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Deliver an effective and responsive development assistance program

Icon showing a hand above and below a rotating circle symbolising ongoing support for programs
Australia’s $4 billion international development program is an important national asset and a powerful mechanism to support sustainable development and to build partnerships across the world, particularly in our region. The Indo-Pacific is where we have the most extensive partnerships and can make the most impact.

The full extent of COVID-19’s impact is still playing out, but global poverty rates are estimated to rise for the first time since 1998. Our region is not immune. The growth, openness and stability of the Indo-Pacific, which has underpinned Australia’s prosperity and security for decades, is at risk.

Our development program has made and will continue to make a meaningful contribution to support our neighbours to tackle the impacts of COVID-19, address their most pressing development needs, and foster inclusive economic recovery and stability in our region. To maximise impact, the development program will continue to work in step with Australia’s full suite of national capabilities, including diplomacy, defence, economic ties, scientific skills and people-to-people links.

Figure 8: DFAT official development assistance, 2019–20 Budget Estimate  Southeast and East Asia $806.5m Middle East and Africa $192.1m South and West Asia $259.5m Pacific $1.2b Latin America and the Caribbean $3.3m Other ODA not attributable to particular countries plus departmental $1.1b Total* $3.6b * difference due to rounding

Promoting a stable and prosperous region

Our development program complements other steps the government is taking to help make our region more stable and more prosperous. Australia and our neighbours benefit when our region is healthy, prosperous and stable. This is why we worked to reduce poverty and improve education and health outcomes, and it is a primary driver for the Pacific Step-up. It is why we continued to invest in priority infrastructure like the Coral Sea Cable System (CS²), which will open up access to technology and new opportunities across neighbouring countries.

The department responded to the emerging challenge of COVID-19 by pivoting Australia’s development program to support our neighbours. This involved an initial rapid redirection of $280 million from across the development program—including from investments disrupted by the pandemic—and a refocus of existing investments guided by the new development strategy, Partnerships for Recovery. In some cases, existing or planned activities were no longer relevant or could not proceed due to travel and movement restrictions. For example, travel restrictions meant we were unable to receive new Australia Awards scholarship students. In other cases, existing programs were able to change how they were working to respond directly to the pandemic. For example, in Vietnam the Aus4Equality program, which works with female independent tourism operators, shifted its focus to help women find new sources of income due to the impact of COVID-19 on their existing tourism businesses.

The new strategy resets our development program to tackle COVID-19 with a focus on health security, stability and economic recovery. Our priorities continue to include the most vulnerable people in our region, particularly women and girls, people with disability and those living in poverty. Our development program can make a critical contribution to regional recovery.

Performance measure

How we rate our performance*

Australia’s interests are promoted by our development program:

  • investments promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction
  • 90 per cent of country attributable development assistance spent in the Indo-Pacific, and
  • Indo-Pacific countries make progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal

Partially on track, because of the impact of COVID-19

Source: Corporate Plan 2019–20 p. 17, PBS 2019–20 programs 1.2 and 1.3 pp. 29–31 | Funding: PBS 2019–20 programs 1.2 and 1.3

*Our assessments are informed by Aid Quality Checks, Business Review processes, independent evaluations, surveys, reporting by program partners, and the multilateral performance framework

Our performance

In 2019–20 the department managed $3.6 billion of the Australian Government’s $4 billion development program. Based on our estimates, we have exceeded our target of 90 per cent of country-attributable development assistance being spent in the Indo-Pacific. Actual expenditure across the entire development program will be published in December following collection of information from other government departments and delivery partners. Some of our financial reporting in this chapter is based on Budget Estimates because of the disruptions caused by the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic. This is referenced in the endnote to this chapter. Details of Budget Estimates are at Appendix 4.

The first half of 2019–20 saw positive gains against a range of development indicators including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as:

  • health, early warning systems and vaccines (SDGs 3 and 6)
  • good decision-making and governance (SDG 16)
  • jobs, growth and sustainable consumption (SDGs 4, 8, 12 and 15)
  • ensuring the most vulnerable are not left behind (SDGs 5 and 10)
  • addressing climate change and building resilience (SDG 13).

