1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Int Relations


Across the world, 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, existing on less than US$1.25 a day. Of these:

  • 915 million poor people have unclean water, and 2.6 billion have inadequate sanitation
  • 67 million children do not receive basic primary-level education and
  • 640,000 women and children are the victims of human trafficking every year.
Every day:
  • 22,000 children die, the majority from preventable causes
  • More than 1,100 people die from malnutrition or starvation
  • almost 1,000 mothers die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth and
  • 925 million people go hungry.
Australia’s overseas aid program improves the lives of people living in poverty, particularly the two-thirds of the world’s poor who live in Australia’s region. For instance:
  • In 2010–11, Australia supported the administration of 463,000 measles vaccinations and 480,000 oral polio vaccinations to children under five in PNG.
  • In East Timor, Australia has helped to improve primary education enrolment rates from 64% in 2005 to 86% in 2011.
  • In 2011, Australia supported NGOs and clearance organisations in Laos to release more than 1,000 hectares of agricultural and community land from contamination with unexploded ordnance, benefitting more than 65,000 people.
  • Between July 2011 and February 2012, AusAID provided life-saving assistance to an estimated 18 million crisis-affected persons, responding to 24 humanitarian emergencies.
  • Working with other donors in Burma, Australia has distributed educational materials to 2,440 schools, helping over 918,000 children go to school.

The Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness

In November 2010, the Government commissioned the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness – the first independent review of the aid program in 15 years. The review panel was broadly asked to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the aid program, and to make recommendations to improve its structure and delivery. The panel consulted extensively, both domestically and internationally, with governments and non-government organisations, with think-tanks, other donors, with Australian business, and a range of government departments. The review found that Australia has a good aid program, which performs effectively by global donor standards. It made 39 recommendations to improve the program, covering:
  • the overall purpose of Australia’s aid program
  • the geographic and sectoral focus of Australian aid
  • the importance of partnerships in delivering Australian aid
  • ways to make Australia’s aid program more transparent, more accountable, and more focused on results and value for money, and
  • ways to give Australia’s aid program greater strategic direction, including through reformed planning and budget measures.

The Government welcomed the findings of the review, and in response to it released An Effective Aid Program for Australia: Making a Real Difference – Delivering Real Results. This publication sets out the government’s overall aid strategy through to 2015–16.


The Australian Government is committed to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which set out a series of targets, such as halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, and reducing the number of children under the age of five who die. The targets were agreed by the international community, as a way to make a reduce global poverty by 2015. In 2011, the international community was on track to achieve some of these goals, but not all. More information on the MDGs can be found at http://www.ausaid.gov.au/keyaid/mdg.cfm.

Recognising that we needed to increase our efforts, both of Australia’s major political parties have agreed to a target of allocating 0.5% of Australia’s gross national income (GNI) to official development assistance (ODA) by 2015.

In 2011–12, Australia is progressing towards reaching this target, with an ODA budget of $4,836 million, representing approximately 0.35% of GNI (graph 1). If we increase the ODA budget as projected to 0.5% of GNI, by 2015–16 Australia should rank around the international average in terms of how much aid we provide as a proportion of GNI. In dollar terms, Australia was the 11th largest donor in 2010, and by 2015–16, we expect to be ranked between the 6th and 8th largest.

5.1 ODA/GNI for all DAC countries(a)—2010

As stated in the Government’s overseas aid policy statement An Effective Aid Program for Australia, the fundamental purpose of Australian aid is to help people overcome poverty. This also serves Australia’s national interests by promoting stability and prosperity both in our region and beyond. We focus our effort in areas where Australia can make a difference and where our resources can most effectively and efficiently be deployed.
Guided by our support for the MDGs, Australia’s development assistance program has five overarching goals (figure 2). These are:
1. save lives
2. promote opportunities for all
3. support sustainable economic development
4. promote effective governance and
5. provide humanitarian and disaster responses.

5.2   Breakdown of Australia’s aid by Strategic Goal—2011–12


The main vehicle for delivering Australian aid is through country and regional programs. Australia’s aid program is underpinned by strong partnerships with the governments of the countries we are helping. These are genuine partnerships with development challenges and responses discussed and agreed to by the countries. The main considerations for determining how we will help are:
  • Poverty and need – Does the country or region really need help, and in what particular areas? What is its progress against the MDGs?
  • Effectiveness and capacity for Australian aid to make a real difference – Is Australian aid likely to be effective? In what areas? Do we have the experience and expertise to make a difference? Do we have a relationship with the partner government that will enable us to operate effectively?
  • Our national interest – what does Australia gain from providing the assistance? How are our interests linked?

Because the circumstances of each country or region are unique, Australia’s aid program looks different in each country.

As well as agreeing to what we will do, our partnership strategies also set out how we will deliver the planned program, focusing on the best way to achieve real and sustainable results. We use a mixture of:
  • private contractors
  • multilateral organisations (such as UNICEF and the World Bank)
  • international and Australian NGOs (such as World Vision and the Australian Red Cross)
  • a range of Australian Government departments and agencies
  • established systems within the developing country government and
  • universities and research institutions.

Previously, the majority of the aid program was delivered on AusAID’s behalf by commercial contractors, but this is changing as evidence increasingly suggests that other mechanisms, such as using partner government systems or civil society organisations, may be more effective. For example, the proportion of our program being delivered by international and Australian NGOs has increased from around 7.5% to 13% since 2005–06.

Australian NGOs and the aid program

Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) are important partners in delivering Australian development assistance to poor and vulnerable people around the world. NGOs extend the reach of Australia’s aid program by helping out where there may be no other Australian aid presence. They can therefore directly reach the poorest and most vulnerable people, helping and empowering them, particularly in emergency situations where quick and flexible responses are needed.

In 2010–11, Australian NGOs received approximately 7% of official development assistance, or approximately $289 million. In addition to this government funding, they also raised over $1 billion in funding from the Australian public to support their own international community development and volunteer programs in more than 100 countries. Whether government or privately-funded, NGOs implement a broad range of activities to assist developing countries, such as improving maternal and child health, water supply, sanitation, hygiene, education, livelihoods and microfinance. With AusAID funding, it is estimated that each year Australian NGOs facilitate improved access to basic services and training for over 1 million people.

An example of the co-operation that can exist between Australian government and non-government organisations in delivering development assistance is the 2011 Australian response to the Horn of Africa crisis, where more than 13 million people required urgent humanitarian aid. The Australian Government initially provided $6.2 million to Australian NGO partners to support humanitarian activities in the Horn of Africa, and subsequently matched an additional $13.5 million of public donations that were raised through the Dollar-for-Dollar campaign.


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.