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AUSAID Burma

Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Thursday 2 June 2011

Senator LUDLAM: I have a couple of questions relating to Burma as it relates to our aid program. I understand there was a recent Burma conference at ANU called Burma/Myanmar Update, held on 16 and 17 May in Canberra. I understand that this conference was funded by AusAID-or that is what the conference convener said. Can you confirm for us whether or not AusAID funded that conference?

Mr Moore: Yes, we have provided funding to that Burma update conference for some years. We were a funder this year as well.

Senator LUDLAM: How much funding was given to that conference this year?

Mr Moore: I would have to take that on notice and get back to you on the precise level of funding.

Senator LUDLAM: I would also be interested to know in some detail the process by which the decision to fund this conference was made. Was it a competitive process or does ANU put in a bid? How do you decide what to fund?

Mr Moore: Again, I will have to confirm the detail, but I think we fund several of the ANU update conferences where there is a particular focus on a country-for example, Indonesia or Vietnam. That reflects the expertise at ANU and their interest in hosting conferences. They obviously extend the invitation to participants from a wide range of academic and other institutions. But I will get details about the precise procurement arrangements.

Senator LUDLAM: I would appreciate that. I want to go to the issue of cross-border aid. Some of the departmental officials told us earlier today, or it might have been yesterday-it all blends together-that the department has opened up the question of cross-border aid from the Thai side of the border into Burma. I understand that AusAID has a number of concerns regarding monitoring and evaluation-how we keep track of where the funds are going and how they are being used. I am wondering if you could tell us what efforts AusAID has taken to find out more about this issue and whether we have talked about it with any of our partner aid agencies from other countries?

Mr Moore: I can certainly confirm Mr Borrowman's advice from earlier that the minister has been having discussions with interested parties, non-government organisations, refugees and displaced people. He has said that he is willing to look in more depth at this issue. Consequently, that is happening across government. We are working with the department of foreign affairs to provide that advice. As you know, we fund organisations that work along the Thai-Burma border. We are also active within the country. We are constantly liaising with organisations, partners and countries that have different policies and different views on these issues. That process of updating our thinking is ongoing.

Senator LUDLAM: I would congratulate the minister for opening that question up again. In the brief time that I spent on the border, that was the No. 1 issue that was raised by the aid groups that we spoke to, so I am glad it is being looked at. My specific question was whether we are in contact on that specific issue with other countries. For example, UK's development agency, DFID, within the last five years has changed its policy relating to cross-border aid after a parliamentary inquiry. I do not believe they have raised any issues of negative impacts, for example, on their in-country aid program. Have you spoken to officials from that agency on this question?

Mr Moore: We have spoken to the UK and to other countries about their cross-border assistance.

Senator LUDLAM: Do you have a deadline to provide advice to the minister? Are we working to any particular time line?

Mr Moore: I think the minister is eager to get advice on this question as soon as possible.

Senator LUDLAM: Good. Can you perhaps provide us with an update on the distribution of Australia's aid funding into Burma? I understand it has gone up reasonably significantly in the last two or three years. Can you tell us what where we are up to and what fraction of that is making its way up to the eastern part of the country?

Mr Moore: I can certainly advise you that we have expanded the Burma program very greatly-not in the most recent budget, because in the previous budget it expanded very considerably. Now we are in a process of consolidating that expansion. As a result of previous interest and questions on your part, we have been looking at the distribution of funding across programs in Burma. I think there has been a suggestion in the past that a very large proportion of our assistance is concentrated in and around Yangon. That is not the case. I can tell you that, on the basis of our estimates, we are working with a lot of partners-non-government partners such as Care and World Vision and United Nations agencies like UNICEF and the World Food Program-and we are looking at the distribution of funding across the programs that we are supporting. We believe that the funding going to the Yangon area is about six per cent of our total funding. The pattern of funding obviously differs across states, but across Shan state I believe it is in the order of about 11 to 12 per cent. In Mon state it is around seven per cent.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you provide for us on notice-I do not expect you to have all of this on you at the moment-rough orders of magnitude on the distribution within the country and also what we might send to the border areas, from either the Indian side or the Thai side?