However the impact of COVID-19 has substantially disrupted economic growth and affected the delivery of programs. Notwithstanding the gains made pre-COVID-19, progress has been affected and consequently we have rated our performance under this measure as ‘partially on track’.

Health security

High Commission worker unloading medical supplies from air force plane on the tarmac.
Australian High Commission Fiji Regional Health Program Manager Dr Frances Bingwor receives medical supplies, including critical GeneXpert test cartridges for Fiji. The cartridges were delivered by the Royal Australian Air Force and procured by the World Health Organization with funding from the department, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Pacific Community and the Pacific Island Health Officers Association. Australia and its partners are working together to ensure Fiji and all our Pacific neighbours have access to world-class COVID-19 test kits that produce accurate results within 45 minutes [DFAT/Aaron Ballekom]

Working across government, the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security has positioned Australia to respond with speed to the health security challenges of COVID-19, channelling support, investments and technical advice to country and regional partners.

This enabled the provision of 15,000kg of personal protective equipment—such as masks and goggles—and medical equipment, and the deployment of experts to health ministries across our region. We provided vital support to develop COVID-19 vaccines and diagnostics with funding to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND). On 30 June the Foreign Minister announced a $23 million package to enhance cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to combat COVID-19 with a focus on health security, stability and economic recovery.


Australia’s $1.4 billion development program for the Pacific, of which DFAT managed $1.2 billion, helped partners progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), supported Pacific island countries towards economic sustainability and assisted their responses to COVID-19. Our programs supported:

  • around 11,000 Pacific and Timorese workers to secure employment in Australia under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Schemes, providing remittances critical to their communities and economies and supporting rival and regional Australian businesses to fill critical labour shortages
  • 5,975 students to graduate from the University of the South Pacific in 2019
  • 1,306 Pacific islanders to obtain internationally recognised technical and vocational education and training qualifications
  • climate-resilient initiatives, such as the construction of modern, climate-resilient government buildings in Tonga, following damage to Tonga’s Parliament House during Cyclone Gita in 2018.

The Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP), operational since 1 July 2019, assessed potential projects in sectors such as renewable energy, telecommunications, airports and transport infrastructure, and flood mitigation. Our continued investment ($625 million 2014–2022) to maintain national roads across Papua New Guinea helped drive economic growth by connecting towns and communities, and supported the PNG Government to deliver a planned and prioritised road maintenance program. We exceeded our $300 million (2016–2020) commitment to support climate change and disaster resilience initiatives in the Pacific, and the Australian Government has further committed $500 million (2020–2025) for renewable energy, and climate change and disaster resilience support.

Australian and Vanuatu ministers both hold shovels of soil, starting the rebuild of a cyclone damaged complex.
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, and then Vanuatu Minister for Education and Training, Jean-Pierre Nirua, at the ground-breaking ceremony for the reconstruction of the National Fitness and Evacuation Centre in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Australia was the main sponsor for the demolishing and rebuilding of the complex, which was damaged in Tropical Cyclone Pam [DFAT/Australian High Commission in Vanuatu]

Social protection

We moved quickly to provide assistance to 14 countries to deliver social protection initiatives—extending economic lifelines to households, businesses and vulnerable groups directly affected by COVID-19, including in Timor-Leste, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Indonesia and the Philippines.

This builds on Australia’s ongoing efforts to improve the coverage and quality of social protection in the Indo-Pacific. These interventions often focus on women and, in Timor-Leste and Tonga, transfers are also provided through dedicated programs for people with disability. In Timor-Leste, we provided technical and logistics assistance to help the Timor-Leste Government expand its social protection system with a temporary program providing US$200 of Timor-Leste Government funds to every poor household in the country.

The pandemic threatens development progress in the Pacific as well as the effectiveness of our development programs. In March, as part of Australia’s $280 million response, we repurposed existing funding to deliver $100 million in immediate financing to Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Timor-Leste. The Pacific and Timor-Leste COVID-19 Response Package supported poverty reduction, COVID-19-specific health system support and budget support to meet immediate finance needs. For example we supported Fiji to prepare for and respond to COVID-19 with more than $17.5 million in assistance, two-thirds of which was in direct budget support to enable delivery of critical government services, such as public health and social welfare. We also provided $4.5 million through Vanuatu’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Management to support its Employment Stabilisation Payment, the centrepiece of the Vanuatu Government’s stimulus package.

