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FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 11/02/2010 – AusAID

Estimates & Committees
Sarah Hanson-Young 11 Feb 2010

Senator Hanson-Young -I would like to continue with the topic of family planning and the aid program, the guiding principles. Since the announcement of these new principles in March 2009 can AusAID please give me an outline as to what actual new funding has been made available for these family planning activities, where it is happening and a bit of a breakdown. I have specifically asked for the new funding.

Mr Baxter -The guiding principles were actually released in August of last year.

Senator Hanson-Young -Yes, sorry, they were announced in March 2009.

Mr Baxter -No activities were funded until the guiding principles themselves were put up to inform that. Since that time as I mentioned to Senator Boswell we have agreed to fund five new NGO activities in PNG, East Timor, Fiji and Ghana. Mr Proctor can give the breakdown of the funding for those if you would like.

Senator Hanson-Young -Thank you.

Mr Proctor -In that list Ghana is $49,000, Fiji is $94,000, PNG is $93,000 and $100,000 is to Timor-Leste for the Marie Stopes activity. The separate bilateral activity in Timor-Leste will account for $400,000.

Senator Hanson-Young -Could you repeat that last bit?

Mr Proctor -There is $400,000 for bilateral activity to increase access to family planning in East Timor. On top of that, other increases in funding have been made through increased contributions to UNFPA.

Senator Hanson-Young -That was one of my next questions, because I was going to be asking specifically about the $15 million over four years, which I understand is linked to that, if I am not mistaken. Would you be able to give me the outline of who, where and which countries will receive the $15 million over four years, and where will this be assisted in terms of the family planning activities?

Mr Proctor -I cannot give you a precise $15 million sum. Can I indicate to you a significant part of that will be achieved just through an increase in contribution to UNFPA-something in the order of $7 million over this year and next two.

Senator Hanson-Young -So a considerable amount of that will go into increased funding regardless, but it is not necessarily linked to the family planning activities. Is that what you are suggesting?

Mr Proctor -No. With the UNFPA, at least half of the activities are directly related to assisting with family planning and reproductive health. What I actually meant was that the figure will be far higher than $15 million. Partly there is increased funding, particularly in the case of Timor-Leste, but of course what has also happened is that NGOs have more flexible guidance on what they will pursue within their existing programs. Over the next two years there will also be increasing assistance to family planning through our bilateral activities but often as part of broader health development spending. That is why it is hard to give you a precise figure.

Senator Hanson-Young -But could you take that on notice and come up with something?

Mr Baxter -Certainly. We will be able to give you a very clear indication. As Mr Proctor said, there are discrete family planning activities that we fund with that new provision of $15 million over four years, but in some cases in our broader health funding there is a family planning component which may be drawn from money that is allocated to general health assistance to partner countries. So what we can do is take that out. The $15 million was an additional amount to boost the level of funding that the government provides for family planning activities overall. We were, prior to that $15 million being provided, undertaking some family planning activities within the general health component of the aid budget. So what we will do is look at the health component of the aid budget and isolate those areas that fund family planning activities.

Senator Hanson-Young -Can I ask why the decision was made? When that money was announced, it was not announced by the minister in terms of being an add-on to the existing funding. Why was the decision made to pass it on to programs that way instead of directly through AusAID sponsored activities?

Mr Baxter -I am not sure if I understand the question.

Senator Hanson-Young -You are saying that the way this money will now be distributed is through the UN organisation and through that committee, through the work that they do. I understand you are saying that a lot of the work they do is family planning directed. I am just wondering what the decision was based on to funnel the money through that avenue instead of perhaps AusAID picking their own specific activities.

Mr Baxter -In many sectors where we work in the aid program there is a mixture of bilateral and multilateral activities. Part of the answer to that is reach-working through multilateral agencies that have representation in a broader range of countries than AusAID is currently represented in. That enables us to get greater reach for the program. In areas that we have outlined where we have made some decisions-Fiji, PNG, East Timor, for instance-we have very significant aid programs already and we are able to implement programs working with NGO partners very easily. So it is really a division of labour, if you like, and multiplying the impact we have by using whatever method is most appropriate to get the benefits to the broadest range of people.

Senator Hanson-Young -So you are confident then that the $15 million would be spent most effectively though that avenue as opposed to if you had chosen to partner with other organisations?

Mr Baxter -It is a mixture. We think that we get broader reach and maximum impact by using a variety of delivery methods. Some of those will be AusAID working directly with partners and some of them will be providing funding for multilateral agencies. So, yes, we are confident that we get the best impact.

Senator Hanson-Young -I have one final question which relates to the remarks made by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. She spoke at the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, which I am sure you are aware of. When she gave this speech there was quite a lot of attention given to it in relation to her specific call to reduce maternal and child mortality and prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies, in her words; and needing to do that through a further commitment to and emphasis on reproductive health, family planning activities and access to that type of advice and service. I am just wondering for AusAID in the forward planning if there is any particular take-up of that call to action, considering that obviously we do work quite closely with the United States in a number of partnerships and through NGOs that are often headed by the US. How has AusAID responded to that call to action?

Mr Baxter -We certainly agree with the statements that were made by the Secretary of State, particularly that access to family planning is one of the most effective approaches to reducing maternal deaths due to the very high number of unsafe abortions that are performed each year-the estimate is something like 20 million. About 68,000 women die each year through those unsafe abortions and 220,000 children lose their mothers that way. So we are very much conscious of the scale of the problem, and that is why the government has decided to increase funding for family planning activities above previous levels. As Mr Proctor has pointed out, it is likely that the level of funding that we will provide to family planning activities will significantly exceed the $15 million that was announced by the government.

Senator Hanson-Young -At current levels, what percentage of the health programming budget is spent particularly on family planning issues?

Mr Baxter -I do not have that number but it is something that we could do get for you.

Senator Hanson-Young -That would be great, thank you.

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