Being invited by the Australian Government to engage in consultations on public policy issues has become a really important part of our work as your advocacy team…And we love it! It’s always a privilege to speak prophetically into the shaping of laws and policies that we hope will do good in our world.
So when the Government officially announced that it would be undertaking a consultation process to guide the creation of a new International Development Policy, or in simpler terms a roadmap for Australia’s aid and development efforts in the future, we warmly welcomed the opportunity to share our experience and expertise.
But I have to say, something about this submission process feels different to others.
It feels big.
Perhaps it is the fact that the last time a review of this nature occurred was almost a decade ago, and the world looks so markedly different now to what it did then.
Perhaps it is the fact that in that time, we’ve seen the devastating rise of global challenges like conflict, mass-displacement and climate change.
Perhaps it is the fact that in that time, aid has taken on a human face for me. I’ve met with families and communities who now have access to clean water, who can send their children to school, and have grown their livelihoods, in part due to the incredible work that our aid program does.
This particular consultation process was more than just an opportunity to put our thoughts about best-practice aid and development on paper; it was an opportunity to reflect on some of the world’s most pressing challenges, to place focus on those who are most marginalised and vulnerable to those challenges, and to consider our nation’s response as a good global neighbour.
With that in mind, and in collaboration with our peers in the Church Agencies Network, the Micah Coalition and the broader Baptist Movement, we have thoughtfully and prayerfully put forward a number of recommendations that we feel are critical to a new International Development Program.
In short, those recommendations are:
Recommendation 1: A ‘people and poverty’ focus to the International Development Program.
This means ensuring that the primary purpose of the new program is human-centered development for people and communities who are most vulnerable to the impacts of poverty, injustice or disaster. It means pursuing the following priorities
1. Inclusive prosperity that leaves no one behind – with particular investment in and focus on ensuring that opportunities reach people at risk of marginalisation including women, youth, people with disabilities, and ethnic and religious minorities;
2. Social stability that is rooted in strong social capital in local communities, and an open civil society space that allows all people to actively participate in and contribute to social, religious, political and economic life; and
3. Community resilience that empowers families, communities and nations to be prepared and able to withstand the shocks of conflict, economic instability, climate change and natural disasters.
Recommendation 2: Recognise the unique role that the church, and other faith-based institutions and organisations have in ensuring Australia’s development efforts retain a human-development focus.
The Church is often a trusted community leader capable of addressing underlying beliefs and attitudes to produce sustained behavioural change and social transformation, and of fostering and developing local leadership. In many parts of the Pacific region, Churches deliver primary services in remote communities where government service delivery is often weak or non-existent, making the churches not only significant civil society actors, but also key pieces of social infrastructure. This role is complemented by the important role of other NGOs with a faith basis, by the institutions of other faiths, and – particularly in our Asian neighbours – by multi-faith initiatives.
We suggest that a new International Development Policy should identify a process and mechanism to engage faith leaders and faith-based organisations in ongoing strategic dialogue. This will enable effective collaboration in realising impact for vulnerable communities, support for key programs and initiatives, and partnership in engaging with Australian communities.
The research, conversations and drafting work that has gone into this review process has strengthened my resolve to see a people and poverty-focused development program. It’s helped me remember the hard-working families and communities behind the statistics and public policy debates. It has moved me to continue speaking up for a more just and sustainable world for all.
Our vision at Baptist World Aid is a world where poverty has ended, and all people enjoy the fullness of life that God intends. It is our hope that Australia’s new International Development Policy works powerfully to help see that vision realised.
To read the full submissions that Baptist World Aid has contributed to drafting, please see below: