Senator Lee Rhiannon for the Australian Greens
The Australian Greens initiated this Senate Inquiry in order to:
evaluate Australia's experience of delivering aid in Afghanistan over the last
decade; help ensure our overseas aid program makes a real difference to the
lives of Afghan people in the 'transition decade' and; capture recommendations
that can be applied to boost the effectiveness of aid in other militarised
Australia has provided over $700 million in ODA to Afghanistan since
2000 and this amount is expected to rise to $250 million per annum as troops
withdraw in the 'transition decade'.
The Australian Greens are grateful to the Committee Senators and to the
Secretariat for their work and engagement with this Senate Inquiry and we
appreciate that the Committee accepted many of the Australian Greens'
recommendations in the Chair's report. The Australian Greens would also like to
thank the many people and organisations that made submissions and shared their
knowledge with the Committee.
Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in
The Australian Greens welcome the Committee's recommendations to improve
and boost aid going to programs focused on empowering women, improving
education participation and outcomes, and safeguarding food security.
We also support the Committee's acknowledgement of the important role
that NGOs have played, in the absence of strong governance structures in
Afghanistan, in ensuring that aid reaches the people that need it and in
particular, reaches beyond Kabul. The Australian Greens strongly support the
Committee recommendations 22 and 23 that the Australian government should do
more to foster the use of local NGOs and we hope that AusAID proactively takes
up these recommendations.
The Australian Greens have reservations with recommendation 21 regarding
funding channelled through Afghan's national budget and the Afghanistan
Reconstruction Trust Fund. We would have preferred that the Committee's report
picked up additional points from Inquiry submissions to refine this
For example, the joint submission from Save the Children, Oxfam and
World Vision recommended that, in guaranteeing aid flows to the Afghan national
budget, that Australia should promote a process that includes adequate
investment in capacity building for key government ministries and capacity
assessments of key ministries prior to awarding funds.
Similarly this recommendation would have benefitted from specifying the
importance of the Australian government supporting the Afghan government to
ensure that its own development strategy includes a commitment to the provision
of essential services, such as health and education, and that the Australian
government continues to use and expand on models for service delivery that have
had proven success, such as the Basic Package of Health Services.
With regard to setting a benchmark that 50 per cent of ODA is channelled
through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) in recommendation 21,
the Australian Greens would like to add a requirement that AusAID monitor,
measure and publicly report on the performance of multilateral organisations,
such as the ARTF, against the AusAID's own objectives, including tracking which
projects Australian ODA actually funds, the speed at which such funds are
disbursed and the quality of aid ultimately provided.
A significant focus of the Senate Inquiry was the effectiveness or
otherwise of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) delivered by the Australian
Defence Force (ADF), especially in Uruzgan Province.
Evidence to the Committee raised concerns that aid administered by the
ADF was too focused on short-term and quick-fix objectives that were more
directed to winning hearts and minds than delivering sustainable and effective
development outcomes. Additionally, that militarised aid distorts the
distribution of aid to regions experiencing conflict, that it places greater
obstacles to community participation and that it increases risk for the safety
of aid workers. Chapter 8 of the Committee Report details many of the concerns
raised in the submissions.
During the course of the inquiry it was revealed that the ADF had
wrongly categorised almost $190 million in military spending as ODA. In addition,
it was revealed that the ADF had little to no information on 31 (or 65 per
cent) of its $34.1 million of ODA eligible projects in the Uruzgan
province conducted since 2006. The ADF could not track whether 32 (or 67 per cent)
of its ODA eligible projects constructed using military aid had been attacked.
The projects about which it has no information included: half of its education
projects; half of its health projects; five out of six of its community
projects; and ten out of eleven of its transport projects.
It was also revealed that neither the ADF, AusAID nor the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) undertook any independent evaluation of the
development impact of these projects, beyond the ADF assessing the projects for
'fitness for purpose and construction standards' after completion.
These admissions reflect poorly not only on the ADF but how the overseas
aid budget has been managed by the Australian government in Afghanistan. This
issue is particularly relevant as increasing amounts of Australia's ODA is
administered through various government departments.
Proper monitoring and evaluation of projects is the bedrock of good
In this respect, the Australian Greens strongly support Committee
recommendation 1 which seeks a comprehensive review of Australia's mission in
Uruzgan and the impact of the ADF-delivered ODA in Afghanistan. We do not have
confidence however that the Australian Civil Military Centre is the most
appropriate body to undertake this review.
Portfolio responsibility for the Australian Civil Military Centre
resides with the Minister for Defence and its mandate is to 'improve Australia's
effectiveness in civil-military collaboration for conflict and disaster
management overseas'. The Australian Greens consider that this review would be
more appropriately conducted by a body that is at arm's length from the
military and has specific focus or expertise in the aid arena, such as the
Office of Development Effectiveness.
It is with these issues in mind that the Greens make the following
additional recommendations, focused on improving the management of ODA, the
challenge of delivering ODA in a militarised environment and AusAID's
increasing focus on promoting mining as a pathway to development.
Managing Australia's overseas aid
The Australian Greens strongly support recommendations 33 to 36 which
address shortcomings in assessing, reporting and evaluating ODA spending across
government departments. Evidence to the Senate Inquiry revealed that there is a
need to refine the whole-of-government reporting and evaluating mechanisms for
ODA to ensure Australia's aid is effective and targeted where possible to the
UN's Millennium Development Goals. There is also a need to ensure proper transparency
and scrutiny of Australia's overseas aid.
That the Australian government clarifies the government's accepted
definition of ODA to make clear that spending by other government departments
will only be considered ODA if the primary objective of that spending is
poverty alleviation and community empowerment.
That AusAID be established as an independent department, separate from
the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with its own cabinet-level
Recognising the risk of social dislocation and mistrust in the period
leading up to and immediately following troop withdrawal, that AusAID conduct
an assessment of past ODA projects delivered by the ADF in Afghanistan and hold
talks with community leaders to determine how this infrastructure can
effectively meet the needs of the community.
That the Australian government ensure that attacks on ODA-funded
projects are publicly reported on with full disclosure of damage to the
project, the number of people killed and injured, and the impact the attack has
had on the operations of the project.
That where possible in future militarised conflicts, the Australian
government direct aid away from projects connected with the ADF in order to
focus on the construction of civil and social infrastructure and projects
directly targeted at poverty alleviation and community empowerment.
Mining for development
The Australian Greens have strong reservations about whether focusing
aid on promoting mining projects is an effective, proven or sustainable use of
Australia's aid budget to alleviate poverty in developing countries.
We welcome that the Committee has given some focus to refining the
direction of Australia's mining-related aid in recommendations 17–20 but the
Australian Greens maintain that the recommendations could have been stronger:
Considering the negative impact that mining has had on many communities
in low income countries, that AusAID directs aid towards community and
institutional development in preference to programs that promote mineral
That the Australian government introduce legislation to regulate
Australian mining enterprises conducting business overseas, so they are bound
by the same social and environmental conditions as they are in Australia.
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