Caritas Australia has welcomed Labor’s pledge to boost Australian Official Development Assistance for Pacific countries and Timor-Leste by $525 million over the next four years and urges the Coalition to increase its own funding commitments.
“We are pleased to see Labor pledge to increase foreign aid spending for the Pacific and Timor-Leste. We have been disappointed by cuts to the foreign aid budget in recent years, and we hope that Labor’s pledge represents an intention to increase foreign aid spending over the long-term and to ultimately increase spending outside of the Pacific as well,” says Caritas Australia CEO, Kirsty Robertson.
In recent years, Australian aid has continued to plummet, last year reaching an historic low of 0.21% of gross national income. This drop in foreign aid has continued even as global poverty rates have risen due to COVID-19 and other factors like conflict and the changing climate.
“After over twenty years of progress on reducing global poverty, since the start of the pandemic a lot of this progress has stalled or even reversed, so we have effectively reduced our foreign aid commitments when they were most needed − apart from one-off boosts to address specific causes and regions like vaccine support for the Pacific. We see the impacts on communities we work with daily, and it is clear that from a global community standpoint Australia must do better.”
“What we really hope to see from Labor and the Coalition is robust and sustained investment rather than the current 'temporary and targeted’ approach. We know from our own work that if we want serious improvements in education, health care, disaster preparedness, gender equality and disability outcomes, then we need to work closely with our neighbours in solidarity, and to provide long-term support rather than reactive solutions.”
“We also welcome Labor’s planned Pacific Climate Infrastructure Financing Partnership as climate change is a key concern for many of our partners in the Pacific. We urge Labor to ensure that the finance is provided in grants rather than loans, and accessible at the local level as well, because this is more likely to be effective and reach the communities who need it most.”
“Ultimately, without long-term and strategic spending to address climate impacts and political unrest, we’re likely to continue to see instability in the region, which is ultimately bad news for Australia as well.”
“The best way to reach this would be to increase our aid budget to 0.5 per cent of gross national income by 2025-26. Both Labor and the Coalition had previously pledged to lift the aid budget to 50 cents in every one hundred dollars of income, and we'd like to see them both honour this commitment in their election pledges.”
"We must also see a greater commitment to regions outside of Asia and the Pacific – as many face substantial inequality and complex challenges like climate change, COVID-19 recovery, famines and economic crises. Millions of people are already impacted in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan and Myanmar, and we must not wait to act. We look forward to being regional and global leaders in aid and development, with robust, far-sighted strategies to work towards a safer and fairer world for all.”
Caritas Australia works hand-in-hand with the most marginalised and remote communities in Australia and overseas to address poverty and inequality, with a focus on long-term and sustained development programs. Over the past year Caritas Australia has supported 57 long-term programs in 18 countries around the world.