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Greens secure support for inquiry into aid in Afghanistan

The Australian Greens last night secured support for a Senate Inquiry into Australia’s aid program in Afghanistan (terms of reference below).

“This inquiry will be an opportunity to shine a light on Australia’s current aid program in Afghanistan and capture lessons to ensure our aid program makes a real difference to the lives of Afghan people into the future”, said Greens Senator and overseas aid spokesperson Lee Rhiannon

“Australia has provided more than $944 million in aid to Afghanistan over the past decade and this amount is set to rise to $250 million per year by 2015/16.

“The withdrawal of Australian troops will drastically change the context in which Australian aid is provided. There is a real fear that women’s rights will go backwards as foreign troops are withdrawn.

“Aid, along with troops, will be pulled out of Oruzgan and it is probable that Australia’s aid program will become more centralised in Kabul and reliant on multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank.

“To date, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Forces have administered portions of the aid budget. This has been an obstacle to full disclosure of how the aid budget is spent and evaluated.

“It is timely to evaluate how effective military-led aid has been and to learn lessons for Australia’s aid program in other conflict-affected countries.

“The inquiry will also look at how to guarantee the safety of workers, including Afghan nationals, involved in the delivery of Australia’s aid program.

“I hope that the time frame for this Inquiry will allow for contributions from people and organisations on the ground in Afghanistan.

“This inquiry will see Australia join countries such as the UK, which is currently holding two parliamentary inquiries into the future of Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries. It ranks 155 out of 169 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index and over a third of the population live below the poverty line.

“Getting support for this inquiry is good news and I look forward to recommendations that will ensure Australia’s aid program makes a real difference to child and maternal health, education and poverty alleviation in the coming decade”, said Senator Rhiannon.

Terms of reference, moved by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon

To move—That the following matter be referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee for inquiry and report by 31 December 2012:

The administration, management and objectives of Australia’s overseas development programs in Afghanistan in the context of the ‘Transition Decade’, including:

(a) an evaluation of Australia’s bilateral aid program to date in Afghanistan;
(b) an evaluation of the interaction and effectiveness of Australia’s bilateral aid, multilateral aid, the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and other Australian government departments delivering aid;
(c) the means to most effectively address the Millennium Development Goals in Afghanistan;
(d) how to guarantee the safety of all workers involved in the delivery of Australian aid programs in Afghanistan; and
(e) any other related matters.

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