In June this year the Australian Government launched a new development policy titled “Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability”. This document provides further substance to the shift in Australia’s approach to foreign aid foreshadowed by the integration of AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in late 2013.
The new policy lays out a focus on assistance for the Indo-Pacific region to more strongly reflect Australia’s national interest, supporting neighbouring countries to achieve “stronger growth, prosperity and stability in the region”. It also identifies seven areas for aid funding: education, supporting effective governance, health, disaster risk reduction and resilience, infrastructure and trade, development support and agriculture. In contrast to previous policies the trade sector has received significantly increased funding (with additional plans for future increases in trade and infrastructure funding) while gender equality is intended to be incorporated into all activities rather than receiving separate specific funding.
While there have not yet been clear consequences from the increased focus on trade and infrastructure, it is reasonable to speculate that the mechanism for supporting aid projects, and the investments which are prioritised may be influenced. In particular we may as IWC Alumni question whether the economic benefit corner of the water value triangle may receive a stronger weighting than the human health and environmental service values in future aid investment decisions. Another possible outcome is potential for a greater emergence of private-public partnership contracts (recently popular in Australian infrastructure projects) in development projects.
Another significant change introduced by the policy is a new performance framework built around 10 strategic performance targets. These targets will guide new benchmarks and quality systems to be set out in the Aid Investment Plans which all country and regional programs must develop over the next 12 months. This new framework has introduced an increased level of accountability to the aid program which is intended to ensure that spending is effective, efficient and rigorously monitored.
It is relevant to us as Alumni to interrogate and understand this new policy for its potential influence on water sector projects and the mechanisms through which they are funded. In addition the considering the impact of a more rigorous accountability framework might have on grass-roots public health, water and sanitation projects in countries across the world is an interesting discussion point. What are your views on this change, and what do you think the practical implications might be?
- Read the new policy “Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability”: Read online or Download
- Read an excerpt about the rationale for the new policy: The need for change
- Read the new Australian aid performance framework “Making Performance Count: enhancing the accountability and effectiveness of Australian aid”: Read online or Download
- Discuss below!