The Federal Government has missed a rare opportunity to bolster Australia’s aid program, CARE Australia has said in response to the launch of a new foreign policy white paper.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled the new white paper on Thursday, intended to guide Australia’s foreign policy and diplomatic efforts through the next decade and beyond.
“The foreign policy white paper puts too much focus on defence and not enough on aid and development,” CARE Australia Chief Executive Sally Moyle said.
“Here was an opportunity to fully integrate the aid program within all aspects of foreign policy. But instead, we’ve seen the role of aid downplayed as part of a renewed focus on defence.”
Ms Moyle said international aid required the same level of priority as defence, trade and diplomacy to achieve Australia’s security and prosperity objectives.
“Australian aid needs to be fully integrated, not used as an optional add-on.”
Ms Moyle welcomed the white paper’s commitment of $500 million a year for humanitarian assistance but said more detail was needed.
“Is this new money or just a reallocation? We simply don’t know.”
Ms Moyle said she was pleased to see the white paper acknowledge the role gender equality plays in ensuring prosperity, stability and security in our region.
“Australia is largely surrounded by emerging economies and developing nations. We will thrive or fail depending on the ability to lift developing nations in our region out of poverty. Key to that, is tackling gender inequality.”
Speaking from Bangladesh, which is currently dealing with the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, Ms Moyle said Australia had an obligation to uphold the nation’s values when engaging in foreign policy.
“Right now, one the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises is unfolding in our own backyard. I’ve seen firsthand the impact Australian aid can have. If we, as a country, want to have a leadership role in our region that comes with a responsibility to support the region both to prosper and when in need.”
CARE Australia is an international humanitarian aid organisation fighting poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring lasting change to their communities. www.care.org.au
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