We responded to more than 80 requests for COVID-19 assistance from Pacific neighbours and Timor-Leste, cementing our health security partnerships. These involve many of Australia’s premier health and medical research institutions, focused on laboratory strengthening, disease surveillance, field epidemiology, and infection prevention and control.

We helped Pacific island countries with quarantine support to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For example in Solomon Islands we established a temporary quarantine facility and procured diagnostic equipment for accurate in-country testing. This enabled the publication and distribution of community awareness materials and 500 hygiene kits for people in quarantine.

Gender equality in the Pacific

Gender equality in the Pacific remains a key foreign policy and development priority, and a core component of the Pacific Step-up. In 2019 activities through Pacific Women ($320 million 2012–2022) reached an estimated 208,529 Pacific island women and children. This included providing:

  • crisis services to 21,123 women and children
  • skills building and training for 4,808 women
  • access to financial literacy services and information to an estimated 3,492 women.

In August we launched the Pacific Girl program in six countries to support adolescent girls achieve their potential. We reoriented our Pacific Women investments to support women’s safety, economic security and meaningful participation in national COVID-19 response efforts.

People pulling onions out of the ground during the onion harvest in Timor-Leste
Counsellor Nick Cumpston, Second Secretary Amanda Andonovski (blue hats) and Senior Coordinator Joaquim Viana (front right) from the Australian Embassy Dili participate in an onion harvest in Baucau, Timor-Leste with farmers supported by TOMAK, a nutrition and agricultural livelihoods program funded by Australia [TOMAK/Modesto Lopes]

Southeast and East Asia

The department provided an estimated $806.5 million through our development program to Southeast Asia and East Asia in 2019–20. This is helping to build prosperity, stability and resilience, and to support our neighbours’ response to COVID-19.

In Indonesia Australian expertise supported government efforts to improve budgeting, taxation, education and social safety net systems, and infrastructure planning. In Vietnam we supported the government’s economic priorities through investments in infrastructure and policy-making. Our Aus4Reform program helped reduce business regulations in Vietnam, while the Australia–World Bank Strategic Partnership II successfully advocated for improved clauses for gender equality in Vietnam’s Labour Code to equalise entitlements and protections at work.

Through the Decentralizing Funding for Schools Program in Myanmar, Australian-funded stipends enabled more than 200,000 vulnerable students to attend school in 55 townships, including in Rakhine State. The Livelihoods and Food Security Fund improved social cohesion and livelihood opportunities in Rakhine State and other conflict-affected areas.

We supported Southeast Asian governments to counter threats and respond to shared regional challenges. In August 2019 the Foreign Minister announced the Mekong–Australia Program on Transnational Crime, a new regional program that will support local efforts to tackle serious threats such as drug trafficking, child sexual exploitation and financial crimes. In the Philippines, we supported the peace process by:

  • providing economic opportunities for former militants
  • delivering training for the new transitional government
  • supporting long-term stability and development in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

This assistance focused on improving school enrolments, an inclusive curriculum, and recruiting and training 1,000 new teachers.

As part of Partnerships for Recovery, the Foreign Minister announced in June a targeted COVID-19 response package for Southeast Asia. In Timor-Leste our assistance helped establish isolation facilities, trained over 1,600 health workers, delivered essential medical supplies and provided funding for critical community infrastructure projects to support economic recovery. We accelerated partnerships in health security and disaster risk management in Indonesia. In Laos we facilitated training for staff in emergency operations centres, and provided supplies for hospitals and technical specialists in infection prevention and intensive care. In addition to the COVID-19 support package, our health assistance in Cambodia helped ensure 2.4 million poor Cambodians maintained access to free healthcare and supported the purchase of 20 new ambulances in line with the Royal Cambodian Government’s COVID-19 response.

