4 Responses

  1. Denis Blight
    Denis Blight November 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I think this is an excellent paper and the authors are to be congratulated. I would like to see the concept taken further: to think through the best means of both getting a better understanding of development assistance; identifying ‘aid that works’ and serves the national interest; and of expressing the outomes of the apparently large number of aid effectiveness reviews in clear and consistent language, tested against understood criteria. The journey may well lead to surprising outcomes that will recommend radical changes in the nature of our aid programs, even to the dropping of old linear concepts and definitions of aid.

    Such an approach should seek to broaden the constituency base for aid to embrace some unusual suspects.

  2. Iain Haggarty
    Iain Haggarty November 11, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Noting the challenges inherent in dealing with “technical areas”. I’m not convinced that a lot of the Aid industry problems (not just AusAID) are technical but rather they are managerial, professional or systemic in nature.

    Therefore “a strong focus on reviewing evaluative material already produced by and about the aid program with the objective of improving its quality and ensuring that findings are responded to” would surely be of major benefit?
    The public service, academia and interested NGOs are the places where there is vested interest in retaining or building on the status quo and therefore a sitting parliamentary committee is precisely the type of magnifying glass that is required.
    If there are reports and evaluative materials, delivered by such experts named above and there are outstanding issues or action points that have not been addressed, then isn’t it a basic responsibility of elected decision makers to take a closer look at how it is all working?
    In NZ we are used to such reviews in all areas of government and a focus on the “”how as well as the “what” is generally a good thing to counteract the inbuilt inertia and burgeoning bureaucracy of any large institution.
    Surely this is an opportunity for Australian foreign aid, not a threat as is immediately supposed by many commentators in the development field?

  3. Henry Sherrell
    Henry Sherrell November 11, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    “We need more parliamentary oversight of the aid program.”

    Do we really though? I don’t understand why this is the case. For highly technical policy areas, such as aid, I’m not sure more parliamentary oversight is the right road. Parliament, and the government, definitely have the dominant role to play in terms of setting the framework, the budget and the strategy. They should be accountable for this, and I think they generally are, given the public discussion of the aid cuts recently. In all seriousness, I think this blog would have more ability to effect change in the aid program than any parliamentary committee.

    Too often you end up with majority reports being rammed through, enquiry topics being very carefully selected to avoid any possible backlash and a general lack of interest from both members of the committee and the ability to engage with the committee. As the previous commenter noted, engagement with any parliamentary committee is not an easy process.

    Finally, I think any committee focused on “a strong focus on reviewing evaluative material already produced by and about the aid program with the objective of improving its quality and ensuring that findings are responded to” would be a major error. The public service, academia and interested NGOs are the places where this should occur, not by a sitting parliamentary committee. Improving the quality of aid is technical, specific and a very difficult. None of these things work well in parliamentary committees. I think the benefits of an aid parliamentary committee with this focus would be extremely limited.

    If there must be a committee, it should focus on high level strategy and/or where things clearly go wrong and/or major areas of expenditure, such as RAMSI.

  4. Sam Byfield
    Sam Byfield November 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Good briefing paper and article, Ashlee and Stephen. The ongoing absence of a specialised committee/sub committee to undertake inquiries (and receive briefings) on aid is a long term oversight. I worked on the Inquiry into Australia’s policy in the Pacific around 2007, which was held under the auspices of the JSCFADT Human Rights Sub-Committee, and i don’t think Human Rights was really a good fit. A roundtable inquiry process was held into cross-border health challenges by the Health and Ageing Committee a few years ago, which was interesting given that it really cut across aid and domestic health issues.

    For those working in the aid and development sector, engaging with Parl Committees is often an unclear process – requests to provide briefings are muddied by not knowing exactly who one should be asking to brief. Elevating aid in the committee system would be appropriate given the quantum of Australia’s aid program, and would to an extent assist with creating more engagement between development players and parliamentarians. With the new Govt shaking things up, and at least rhetorically upping the ante on discussions around accountability and effectiveness, now’s a good time to be raising these issues and one would think a separate aid sub-committee would be attractive to them.

    In my opinion, a separate sub-committee under JSCFADT would be the way to go – it would certainly be in line with the Govt’s focus on aid falling squarely in the realm of foreign policy. If they went this way, they might consider creating a new ‘aid inquiry secretary’ role as well, hopefully bringing in someone who has a background in aid and knows the sector (with the added benefit of creating one opportunity in what could be an increasingly crowded development job market…)

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