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Declining aid investment risks our region’s prosperity and security

Safer World For All 2 mins read

Media release | Friday, 12 April 2024 

The Safer World For All campaign has warned Australia's aid spending stagnating at historic lows means the nation is failing to invest in future prosperity and security. 

OECD data released overnight shows Australia remains near the bottom of the OECD for aid spending as a proportion of Gross National Income (GNI). Ranking at 26 out of 31 countries, Australia’s overall aid/GNI ratio remains at just 0.19 per cent. This falls far short of countries including the United Kingdom (0.58 per cent) and Canada (0.38 per cent). 

After a decade of decline from 0.32% of GNI in 2013-14, the Albanese government has stabilised the aid budget but much more needs to be done.

“Bolstering overseas aid will strengthen Australia’s relationships in the region while shoring up our security and future prosperity,” said campaign spokesperson and Australian Council for International Development CEO Marc Purcell. “Failure to invest in the hospitals, schools, clean energy and economic development of low income nations creates instability, violence and poverty.”

Ten of Australia's top 15 export markets today are countries where it once provided foreign aid, reinforcing the case for stronger Australian investment. 

Australia’s foreign aid budget reached its peak, just above $6.56 billion, in 2013-14 (2023-24 prices). Since then, it has declined and stagnated with this year’s investment expected to total $4.768 billion. Adjusted for inflation, Australia’s slated future aid investments do not not amount to an increase. 

The Safer World For All campaign is calling for a bipartisan commitment to lift Australia's foreign aid budget to 0.37% of gross national income by 2027 and a longer term commitment to 0.5%. The campaign also calls for a doubling of the Humanitarian Emergency Fund to $300 million annually, and an additional $350 million annually to better prepare for mounting natural and humanitarian disasters, among other measures.

“The world has forged extraordinary progress over the last two decades against diseases and poverty. It would be completely reckless to squander that now,” Purcell said. “We can clearly see a series of spot fires emerging due to climate change, food shortages and the lingering effects of the pandemic. We have a choice to build fire breaks and get those flames under control now or allow them to merge into a raging front. Investment in aid is prudent and necessary.”

On current projections, 575 million people will be living in extreme poverty by the end of the decade, unless we address the perfect storm of declining aid, climate change, and rising inequality. One in six children already live in a conflict zone, with the number increasing sharply over the past 20 years. If we don't act, by 2030, 300 million children or young people will be leaving school unable to read and write, and almost two billion people will rely on polluting fuels for cooking.

"Investing in aid, development, and a safer world has never been more urgent or more aligned with Australia's national interest and values," said Dr Cameron Hill, Senior Researcher, Development Policy Centre, ANU. “Both the Coalition and Labor should resume their previous support for an ODA-GNI target that reflects this.”

Contact: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032 or Georgie Moore 0421 943 293

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