Gender equality

This year the department has spent approximately $1.3 billion on investments that contribute towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. This remains a high priority for Australia. High-level engagement and advocacy led by the Foreign Minister has raised the profile of gender equality as an important feature in the response to COVID-19. We supported this by providing assistance that targets immediate and long-term needs, including support for:

  • women and girls affected by violence. $10 million has been granted for UN Women to deliver essential services and targeted support across the Indo-Pacific over three years (2020–2022). In addition, through our Nabilan program, we worked with the Government of Timor-Leste to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in women’s shelters
  • the Water for Women program (2017–2022), to enable an additional four million people to access safe and affordable water and sanitation facilities, and improve hygiene practices
  • an emergency relief and resilience fund through Investing in Women. This helped women’s small and medium enterprises in Southeast Asia respond to the pandemic.

In November an independent evaluation of Australia’s efforts in ending violence against women and girls in the Indo-Pacific found we had provided strong and sustained regional leadership which helped to build partner government commitment and capacity to address this major problem.

South and West Asia

The department focused our $260 million in development cooperation in South and West Asia on inclusive economic growth and regional connectivity, climate resilience, and the empowerment of women and girls. We reprioritised our investments to assist the response to COVID-19. Progress against the SDGs was mixed across the region.

The Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio finalised its second phase, addressing growing water, food and energy insecurity across Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan. An independent evaluation found the program achieved particular success in contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation. For example in India we supported more than 10,000 women to work as sales agents for quality off-grid solar products.

We mobilised the South Asia Regional Infrastructure Connectivity Program to improve economic integration and connectivity in South Asia. We supported the growth of cross border trade through the South Asia Regional Trade Facilitation Program. This included developing a tourism plan linking historical sites across India, Nepal and Bhutan to boost tourism revenue. In partnership with UN Women in Afghanistan, we helped provide shelter and support services to more than 1,200 women and nearly 300 children who are survivors of gender-based violence. We strengthened this support early in the pandemic in response to a spike in gender-based violence.

Professionals from across the region benefited from scholarships, short courses and other learning opportunities through the Australia Awards program. More than half of the 833 scholars commencing long-term awards were women—an important result for one of the most gender-inequitable regions in the world.

Under our Strategic Partnership with the largest NGO in Bangladesh—BRAC—Australia helped more than 700,000 children to access quality education. In addition we supported our partners in Bangladesh to respond quickly to COVID-19, including through health awareness campaigns and the supply of immediate food and income support.

Africa and the Middle East

The department provided approximately $192 million through our development program in Africa and the Middle East. This includes bilateral, humanitarian and other funding. More information on our humanitarian support is on Notes to and forming part of the financial statements.

In Africa, Australia Awards enabled around 300 professionals from government, civil society and the private sector in 19 countries to complete courses in Australia, building people-to-people links and supporting economic engagement, including with Australian universities.

We contributed $2 million to Geoscience Australia for its Digital Earth Africa satellite imagery platform. This will generate data to help African countries manage their water and food security resources, and economic recovery from COVID-19.

We provided approximately $42.6 million of development assistance to the Palestinian Territories. This helped deliver basic health, education and livelihood services for Palestinians and focused on women’s economic self-sufficiency. We worked with partners to pivot approximately 30 per cent of this funding to address COVID-19. We funded frontline health services, personal protective equipment, ICU equipment and health education.


People with disability are among the poorest and most marginalised groups in developing countries. Key to our approach is providing technical assistance and capacity building support, particularly for disabled people’s organisations. In 2020 we extended our partnership with CBM Australia to provide disability-inclusive technical assistance to our partners and staff across the Australian development program.

COVID-19 is likely to disproportionately affect people with disability. The department renewed its funding to key international partners, including the International Disability Alliance and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, to enable them to support disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses. Through these partnerships we supported sign language interpretation and other accessible information about the virus in Cambodia, Indonesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste and advocacy campaigns. This advocacy helped prompt the Director-General of the World Health Organization to join the call for COVID-19 responses to be inclusive of people with disability and ensure their rights are protected.

Working with others

The department works in partnership with multilateral institutions, the private sector and non-government and community-based organisations to deliver an effective and responsive development program. This strengthens and extends our reach, and ensures we use Australian skills and knowledge. Our deep partnerships have enabled us to support a rapid response to COVID-19.

