The goals of foreign aid: to reduce poverty or feed the ‘fads’

Would Australia’s foreign aid program be more effective if it had the singular goal of eliminating poverty? Maybe — but being more selective with money might be a better bet.

There’s a long-standing debate in the world of foreign aid and development about the importance of goal-setting in effective delivery. As budgets dry up, it’s only likely to intensify.

According to Australia’s current development policy:

“The purpose of the aid program is to promote Australia’s national interests by contributing to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.”

But for some, the inclusion of the national interest distracts from what should be the primary goal of reducing poverty. There’s a feeling among some in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that competing priorities see aid bureaucrats sifting through ministerial announcements to discern which goals should be prioritised, undermining longer-term planning.

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