Mr Moore: On the question of the border areas, we estimate that somewhere in the vicinity of 16 per cent of our assistance is in the south-east. On the Thai-Burma border we have tripled assistance. Traditionally, we have assisted the Thailand Burma Border Consortium to run the camps, in which there are 140,000 refugees. We are broadening that assistance, working through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Australia-ADRA-to provide vocational training. We are providing health support to the Mae Sot clinic. We have volunteers working with women's organisations on the Thai-Burma border.

Senator LUDLAM: That is great. Can you take on notice the rough distribution of the different states and provinces where the aid money is going and perhaps a bit more detail if you could, in dollar figures and as a rough breakdown, on what we are contributing to up in the region around Mae Sot and the refugee camps up there.

Mr Moore: Certainly-we can give you more details on that.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. I will shift to Afghanistan, if I may. 2011-12 sees the total AusAID administered ODA to Afghanistan increase from $141 million to $165 million, with $38 million to be spent by other government departments. Is that consistent with what you have in front of you?

Mr Wood: That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: Which government agencies administer the other $38 million?

Mr P Baxter: That would largely be the Australian Federal Police. They have a training mission.

Senator LUDLAM: How much would you be able to tell me about that-or should I raise that with the AFP?

Mr Wood: It is $18.13 million in 2011-12.

Senator LUDLAM: That is the AFP?

Mr Wood: Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: And the balance?

Mr Wood: The Department of Defence, $13.8 million; the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, $16.1 million; and there is a small amount for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Senator LUDLAM: AusAID is subject to certain disciplines and requirements when it is disbursing overseas aid. Are those other agencies subject to the same processes? I am not asking you to speak for them, but are you aware of whether they are required to have the same reporting obligations and so on?

Mr P Baxter: All government agencies have to report on their expenditure, including in forums such as this committee. I am not aware of their specific reporting formats or requirements. We obviously report on that element of the official development assistance budget that is appropriated to this agency.

Senator LUDLAM: Minister, that is a cross-portfolio spread of issues-can I ask you to take that on notice. The three that we just mentioned were the Federal Police, Defence and the department of immigration.

Senator Conroy: No problem.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you tell us what the total percentage of Australia's overseas development eligible assistance is going into Oruzgan province?

Mr P Baxter: In Oruzgan province this year, we expect to spend about $23 million out of our AusAID appropriation.

Senator LUDLAM: That is out of the total of $165 million?

Mr P Baxter: The AusAID appropriation is less than that.

Senator LUDLAM: Do you want to break it down for us?

Senator Conroy: While Mr Baxter is doing that, I have some information on the Burma cross-border assistance. I understand the minister met with the Burma Campaign Australia and some associated NGOs a few weeks ago, where he heard a number of views on the issue of cross-border assistance. I understand that the minister would be happy to discuss this with you in more detail.

Senator LUDLAM: That is great. Thank you.

Mr P Baxter: I will ask Ms Walker for a breakdown of the AusAID allocation.

Ms Walker: For the current financial year of the AusAID country program for Afghanistan it is estimated at around $106 million. Of that, $23 million will be expended in Oruzgan. The estimate for our expenditure in Oruzgan next year is $30 million.

Senator LUDLAM: We are a bit short of time, so could you perhaps table for us where the balance of that funding is being disbursed within Afghanistan. So it is $23 million of $106 million?

Ms Walker: Yes. We are providing a significant amount of funding for national programs, principally through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. That is for health, for education, for rural development and so on. We also have some additional programs including, for example, the Malaysia-Australia education program, which provides training in Malaysia for master teacher trainers. So there are other elements to our program. I can provide you with those on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: That would be great, thanks. The Dutch government-this is one instance that I know of-has noted that Oruzgan province is being 'aid saturated', and other observers have stated the same. Is the issue of aid saturation a concern for the Australian government in that province in particular?