Multilateral partners

We continued to strengthen the impact of our funding and engagement with multilateral and humanitarian organisations. The department led Australian negotiations on the 19th replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA19) fund. We championed strong allocations to Pacific countries, as well as policy commitments to enhance gender equality and disability inclusion, both of which were included in the final policy package. The department also worked with the World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank to influence their respective multi-billion dollar COVID-19 responses.

We worked closely with the:

  • World Health Organization
  • United Nations Population Fund
  • Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund)
  • GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

These long-standing multilateral partnerships are key to our support for essential health services, including sexual and reproductive health and routine immunisations. Across all of these partnerships we advocated strongly for a focus on the Indo-Pacific in response to COVID-19. In October we increased support to the Global Fund ($242 million from 2020–2022). The Global Fund is responding rapidly to COVID-19 through funding of USD 1 billion to prevent fragile health systems—including those in the Indo-Pacific— from becoming overwhelmed.

Our multi-year core contributions to UN agencies helped them to respond flexibly and quickly to COVID-19, and to focus on a coordinated response in the Pacific. Our positions on the governing boards of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) contributed greater transparency and financial accountability, and stronger implementation of UN development system reform.

We piloted an annual performance process to provide better oversight and more consistent management of our multilateral investments. Performance reports were completed for 23 multilateral development and humanitarian partners, accounting for more than 90 per cent of Australia’s total multilateral development funding. The assessments demonstrated good performance by almost 80 per cent of organisations and adequate performance by a further 15 per cent, providing a strong basis for constructive engagement into the future. The department is also leading better and more coherent whole-of-government multilateral engagement on development issues.

The private sector

We work in partnership with the private sector to harness private investment for development objectives in the Indo-Pacific. Catalysing private sector activity will be crucial for economic recovery from COVID-19. At the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in August, the Prime Minister announced a $140 million fund to mobilise private sector investment in lower emission and climate-resilient technologies such as renewable energy, improved agricultural techniques and sustainable transport for the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Partnership arrangements have been finalised to operationalise the fund from the second half of 2020 subject to the restrictions of COVID-19.

In January we launched the Impact Private Sector Partnerships program, the next chapter of our successful Business Partnerships Platform. This will deepen our partnerships with the private sector across the Indo-Pacific, and particularly Samoa, Fiji, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, with a focus on supporting COVID-19 economic recovery. Through the Business Partnerships Platform, we co-invest with businesses to deliver benefits to people and communities alongside commercial returns.

We have actively supported Business Partnerships Platform partners to respond to COVID-19, including to address impacts on the capacity of businesses to continue to operate. We helped businesses in partner countries to move quickly to produce new products and disseminate accurate health information to help with emergency responses. For example we supported Sri Lankan telecommunications provider Dialog to set up a public hotline to provide credible health advice to affected communities.

Australia’s aid for trade investments have improved developing countries’ participation in the global trading system, with flow-on benefits to their economic and social development. Our investments focused on the Pacific and Southeast Asia, and on addressing sectoral issues such as trade facilitation, trade finance and reforms to attract greater investment for sustainable development.

Market Development Facility - Fiji

The department is working in Fiji through our Market Development Facility. This helps increase earnings for low-income men and women by helping to identify and address market constraints. It is helping partner countries respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19 as well as other regional shocks such as Tropical Cyclone Harold. For example, in Fiji the facility is:

  • working with businesses to facilitate local production of hand sanitiser and face shields
  • supporting medium and small enterprises through online business coaching and a social media campaign
  • helping arrange local food delivery and logistics for agricultural producers.

These interventions also help reduce the risk of longer-term market destabilisation and potential impacts to Australia’s economic interests in the region.

Civil society

Non-government organisations (NGOs) are vital development partners. They have close connections to local communities in Australia and overseas, and strong development expertise. Working with NGOs helps the department respond quickly to emerging issues.

We signed a new five-year agreement with the Australian Council for International Development, the peak body for international development NGOs. This will enhance dialogue and increase effectiveness and accountability through standard setting and organisational development.


