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Response to new aid policy framework

Vision 2020 Australia response to the Federal Government’s new aid policy framework

Vision 2020 Australia welcomes the new aid policy framework released by Foreign Minister the Hon Julie Bishop on Wednesday 18 June (read the speech transcript here), and is pleased that the Australian Government has moved quickly to provide clarity on the future of Australia’s aid and development agenda.

Strengthening private sector development

Vision 2020 Australia, the peak body for eye health and vision care, welcomes the Government’s emphasis on working with the private sector. The organisation and its members recognise that aid and development spending alone does not generate sustained increases in employment or reductions in poverty, but that aid coupled with the development of a robust private sector is what will see countries alleviate poverty and reduce their reliance on aid. Through programs of the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium and its members, the eye health and vision care sectors of developing countries in the region have benefited from the involvement of the private sector─both in terms of product innovation and service delivery. Engaging the private sector in development has the potential to increase economic development and lower levels of poverty.

Vision 2020 Australia is particularly heartened to note the Government’s identified priority areas: 

Education and health

Non-communicable diseases such as cataract and diabetic retinopathy, and the infectious eye disease trachoma exist in our region, and Australia is well placed to help tackle them. Depending on the needs of each country, members of the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium can provide expert assistance in service delivery, human resource development, infrastructure development, governance, research, and inclusive development for those whose vision impairment is untreatable.

The Government has indicated that it envisages the financing of health and education systems to come from in-country sources such as taxes and private sources of funding. Under the first phase of the Australian Government’s Avoidable Blindness Initiative, eye health and vision care programs of the Global Consortium that worked closely with partner governments, saw 24 new commitments of policy support by partner governments, and 12 new commitments of funding by partner governments at an AUD equivalent of $1.54 million. Furthermore, as research has shown that interventions to improve eye health in developing countries are among the most cost effective public health programs available, and return $4 for every $1 invested, there is great scope for further local investment.

Gender equality and empowering women and girls

Recognising the links between gender and blindness in theory and practice can contribute to unlocking the potential of women and girls globally. With attainment of the right to sight through access to eye health and vision care services, women and girls have increased access to education and better health outcomes and can therefore make a greater contribution to their communities─economically and socially and culturally. This in turn, leads to the empowerment of women, and women’s meaningful engagement in society. 

Including people with disability 

Social barriers facing women and girls that are associated with blindness or vision impairment, can further limit the legal rights, access to opportunities for education and training, and access to employment. A girl with a disability is less likely to attend school as compared to a girl without disability. What is more, the loss of educational opportunities and income, which results from carers staying at home to support the person with disability, must also be considered. Children, especially girls, are often relied on to care for parents or siblings with a disability. This results in many girls dropping out of school, which impedes their future education, health and economic prospects.

Moving forward

The Government must now work to develop its priority areas and newly released 10 high level targets into practical initiatives to ensure the aid program reaches the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable. Vision 2020 Australia and members of the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium provide an accumulative knowledge base and extensive in-country experience, and are well placed to help the Government turn this high level framework into practical action on the ground. Furthermore, the Global Consortium’s collaborative and skills-complementary approach to program planning and implementation is an effective and efficient use of resources generating exceptional outcomes. 

Vision 2020 Australia’s looks forward to the development of the Aid Investment Plans which will provide further clarity around the country level performance benchmarks and the delivery of the education and health budget allocations. Vision 2020 Australia is excited to work with the Government to assist in developing programs that are effective, efficient and reach the poorest in our region.  

About the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium

The Global Consortium is a partnership of six Australian NGOs: Brien Holden Vision Institute, CBM Australia, Foresight Australia, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, The Fred Hollows Foundation, and Royal Australian New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.  For further information see: http://vision2020australia.org.au/our-work/global-consortium

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