Questioned the overall reduction of aid to Palestine in light of funding cuts to UNRWA and AMENCA and asked about the final reports of reviews into Palestinian aid and investment.
The 2020 budget saw very significant reductions to the aid budget for Palestine, particularly for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, whose funding was cut from $20 million to $10 million per year. AMENCA was a second major pillar in the Australian aid program to Palestine. I’m interested in whether the cuts to AMENCA represent a further reduction of Australian aid to Palestine or whether, now that this funding has finished, will there be equivalent funding going into other projects inside Palestine?
Whole interaction with Dr Angela Macdonald (First Assistant Secretary, Global Counter Terrorism, Middle East and Africa Division, DFAT), Ms Frances Adamson (Secretary, DFAT) and Mr James Gilling (First Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian NGOs and Partnerships Division, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator FARUQI: I’d like now to ask about the overall aid and development budget for Palestine. The 2020 budget saw very significant reductions to the aid budget for Palestine, particularly for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, whose funding was cut from $20 million to $10 million per year. AMENCA was a second major pillar in the Australian aid program to Palestine. I’m interested in whether the cuts to AMENCA represent a further reduction of Australian aid to Palestine or whether, now that this funding has finished, will there be equivalent funding going into other projects inside Palestine?
Dr Macdonald : I must be clear, of course, that the Australian government doesn’t recognise the state of Palestine, so we refer to a program in the Palestine territories. The cut to the UNRWA funding was $10 million for this financial year. That was in the context of the Partnerships for Recovery reallocation of funding towards the Indo-Pacific. The bilateral program is $17.1 million for this financial year. At the moment, AMENCA funding comes out of that component. Of course, allocations for the next financial year are yet to be made. That $17.1 million is a slight reduction from the previous year, in the context, again, of reallocation of the funding to the Indo-Pacific.
Senator FARUQI: You said that there would be a new iteration of AMENCA or of a program. What does that mean? When I was asking about AMENCA, you said it’s finished now but there’ll be a new iteration of a program.
Dr Macdonald : I maybe misspoke. I mean our aid to the Palestinian territories will be directed into particular areas, particularly the health sector, to respond to COVID needs, but the exact allocations through the course of the next financial year are yet to be determined. This financial year, for example, $1 million was allocated to WHO that hasn’t been in previous allocations on a financial year basis, but the need there is significant.
Senator FARUQI: So the decisions haven’t been made completely about funding allocations for next year?
Dr Macdonald : That’s correct.
Senator FARUQI: Is it fair to assume that any aid organisation that receives funding from DFAT would be accredited with DFAT?
Dr Macdonald : I can’t answer, at the general level, but there are organisations that receive funding in the Palestinian territories under the Australian NGO cooperation program. Those who receive that funding are accredited under that program.
Senator FARUQI: That’s what I am asking. Would DFAT give funding to an organisation that is not accredited by DFAT? Surely you have an answer for that.
Dr Macdonald : If it’s specifically in the Palestinian territories. There are a number of other programs across the aid program.
Senator FARUQI: If it’s in Palestinian territories or if it’s not. I’m asking a general question.
Dr Macdonald : That’s not always the case. Under that particular program, yes, there is an accreditation process, but there are other ways that funding is distributed—for example, the direct aid program, DAP, where specific allocations might be made through posts. I wouldn’t want to be misleading, in terms of the general principle.
Senator FARUQI: So an organisation may not be accredited with DFAT, and still get DFAT funding?
Ms Adamson : It’s not a formal accreditation process, in normal respects. Across the breadth, we do due diligence with our partners. Mr Gilling will be able to give more detail.
Mr Gilling : I think you’re referring to the Australian NGO Cooperation Program, which each year is allocated. This year we allocated—
Senator FARUQI: It was a very general question. I think I got the answer to that. That’s fine. I know that there was a Palestine aid investment plan review undertaken in 2019. Have the findings of this review been finalised, and when will they be publicly available?
Dr Macdonald : The names of some of these evaluation documents and processes have changed in the context of Partnerships for Recovery and the move from the aid investment plans to the COVID development response plans. I can’t answer that specific question, of the particular review you’re talking to.
Senator FARUQI: Could you take that on notice?
Dr Macdonald : I can, yes.
Senator FARUQI: Is there a new Palestinian investment plan being undertaken, at the moment, and, if there is, will it be publicly available or is it publicly available?
Dr Macdonald : It’s not called anymore an aid investment plan; it’s a Palestinian territories COVID-19 development response plan and that’s available on the department’s website.