What the White Paper Reveals About Australian Values
Guest article for Global Citizen by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
By the Hon Julie Bishop MP, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
We live in a time of immense change, which brings great opportunities and challenges.
Global levels of poverty have steadily declined since the early 1980s – East and South Asia reduced poverty by more than 30 per cent and 20 per cent respectively over the first decade of the millennium.
However over 750 million people still live in extreme poverty—on less than US$1.90 a day.
Australia is playing our part in global efforts to overcome poverty, however a clear framework to guide our efforts is required to ensure the greatest impact and effectiveness of our aid program.
Recently the Australian Government released a Foreign Policy White Paper, the first comprehensive review of our international engagement in 14 years.
Australia’s development assistance program is an important part of our foreign policy and the White Paper will guide our international development efforts over the next decade and beyond.
The White Paper reflects the values we uphold—freedom, democracy, the rule of law, equality and mutual respect.
It promotes our interests in global stability and prosperity, while highlighting our focus on our region, the Indo-Pacific.
For example, in Indonesia, more than 17 million people live in extreme poverty, so in partnership with the Indonesian Government, we have supported the development of a database of poor households, which has improved targeting of government cash transfers to around 3.5 million of the poorest households. These resources allow households to keep their children in school, and buy nutritious food and essential medicines.
Another example comes from the Pacific, where more than 25 per cent of the population are living in extreme poverty. As a major economic partner to many Pacific island countries, we are a key partner for our neighbours.
Offering Pacific islanders—initially from Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu—the opportunity of temporary employment in Australia gives them the ability to earn an income, and to gain skills and life experience that open pathways out of poverty for them, their families and their communities.
Women are more likely than men to live in poverty. Empowering women and girls to take a full and equal role in the destiny and prosperity of every community is a key pillar of Australia’s aid program, with the Government setting a target that at least 80 per cent of investments, regardless of their primary objectives, must effectively address gender issues.
Advancing the rights of women and girls is also one of five key areas Australia will prioritise during its membership of the Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 term.
We are helping to strengthen the private sector-led growth and job creation, including for the most disadvantaged.
We are expanding economic opportunities in sectors where the poor are more likely to be concentrated, like agriculture. Women, on average, make up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries.
In Tonga, we support a partnership between the Interim Skills Development Facility and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access program which transforms women’s household food gardening activities into sustainable income-generating enterprises. On the island of Tongatapu 55 women participated in innovative vocational training to develop their skills in growing and exporting eggplant, chillies and capsicum.
The program has provided economic empowerment to its participants, and inspired improvements in nutrition and healthy eating. Improved numeracy and literacy skills have benefited these women in other aspects of their lives, and in turn, benefited their families and communities.
We will continue to advocate the benefits of openness and trade orientation for sustained growth and poverty reduction, and the Government is working to achieve our aid for trade target of 20 per cent of our aid budget by 2020.
Our development program magnifies the influence that Australia brings to bear on pressing regional and global problems.
Australia’s development assistance reduces poverty and alleviates suffering as well as serving our national interests by helping countries to advance economic reform, improve governance, fight threats including extremism, guard against infectious diseases, and build resilience to natural disasters and economic shocks.
Read More: 8 Common Myths About Australian Aid Busted
The Coalition Government is committed to finding new and cost-effective solutions to pressing development challenges, and through our innovationXchange, a creative ideas hub, we are continuing to explore new ideas and partnerships to increase the effectiveness of our assistance.
Australia is supporting our partners – particularly our Indo-Pacific neighbours – in their efforts to become more stable, prosperous and resilient, and, together, meet the Sustainable Development Goals.