 Australia-NGO Cooperation program

The department contributed $132 million to the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) during the year. NGOs matched this by a minimum 10 per cent (over $13 million). In 2019–20, 57 trusted NGOs worked with more than 2,000 local partners to implement 431 projects in 59 countries. An estimated 82 per cent of ANCP expenditure was in the Indo-Pacific.
ANCP rapidly adapted existing projects to COVID-19. Australian NGOs worked alongside local partners to:

  • prevent transmission
  • respond to social and economic impacts with an emphasis on the needs of women, children and people with disability
  • deliver local-language hygiene messaging, soap and protective equipment to clinics
  • ensure basic food security and livelihoods were sustained
  • continue education for children during lockdown.


 Australian Volunteers program

The Australian Volunteers Program supported 931 skilled Australians to volunteer in 600 partner organisations across 26 countries throughout the year. Volunteers provide long-term capacity building and strengthen Australia’s people-to-people links through relationships that support locally led community development. COVID-19 meant 470 volunteers had to return to Australia, but many remained in contact with their organisations; a testament to the enduring relationships that develop. The Australian Volunteers Program continued to support partner organisations with remote volunteering and small grants.


 Friendship Grants with flag showing two hands shaking in the shape of a love heart

We launched the second round of this three-year program to strengthen relationships between Australian community organisations and our neighbours across the Indo-Pacific. We received more than 200 applications for grants of $30,000 to $60,000 before COVID-19 meant the initiative was postponed.


Delivering an effective, efficient and transparent development program

Our development program is underpinned by a comprehensive planning, management and reporting system which focuses on performance, evaluation and innovation. It is subject to regular oversight for financial and program accountability. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific launched our Partnerships for Recovery strategy in May. It includes a new performance system to monitor and report the context, annual results and the effectiveness of Australian efforts in addressing the challenges of COVID-19 and supporting progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We will draw on the performance system to capture lessons and communicate the results and impact of Australia’s development program including through the department’s annual report.

Performance measure

How we rate our performance*

The development program is effective, efficient and transparent:

  • at least 85 per cent of investments are assessed as satisfactory on both effectiveness and efficiency criteria in the Aid Quality Check process**, and
  • all country and regional Aid Program Performance Reports published on the department’s website annually

On track

Source: Corporate Plan 2019–20 p. 18, PBS program 1.2 p. 29 | Funding: PBS 2019–20 programs 1.2 and 1.3

* Our assessments are informed by Aid Quality Checks, independent evaluations, surveys and reporting by program partners, and the multilateral performance framework.

**The 2019–20 Corporate Plan noted that the target of 85 per cent was under internal review and may be updated in 2019–20. This was reviewed as part of developing the new development policy and performance framework, Partnerships for Recovery. There was no amendment to this target for 2019–20

Our performance

Assessment of our development program includes independent checks and balances. This year the Australian National Audit Office completed an audit on Value for Money in Delivery of Overseas Development Assistance through Facility Arrangements. It found that:

  • facility design and contractor procurement processes were well structured
  • partnering with managing contractors was effective
  • suitable frameworks were established for evaluating the performance of aid investments.

It recommended a broader consideration of costs during planning, improved value-for-money approval processes within facility structures, and better management of risks associated with supply chain management. The department accepted these recommendations.

We produce aid quality checks for all development program investments worth more than $3 million. This comprised 294 annual aid quality checks, 31 final aid quality checks and 15 humanitarian aid quality checks over the year. Overall effectiveness ratings for final aid quality checks were lower than for annual aid quality checks indicating that investment managers may be satisfied with the delivery of outputs during implementation, but find it more challenging to rate some investments as successful when comparing eventual outcomes to those planned in investment design frameworks. In 2019–20, 88 per cent of investments were assessed as satisfactory against both effectiveness and efficiency criteria in the aid quality check process.

We carefully design and implement development program investments, but sometimes these are not as successful as planned. If our monitoring and evaluation systems identify underperformance, remediation plans are put in place. If investments fail to meet expectations, they are cancelled. In the 2018–19 aid quality checks, 10 investments were identified as underperforming. In 2019–20, five of these had improved their performance, four were completed and one investment was again assessed as underperforming. Of the 340 investments which completed aid quality checks in 2019–20, 15 have been identified as underperforming. Ten of these are continuing with management actions identified to improve performance, four have been completed and the remaining investment which has been underperforming for the past two years has been cancelled. Seventy-seven per cent of our aid investments effectively addressed gender equality issues in their implementation.

