This launch today is an important one.
It is important for the Australian Government, for the aid community and for the people we are ultimately here to help — those who live in poverty and disadvantage across the world.
The successful delivery of Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance relies on strong partnerships.
Whether it’s overcoming barriers to education for children from ethnic minorities in Cambodia, training female magistrates in Papua New Guinea, implementing sustainable river management in the Mekong, or supplying clean water to poor households in Indonesia, it’s partnerships that enable Australian aid to help change people’s lives for the better.
Recognising the role that civil society plays in delivering Australian aid has grown over recent years.
Partnerships with organisations working on the ground with local communities helps to ensure that our development assistance is providing help where it is needed most — in an efficient and effective way.
The need for structured and disciplined partnerships, enshrining shared goals, expectations and a shared commitment to effectiveness is the context in which our Australian Civil Society Engagement Framework has been developed.
And this Framework is the blueprint for our future cooperation.
It is designed to harness and strengthen the relationship between government and civil society as we continue to work together to help people overcome poverty.
Put simply, it is about acknowledging the critical role of civil society in delivering aid.
The Australian aid program
Over 2 million Australian households provide approximately $1 billion annually to support Australian Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) involved in international aid and development.
They do so because NGOs have a unique capacity to work directly with communities to help people overcome poverty.
Today, a significant proportion of the Australian aid program is directed to civil society organisations.
In 2010-11, AusAID funding to NGOs reached $488.4 million.
This is more than 11 per cent of the aid program.
And working with civil society, the Australian Government has together with them:
- responded to humanitarian crises;
- delivered services to communities; and
- generally built capacity in developing countries.
The ongoing growth in Australia’s aid budget, and the government’s commitment to this, gives us both opportunities and challenges.
Australia’s aid budget will reach 0.5% of GNI by 2016-2017. With a formal, robust and rigorous engagement framework to guide us, we can better demonstrate and deliver effectiveness and value for money.
We know that many civil society organisations bring a depth of skills, community linkages and established networks within and across countries. AusAID currently engages directly with approximately 260 civil society organisations, including Australian, international and local organisations in the countries where we work.
This Framework will better focus our work.It will help us achieve greater impact and better manage risks.
It will build on what we've achieved to date, such as:
- helping 350,000 people gain access to better water supplies;
- assisting more than 125,000 farmers in vulnerable and fragile areas access new agricultural technology; and
- ensuring more than 10,000 poor and disadvantaged children, including those with a disability, benefit from early childhood development programs.
It is these types of results that show the benefits of collaboration.
Everyone here today is committed to the most effective aid program possible, to get the best value for money and to make a real difference in reducing poverty on the ground.
Civil society arose out of the people’s need to have a voice, to have self-determination and to keep their governments accountable. Now more than ever, civil society and government stand as equal partners in the fight against poverty, in the pursuit of sustainable development for all peoples. And equal partners hold each other accountable.
We must all do our business with rigour and transparency — to make sure our money gets spent most wisely, most effectively. Development outcomes will never be achieved through aid dollars alone.
The women in Papua New Guinea who are benefitting from our shared programs that give them a voice in the justice system, protect them from domestic violence, and stop them dying in childbirth — these are the people we must have in our mind as we follow this framework and work on it together.
The people of Fiji who have suffered spinal injuries, or who are hearing and vision impaired — they will go on to make vital contributions to their communities and in the process inspire their fellow citizens because government and civil society worked together.
And the children of East Timor who have benefitted from more than 90,000 books in primary schools and received scholarships to finish secondary school, through the Alola Foundation with Australian government support — it is these children who will grow up to change their countries with the help of our collaboration.
Developing partner countries must lead the way in securing their own future but we, as partners, can provide support.
Government and civil society have had many achievements — we need to achieve more. Especially in this time of change and challenge globally, working with each other’s strengths is more vital than ever.
The Australian Government is committed to this collaboration. We look forward to continuing our longstanding partnership with you.
And it is my pleasure to officially launch the new Civil Society Engagement Framework.
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
- Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555