Published On: Wed, Sep 18th, 2013

Australian plans to merge aid agency with foreign affairs ‘a retrograde step’

MDG: Australian prime minister Tony AbbotTony Abbott, the new Australian prime minister, is recommending that AusAid, the government’s aid agency, be merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat), after similar moves in Canada and New Zealand.

Abbott said the move to integrate AusAid, which administers Australia’s A$5.4bn (£3.2m) official development assistance (ODA) programme, with Dfat would ensure the aid and diplomatic arms of the country’s foreign policy were more closely aligned.

But aid experts expressed concerns about the proposed changes to the respected development agency. “AusAid has become one of the cutting-edge aid agencies in recent years, funding great research and innovative work on fragile states in the Pacific,” said Duncan Green, senior strategic adviser to Oxfam. “It will be a loss to all of us is that is threatened by these cuts.”

Annemaree O’Keefe, the former AusAid deputy director-general, told ABC Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat: “This is going to have big ramifications for Australia’s aid programme. How it is going to be managed really remains to be seen. There is tension from time to time between AusAid and Dfat in terms of how development can support foreign policy objectives, and I think that’s where, from time to time, people get a bit enthusiastic about how much development assistance can actually support broader foreign policy objectives.”


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