We published all 25 Aid Program Performance Reports on our website. We also made available online information on our international development program, including detailed statistics, policies, plans, results and evaluations.

The department’s Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE) played a role in assessing our development program’s performance, evaluating its impact and supporting program areas to continue to improve aid effectiveness. ODE completed and published three strategic evaluations of Australia’s development assistance covering the past seven to 10 years. These addressed ending violence against women, strengthening health systems and building skills in the Indo-Pacific. Five ODE evaluations were deferred because of the focus on our response to COVID-19. The department also published 50 aid evaluations, up from 45 last year.

Leading the Australian Government’s response to humanitarian crises

Our region is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards, and climate change is exacerbating this trend. This year the department responded to humanitarian emergencies in our region quickly and effectively.

Performance measure

How we rate our performance*

Timely and effective responses to humanitarian emergencies, including an enhanced Indo-Pacific ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from crises:

  • Australia responds within 48 hours of a request from a country in the Indo-Pacific
  • effective Australian Government response to humanitarian crises, displacement and conflict measured through end-of-program reviews of protracted crisis response packages and Strategic Partnership Frameworks, and
  • Australian support builds the capacity of Pacific governments and communities to better prepare for, respond to and recover from climate change and disasters

On track

Source: Corporate Plan 2019–20 p. 18 | Funding: PBS 2019–20 programs 1.2 and 1.3

*Our assessments are informed by the UNFPA Afghanistan 2019 project annual report, partner engagement and reporting, the annual DFAT Quality Reporting processes, AHP reporting and AUSMAT Measles Response reporting

Our performance

The department provided more than $400 million to help communities affected by humanitarian crises and to build resilience to disasters. Our work ensured that Australia met its commitment to respond within 48 hours to requests for humanitarian assistance from a country in the Indo-Pacific. We rate our performance against this measure as ‘on track’.

Our Australia Assists program helped provide health care, food security, logistical preparedness and communications, with 31 specialists providing in-country and remote assistance in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Tropical Cyclone Harold

In early April Tropical Cyclone Harold swept through Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, leaving a trail of destruction and claiming 31 lives.

Australia released humanitarian relief supplies that had been pre-positioned with local partners and assisted governments to conduct damage assessments. Following formal requests for assistance, eight Australian Defence Force flights to Fiji and Vanuatu delivered 224 tonnes of blankets, lanterns, shelters, hygiene kits and other essential items. Our funding (over $17 million) enabled the Red Cross, NGOs and governments to provide immediate assistance to affected communities and to support early recovery activities, including restoring education and health services.

The risk of COVID-19 transmission complicated relief work. We developed strict protocols on handling, packing and storing relief supplies.

Australia is supporting repairs to schools and health facilities, and distributing food crop seedlings and cuttings.

Australia deployed an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) to support Samoa’s response to the worst measles outbreak in its history. The team worked alongside Samoan health personnel to provide urgent care to critically ill patients, mainly children. Australia also provided medical supplies, including an eight-bed intensive care field hospital, a 20-bed paediatric ward and emergency oxygen equipment. AUSMAT facilities treated more than 130 patients and helped local clinicians treat over 1,000 patients in Samoan hospitals. Australian specialists also helped the Ministry of Health manage the long-term needs of people hit by the crisis.

Pacific essential services and humanitarian corridor

As part of the COVID-19 response, the Office of the Pacific partnered with other Australian government agencies to establish an essential services and humanitarian corridor. The Corridor complements and supports the Pacific Islands Forum’s Pacific Humanitarian Pathway by connecting the Pathway to Australia, recognising we are an important transport hub for the Pacific island region. We provided $3 million to the World Food Programme for air transport and logistics services for the Pathway, enabling the delivery of humanitarian and critical medical supplies.

The Corridor ensured supplies and new rapid diagnostic tests could be delivered to 13 Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste. It also helped return home more than:

  • 600 Australians
  • 600 Pacific island and Timorese nationals
  • 800 third country citizens.

