Australia’s new International Development Policy was launched this week with a focus on building a peaceful, stable and prosperous region. Announced as the first long term development strategy in almost a decade, it was welcomed by those in the development sector. In contrast to the former government, Australia’s Foreign Minister has committed to rebuilding their ODA budget. While this is likely to be a slow build, with no ODA/GNI targets set, the new policy sets out a clear pathway.
IPPF welcomes the policy’s approach to localisation, the strong focus on climate resilience and humanitarian action, the commitment to gender equality and LBGTQI+ rights and the ongoing support for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The new policy has a strong focus on Australia’s role as a development partner in the region. While the geographic focus remains unchanged, the approach is quite different. At the launch, Minister Wong highlighted the importance of sovereignty, where ‘each country can determine its own fate’. In practice for DFAT, this will mean greater accountability at post, more collaborative development of country Development Partnership Plans, more frequent progress reviews and a greater emphasis on implementing learning from evaluation. It also translates to greater investment in local solutions, including funding to support partner governments, local procurement, and civil society. The announcement of a new Civil Society Partnership Fund was well received, although details are lacking.
The other underlying theme which differs dramatically from previous aid policies is climate change, recognised by the Minister as the greatest shared challenge for the region. DFAT plans to increase climate investments and better address climate risk with a target that half of bilateral and regional investments must have a climate objective by 2024-25, increasing to 80% by 2028-29. The policy also references a new humanitarian strategy, which will complement the aid policy and is due to begin consultation in September.
Inclusion is a high priority within the policy. Minister Wong highlighted the importance of a region where ‘all can thrive and reach their potential’. Three focus areas for inclusion are Gender Equality, Disability Inclusion and LGBTQI+ rights, with supporting strategies in development, due for completion by the May budget 2024. The government is reinstating the target for 80% of development investments to address gender equality and a new requirement for investment over $3m to include gender equality objectives.
While health is not a focus area within the policy, it was mentioned as part of infrastructure programming. The policy notes the vulnerability of many health systems in the region and Australia’s continued role to strengthen capacity and support prevention and response for both infectious and non- communicable diseases. There is also a commitment to expand universal health coverage and a specific mention of support for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Resourcing for international development is explored in detail. Responding to the findings of the Development Finance Review and recognising the limitations of ODA funding, the policy proposes an increase in blended finance, and an investment of up to A$250m to leverage private investment. This will be supported by a new unit in DFAT to work with philanthropy and impact investment. The policy also highlights changes to reporting and accountability within DFAT, greater transparency of results, and increased investment in DFAT development capability (36.8m announced in the May budget).
Since the integration of AusAID into DFAT in 2013, international development has been a low priority in Australia, undervalued and diminished through multiple budget cuts. The Albanese government has promised something different. While the lack of an ODA funding target is disappointing, this policy is a step in the right direction.
The recognition of shared challenges and shift towards genuine engagement highlight an understanding of the value of development work, not just for beneficiaries but for the region as a whole. Together with DFAT’s investment in development capability and shift to a whole of government approach and Minister Wong’s outspoken commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development there are strong indications that Australia is taking development seriously.
As recipients and partners of the Australian International Development program, IPPF look forward to supporting the roll out of the new Australian International Development Policy, consulting on the strategies and participating in the design of new programs. We hope to see the collaboration continue and the funding match the ambition.
IPPF works closely with the Australian government and is funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to integrate sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) into humanitarian preparedness response and recovery through SPRINT; to restore services, particularly to marginalized populations impacted by COVID-19 through RESPOND and to support the ambitious Pacific Niu Vaka Strategy Phase 2, enabling quality SRHR to be realised for everyone in the Pacific.
To read the full policy, click here.
Cover illustration by Edinah Chewe for The Greats.