Mr P Baxter: No, it is not. I have not seen that quote before, but the development indicators in Oruzgan are some of the worst in Afghanistan and it would be very difficult to describe a province with the maternal mortality and the child mortality rates that Oruzgan has as 'aid saturated'.

Senator LUDLAM: What fraction of our aid spend is going into things like maternal mortality?

Mr P Baxter: If you want a percentage I would have to take that on notice-

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, I would not mind.

Mr P Baxter: but we spend quite a lot of our funding on basic education and on providing assistance to health care through both national programs and bilateral programs.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. Are you aware of how much donor funding in total is being provided to Oruzgan by other countries?

Mr P Baxter: That would be something that we would take on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. Does Australia provide a contribution, or are we considering making a contribution, to the annual Afghanistan Consolidated Appeals Process?

Ms Walker: We have provided assistance to UN agencies in the past for their humanitarian programs, including UNHCR and the World Food Program. We are currently considering whether we can provide additional humanitarian assistance this year. It would come under the Consolidated Appeals Process.

Senator LUDLAM: Good. I think we are out about $400,000 so far, or invested in the UNHCR under the CAP. Is that approximately correct?

Ms Walker: Is that $400,000 this financial year? That does not-

Senator LUDLAM: No, in total. I think that was our total investment to date. That is the figure I have.

Ms Walker: I think we have provided more funding than that for the Afghan refugee case load. As you know, it is in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. Of course the UNHCR is also looking after displaced people in Afghanistan, returnees. I think the funding is higher than that. It depends over what period we are talking and it probably depends when the consolidated appeal was released. I will have a look at that and we will take it on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: If you could. But my specific question was whether we are considering making a greater contribution, and your answer was yes.

Ms Walker: Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you very much. Can AusAID provide us with an update on Afghanistan's participation in phase 2 of the international evaluation of the implementation of the Paris declaration?

Ms Walker: I will take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: All right, thanks. And could you also take on notice whether our total ODA on dual aid efforts in Afghanistan will be examined as a part of that evaluation?

Ms Walker: Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Thanks. To dodge to a different part of the world-and this might need someone else to come to the table-what diplomatic and funding assistance is Australia providing or will Australia provide specifically to North Sudan, as opposed to south, in the coming financial year?

Mr P Baxter: You have been lucky, Senator; it is the same people at the table.

Senator LUDLAM: You cover a fair scope of terrain. I know that most development assistance, in the light of the referendum, is focused in South Sudan, which is entirely worthy; but I am wondering whether you could provide us with any detail on North Sudan.

Mr P Baxter: I can tell you, Senator, while colleagues are getting the specific information, that our program in Sudan is our second largest in Africa after Zimbabwe. We have provided $23 million in humanitarian assistance and support for the referendum so far this financial year. You would probably be aware that the largest number of people of Sudanese descent who voted in the referendum outside Sudan was actually here in Australia-

Senator LUDLAM: No, I did not know that.

Mr P Baxter: and we provided some assistance for them to vote as well.

Senator LUDLAM: Is there such a thing as a break-up of funding between north and south?

Ms Walker: Yes, we can provide that. Could I just clarify over what period you are seeking that breakdown?

Senator LUDLAM: Across the forward estimates but specifically 2011-12 if you have that information.

Ms Walker: I do not believe that we have made the decisions yet on what we might allocate for either South Sudan or North Sudan.

Senator LUDLAM: All right. That is an answer.

Mr P Baxter: We have provided $136 million in assistance to Sudan as a whole since 2004. Over $50 million of that has been provided primarily for South Sudan and more than $71 million primarily for Darfur, and over $13 million has been provided to address the spillover effects of the Sudan conflict in neighbouring countries.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. So it is not possible to look forward to the forthcoming financial year-but I guess I will leave those thoughts with you as to whether it would be worth funding anything in the north. Is it possible across the figures you just gave me-since 2004-to identify whether we have specifically funded the north?

Mr P Baxter: Yes, it will be. We will have to take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: That is great. I will leave it there.

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