YESTERDAY’s announcement that the Australian Government will count military and police deployments in humanitarian disasters and peacekeeping operations as part of its aid spend is of concern, according to the peak body for Australia’s aid and development agencies.
“While it is laudable that Australia contributes to peacekeeping missions and provides military support in humanitarian disasters, these deployments do not replace the need for counting accurately what is spent on aid programs to reduce poverty,” said ACFID Executive Director, Marc Purcell.
“It is vitally important that the Government is transparent and clearly separates Australian aid expenditure from military logistical support,” Mr Purcell said.
“This is so the public can understand the amount of aid Australia gives and where it is spent. This is all the more important given the Government’s recent $11.3 billion cut to Australia’s aid program.
“There is a global standard for aid expenditure based on an official definition designed by the OECD. This standard measures how much countries spend on ‘the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries’.
“There are moves afoot to recognise the other types of assistance countries provide to developing nations, such as Australia provided following Typhoon Haiyan. Indeed the OECD is planning to implement a broader measure of ‘total official support to sustainable development’ later this year. But they will calculate this alongside existing official development assistance (ODA) measure.
“There is also a bigger question about how humanitarian work is portrayed. It is important not to blur language when we refer to military and humanitarian responses.
“For aid organisations, humanitarian responses in conflict zones must be impartial and neutral. Recent Government labelling of military responses in conflict zones, such as Iraq, as ‘humanitarian responses’ can fuel a perception amongst combatants that civilian aid workers are part of a military operation.
“2013 saw an extremely concerning trend for violence against civilian aid operations, with a 66% increase in the number of victims. Some 251 separate attacks were made affecting 460 aid workers, of whom155 were killed, 171 seriously wounded and 134 kidnapped,” Mr Purcell said.