The Corridor also ensured life-saving supplies reached Vanuatu and Fiji after Tropical Cyclone Harold. This work was done in a way that minimised the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and respected our partners’ efforts to protect their own borders, populations and economies from a potential outbreak.

Workers check pallets off a cargo plane with Australian Aid
Staff of the Australian High Commission in Suva—Program Manager Climate Change and Humanitarian Response Ken Cokanasiga and Program Manager Climate Change and Resilience Natasha Verma—inspect the consignment of relief supplies provided by Australia which arrived on a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft in Nadi earlier this year to support Fijian Government efforts post Tropical Cyclone Harold [DFAT]

Pacific island countries face increasingly frequent and complex climate and disaster hazards, resulting in growing economic losses. In November the department published a Climate Change Action Strategy to outline our approach to responding to climate change in the development program. Its focus is on working directly with countries in our region, particularly in the Pacific.

Australia’s support for disaster preparedness is paying off. Faced with three cyclones and COVID-19, organisations in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga drew on networks supported through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) program to:

  • provide early warning
  • move people to evacuation shelters
  • distribute assistance to the most vulnerable.

The department rapidly scaled up support through AHP partners to help more than 1.5 million people across the Pacific and Timor-Leste.

Over 2.3 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh and Myanmar. In addition to our wide-reaching support in these countries, Australia provided $100.1 million for humanitarian assistance to support refugees, internally displaced people and affected communities. This funding delivered food assistance, health and sanitation, education, and protection services to women and girls who experienced violence. It also supported new COVID-19 quarantine and treatment facilities for Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar.

We extended our Syria Crisis Humanitarian and Resilience Package by almost $52 million to a total of $249 million since 2017 across Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Our assistance contributed to primary health services for 7.6 million people and sexual and reproductive health services for 1.2 million. Together with partners we reoriented activities to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, including provision of water and sanitation infrastructure, medicines, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

DFAT's Second Secretary and a member of the UNHCR stand inside a refugee camp monitoring as refugees walk down a street of tents
Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy Beirut, Sarah Schmitt, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative, Felix Eldridge, monitor the situation of Syrian refugees during a visit to an informal tent settlement in Bar Elias, Bekaa, Lebanon. Australia has provided support to Syrian refugees since the displacement crisis began, through partners such as UNHCR, the World Food Programme and Leb Relief [DFAT/Seema Chandra]

Work to deliver our three-year $100 million Humanitarian and Stabilisation Package in Iraq continued. We provided humanitarian assistance to people liberated from Da’esh control, including:

  • healthcare
  • physical rehabilitation for people with disability
  • critical infrastructure.

A 2020 independent review found our investment to be well designed, in Australia’s national interest and performing well.

The department continued to champion the Charter for Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action. In particular we integrated disability inclusion through our responses to the Iraq and Syria humanitarian crises.

Australia provided humanitarian and resilience support to countries in Africa. This included providing food and shelter to flood victims in South Sudan and helping poor farmers in Somalia increase their yields. We orientated part of these contributions towards the COVID-19 response in both countries.

Australia’s support to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Afghanistan addresses the urgent health and protection needs of Afghan returnees, internally displaced and host communities. In 2019 this project reached approximately 246,000 beneficiaries through:

  • mobile health teams in areas of high return and conflict displacement
  • women-friendly and family-protection centres
  • gender-specific youth service centres.

Australia provides over $100 million annually in core funding to humanitarian agencies to enable them to meet ongoing global humanitarian needs and to rapidly respond to new crises, such as COVID-19. As well as this flexible core funding, Australia was able to use long-standing humanitarian partnerships to rapidly direct $18 million to the UN’s humanitarian pandemic response in the Indo-Pacific through the World Food Programme, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and UNFPA.


Figure from Budget Estimates. Further details of Budget Estimates are at Appendix 4. Actuals are published on the departmental website in December in Australia’s Official Development Assistance: Statistical Summary, following collection of information from other government departments and delivery partners including detailed breakdowns of geographic flows of expenditure

Figure 9: Aggregate development results 2019–20  7,791 Number of police and law and justice officials trained (women and men)