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Aid in Afghanistan report released: militarised aid problematic

A Greens initiated inquiry into Australia's aid program in Afghanistan has revealed significant concerns about the miltarisation of aid delivered by the Defence Force, particularly in the Uruzgan Province, spent with an eye to win ‘hearts and minds' rather than make a real difference to the lives of Afghan people.

The report of the Senate Inquiry, including additional comments and recommendations by Australian Greens aid spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon, was tabled today.

"Having the ADF deliver aid in Afghanistan distorts its distribution to regions experiencing conflict, frustrates local community involvement and increases safety risks for aid workers," Senator Rhiannon said.

"Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, Ensuring aid in Afghanistan is spent well and reported on transparently, enabling proper scrutiny, is critical.

"Australia has provided over $700 million in overseas development aid (ODA) to Afghanistan since 2000. This was expected to rise to $250 million per annum as troops withdraw but has been cut in the latest budget to $180 million pa. During the transition decade it is critical Australia's aid is targeted to make a real difference to people's lives.

"The report's recommendation that Australia foster the use of local NGOs to help deliver more effective aid projects is welcome, along with a strengthening of aid programs that empower women, improve education and safeguard food security.

"During the inquiry I discovered that the ADF had wrongly categorised almost $190 million in military spending as ODA.

"I also revealed that the ADF does not hold information on 65 per cent of its $34.1 million of ODA eligible projects in the Uruzgan province delivered since 2006, including schools health and transport projects. No independent evaluation of their effectiveness has been undertaken.

"A recommended review of ADF delivered aid in Uruzgan is welcome, but would be better undertaken by the Office of Development Effectiveness, at arms' length from the military, not the Australian Civil Military Centre as proposed.

"Other recommendations of the Australian Greens include ensuring ODA spending by government departments is only categorised as aid if its primary objective is poverty alleviation and community empowerment.

"We have also expressed strong reservations about using aid to promote mining projects considering their negative impact on people in low income countries and that AusAID direct aid to community and institutional development instead," Senator Rhiannon said.


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