian public, considering it is set to fund Australia's increasing aid budget?'

Really? Really? 

The answer to legitimate scrutiny of the value for money delivered by our taxpayer funded aid program is the diversion of further taxpayer funds to make Australians feel better about the money they are already spending?

COMMENTS

19 Jul 2010 17:10

Paul Davies makes some good points in his response to my post on promoting Australia’s aid program. Certainly donors' primary goal should be to work towards improving development indicators. I agree that critical examination from the media is warranted — hence my links to those articles in my post.

However, my post did not equate engagement with the public to an increase in spending (of taxpayer dollars). Communication with the Australian public is vital and can be significantly improved using existing resources. It is an important tool of transparency and accountability — each of which are absolutely essential for any publically-funded aid program, particularly one in the midst of huge transformation, in terms of both size (with a rapidly increasing budget) and geographical direction. Significant improvements can and should be made in this area.

COMMENTS

23 Jul 2010 08:18

Two responses to our recent debate thread on whether Australia should be doing more to promote its foreign aid.

Below, thoughts from John Cheong-Holdaway. But first, Alex Douglas, who is working in Nepal on peacebuilding issues including the country's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Program:

A debate has recently emerged among Lowy bloggers on whether Australia should be 'making a greater effort to promote the success stories' of Australian aid.

Any effort to promote the success stories of foreign aid is likely to distort Australia’s programs. Success stories that attract media and public attention are invariably about how aid has helped an individual; be them an illiterate woman, an HIV patient, or a rural farmer. Chasing these photogenic personal success stories will further distort Australia’s aid program to focus on  projects rather on systems. Aid will flow to building a new school in a remote village rather than reforming the host country’s government education system. Australian money will go to helping upgrade a hospital rather than improving the health system.

This is a problem for two main reasons:

COMMENTS

29 Jul 2010 16:28

Last week, both Alex and John made some important points and as this debate kicks on, which has been surprising but very interesting, there seem to be two broadly-defined camps emerging:

Camp 1 — promoting Australia's aid success stories is okay but has limitations;

Camp 2 — there is no need to promote success stories at all (and in fact some responses have insinuated it is wrong to do so).

Interestingly, responses have, so far, not taken a forward-looking approach to this debate. I would like to widen the debate and look further at my other initial point — engagement. There has been very little mention of whether it is important (or not?) for the Australian Government to engage with the Australian public on the future direction of its ballooning aid program.

COMMENTS

9 Aug 2010 08:36

Chris Roche from Oxfam Australia writes:

I think Danielle Cave raises a number of important points, particularly regarding the critical need to get the Australian public involved in the debate.

A recent review of the Paris Declaration noted that there is a real danger of the aid effectiveness debate becoming limited to the domain of aid technocrats. They suggest that if there is not broader dialogue involving parliamentarians and citizens then support for aid can be subject to political reversals, or other more high profile issues.

I think, for that reason, Danielle is correct in arguing for the government investing in greater public awareness on this issue. However, I also think we need to be starting to explore the potential for greater citizen-to-citizen dialogue and exchange.

COMMENTS