Papua New Guinea
Australia’s aid program with Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the largest aid program Australia has with any one country. The program in PNG focuses on strengthening governance, improving social indicators in health and education, building prospects for sustainable economic growth, and consolidating the peace process in Bougainville.
Over the last decade Australian aid to PNG has undergone fundamental changes, with untied budget support replaced by jointly programmed activities. The new Treaty on Development Co-operation between Australia and PNG came into effect in July 2000. The new Treaty links performance and achievement against defined benchmarks more closely to future funding decisions. This will deliver greater contestability to the aid program.
The Pacific region
Pacific Island Countries (PICs) face significant development challenges as a result of their economic and environmental vulnerability. Countries in the Pacific lack diversity in terms of production and export sectors, making them especially vulnerable to economic shocks and crop failure. Already facing the dual challenges of expanding populations and limited viable agricultural land, PICs are particularly susceptible to natural disasters and environmental deterioration. Furthermore, as small countries they often lack adequate capacity in their public or private sectors to cope with the range of challenges presented by the rapidly globalising world. They do not have access to a sufficiently large pool of people with the technical, administrative and managerial skills a modern state requires. Addressing the social and economic causes of actual and potential political instability is another important issue for PICs, as the events of 2000 demonstrated.
Australia’s long-term objective is to help Pacific Island Countries achieve the maximum possible degree of self-reliance. The aid program aims to achieve five principal outcomes for PICs: better governance; stronger economic growth; greater capacity; better service delivery; and environmental integrity.
In 2001-02 Australian assistance to Pacific Island Countries will focus on support for governance and economic reform, education and training, health, environment and natural resource management and the private sector. For example, in Solomon Islands the aid program will help to provide for basic services, and support a range of recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation activities. Economic reform will be a focus of Australia’s aid program in Tonga and Vanuatu, and in Samoa activities will be directed at improving opportunities for Samoans dependent on the village economy, particularly young people and those living in remote locations. In Fiji, Australia’s sanctions policy has allowed a continued focus on basic health and education, along with small scale projects aimed at helping poorer communities. Assistance will also be provided to increase public confidence in the law and justice sector.
Recovery from the East Asian financial crisis is progressing at different speeds. For some governments in our region, the tumult of the East Asian financial crisis has passed, but few countries can afford to be complacent in the face of a more complex and demanding international environment. This requires a two-pronged approach from the Australian aid program: to improve the social and economic conditions for the poorest and most vulnerable, and to assist governments in our region to strengthen their resilience to future economic shocks, especially in the wake of the slowdown of the world economy. Australia is supporting a re-intensification of reform efforts, particularly strengthening financial markets, facilitating trade and improving government transparency.
The aid program in Indonesia is Australia’s second largest. Over the period 2001 to 2003 Australian aid will contribute to poverty reduction, sustainable economic recovery and democratisation in Indonesia. Key sectors for Australian assistance in East Timor are education and training, health, rural development, water supply and sanitation, and governance. Australian aid will help to build East Timorese capacity to govern a stable and democratic nation. In Viet Nam, activities in rural development will help the rural poor to benefit from the delivery of quality health, agriculture and infrastructure services, while in the Philippines Australian aid will focus on rural incomes, the environment, education and health. Support for other major programs in China, Cambodia and Thailand continues.
The aid program also targets high priority development needs in East Asia that require a response at the regional level, including in partnership with ASEAN. In 2002 assistance will increasingly focus on regional governance, health and trans-boundary issues.
In South Asia, Australia has bilateral programs with Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Bhutan. Core areas of focus for these programs include: strengthening the capacity of governments to manage the delivery of more effective services; improving health outcomes, especially preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS; strengthening primary education, especially for girls; and supporting efforts to improve natural resource management (especially water) and rural development.
Africa and the Middle East
Intractable poverty and epidemic illness, particularly HIV/AIDS, dominate the African development agenda. Australian development assistance is primarily focused on poverty reduction in Mozambique and South Africa. Assistance is given to partner governments to develop and implement more effective policies and programs, and funding is provided to Australian NGOs to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region. Australian assistance to the Middle East focuses on the social and economic advancement of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Currently the focus of assistance is on meeting the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugee camp communities throughout the region.