What the budget means for displacement-affected communities: 5 takeaways

Words by James Thompson, Senior Policy and Protection Advisor at Act for Peace

In the context of rising global hunger, mass displacement and climate-fueled disasters, the Labor government has just announced its first Federal budget. And overall, it’s good news for our partners and displacement-affected communities around the world.

With an emphasis on “responsible” spending which is “right for the times”, the Government has gone beyond its election commitments and invested an additional $1.4 billion over four years towards international development.

We champion this strategic reset, which is a testament to the joint advocacy you have supported to help communities affected by displacement around the world, most recently through the Help Fight Famine campaign.

If you didn’t catch the full announcement and want to know how it will affect our partners and the communities they serve, here are our five key takeaways:

1. The overall aid budget is up $1.4 billion, which is great

The Government announced an additional $375 million in FY23 (and $1.4 billion over four years) to the overall aid budget, which meets and goes further than their election commitment.

The total Australian Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget is set to be $4.65 billion this year – which is 0.20% of GNI or 20 cents for every 100$ of Australia’s total income. This means it stays steady at 0.20% GNI, as opposed to dropping to 0.018% as it was forecasted.

Mark Purcell, CEO of the sector’s peak body, ACFID, says:

“This funding boost is an indication that the Labor Government takes seriously the message that Australia’s aid program has a role to play in helping our neighbours tackle the complexities of the pandemic and economic woes.”   

While we are still a way off contributing our ‘fair share’ of at least 0.7% GNI (as spelt out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals), this is a strong start towards rebuilding Australia’s international development program.

Act for Peace’s partner in Indonesia, Church World Service, is helping women living in Anugrah, Indonesia, to adapt to climate conditions by diversifying their livelihoods. Here they are learning to make Pia Cakes which they can sell at the market. Geoff Robinson / Act for Peace

2. The Government has increased funding to the Pacific, while also broadening its geographic focus

In a bid to restore Australia’s role as a “diligent and dependable partner and friend” to our Pacific neighbours, the Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced an additional $900 million for Pacific and Timor Leste over the next four years.

This takes the grand estimated total for investment in the Pacific for FY23 alone to $1.9 billion.

In addition to these local investments, the Government is sticking to its commitment of an additional $470 million towards the South East Asia package, as well as investing $382 million towards support for South and West Asia. These investments, in addition to an extra $30 million towards the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), demonstrate a more global focus in aid and development projects than under the coalition Government; a necessary shift to help tackle the global displacement crisis at large.

3. A new Development Policy is in the works, which means a more sustainable, long-term strategy to guide the program

The Australian government is developing a new Development Policy with a longer-term vision and strategy to guide its aid program.

With over 100 million people now displaced by conflict and violence, and another 24 million displaced on average due to climate-fuelled disasters, Act for Peace will be making a submission and lobbying the Government to address prevention as well as response to the global displacement crisis.

The Government fell short on our asks for a $150 million package to combat rising hunger and famine in parts of the world like Somalia, where communities are being displaced due to prolonged drought. Mohamed Abdihakim Ismail/FCA

4. The Government stuck to its COP commitments to tackle climate change, but more needs to be done

Fulfilling part of Australia’s COP commitments, the government has invested $2.2 billion towards climate change and the environment.

This includes a suite of measures aimed at addressing climate change in the Pacific region, including an allocation of $200 million for the Indonesia Climate and Infrastructure Partnership.

With climate-related disasters predicted to displace 200 million from their homes by 2050, more still needs to be done on climate change mitigation and adaption.  Local organisations like our partners in the Pacific and Zimbabwe need more backing as they brace for future climate-fueled weather events.

5. Our asks to prevent food insecurity were not met, leaving displacement-affected communities vulnerable to the ongoing hunger crisis

Through the Help Fight Famine campaign, Act for Peace and other members of Micah advocated for the Australian Government to commit to $150 million to combat rising hunger and expected famine in parts of the world, including the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Syria.

The government committed $15 million in August and has made no further commitments since. The global hunger crisis will only become more dire as the weeks and months go on, so it is vital the Australian Government does not ignore this.

As we await further detail on how these investments will specifically benefit Act for Peace’s work partners and the projects we support, we’re hopeful that this budget signals a step in the right direction for our vision; a world where everyone belongs.

As always, we shine a focus on the local organisations and displacement-affected communities on the ground. In addition to increasing funding and diplomacy, it is essential that Australia continues to back those with lived experience, and support locally-led organisations to devise the humanitarian and development solutions that they need.

Act for Peace gratefully acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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