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Welcome the Republic of South Sudan

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Debbie DeVoe, Catholic Relief ServicesTomorrow, Saturday 9 July, the world will welcome a new nation. After four decades of civil war and six tense months of transition, the Republic of South Sudan will assert its independence.

The birth of a new nation is an occasion for reflection and celebration, but for the international aid and development community South Sudan's independence also represents a raft of new challenges for ensuring opportunity in some of Africa's most vulnerable communities

It's fitting that this week the Australian Government should chose to announce its response to the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness.

In the most comprehensive review of Australia's Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in 15 years, the Government has committed to pioneer a more accountable, transparent and effective delivery of aid to the poorest communities in our global family.

With an emphasis on health, education, governance and emergency preparedness programs, the Government's new framework for AusAID couldn't come at a better time for the vulnerable communities of a fragile new nation and the 1.4 billion people who still live in debilhitating poverty.

But as we welcome this commitment to an aid program that delivers value for money, and absorb the sector's new buzz-word — effectiveness — into our lexicon, we have to ask: what counts for good aid?

In Sudan's contested border regions of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei, and throughout the poverty-stricken communities of southern Sudan, there is dire and ongoing need for food, water and shelter, and for innovative projects that tackle the root causes of insecurity and poverty in the region.

But before we fly in to save the day, we must first evaluate whether our aid will have a real and lasting impact for the poorest of the poor.

For Caritas Australia, the measure of an effective aid program is its commitment to be by and for the people. There's no doubt that the agency's humanitarian assistance and long-term development initiatives have the potential to render extreme poverty a thing of the past — but where they do not establish genuine relationships with local organisations who have earned the trust of both the international community and the communities they are trying to help, there can be no real progress.

In conversations with the Independent Aid Review panel, Caritas Australia urged that the effectiveness of our nation's aid program be judged on three accounts.

In determining the value of Australian aid, Parliament must ensure that the poorest communities are engaged in the vision, design and implementation of their development; that the quality, strength and reciprocal nature of local community partnerships enables participation and learning exchange; and that our development initiatives build local capacity and skills to outlast our engagement.

As the Republic of South Sudan prepares for its independence, Caritas Australia and its international network are working in partnership with local communities to deliver just this kind of effective aid.

Building resilience in the face of a mounting humanitarian crisis, work in these vulnerable communities encompasses the provision of essential services; the delivery of grassroots education, health and livliehood opportunities; training in emergency preparedness; and solidarity alongside those who face their new citizenship with hope as well as fear.

This week, Australia embarks on a new journey with the most vulnerable members of our global family. We'll be looking to our Parliament to bolster the genuine civil society engagement that Australians so generously support, and to ensure that our nation's burgeoning aid program has the infrastructure and vision to be first and foremost accountable to the poorest of the poor.

Jack de GrootJack de Groot is Chief Executive Officer of Caritas Australia, Secretary to the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Justice and Development, and Adjunct Professor, Australian Catholic University. Image courtesty Debbie DeVoe, Catholic Relief Services.

Topic tags: Republic of South Sudan, AusAID, Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei



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Fine article. "Ensuring that the poorest communities are engaged inthe vision etc" - would ES please send a copy of this to Jenny Macklin as she engages - under the guise of 'consultation' in yet another paternalistic, take it on our terms, reworking of the failed NT Intervention.

Joe Castley | 08 July 2011  

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