The Australian Red Cross and the country’s foreign affairs and trade department forged a new partnership Tuesday to boost the organization’s capability to respond to humanitarian crises and help build resilience in the Asia-Pacific region.
The “genuine” partnership, announced by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, will increase the government’s appropriations to the Victoria-headquartered organization by $38.5 million — welcome news after almost two years of continuous cuts to the country’s aid budget by the incumbent Abbott government.
Peter Walton, Red Cross Australia’s head for international programs, shared that the new four-year deal allows more financial muscle for the organization’s operations in the region — considered as the most disaster-vulnerable in the world — and marks a continuation of the organization’s four-decade cooperation with the government.
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“We're still working on the details but majority of the funds will be going to lifesaving work and supporting many communities to be better prepared for disasters and also for their resilience especially for people in many disaster-prone areas [in the region],” he told Devex. “It is really building on the work that we've done in the communities there, help in their well-being and have access to sustainable long-term improvements.”
Other areas of focus include issues concerning women and girls, risk resilience in major cities, disaster preparedness and the prepositioning of humanitarian relief supplies in the region. Walton explained they will also continue to support a range of important resilience-building measures and work around areas like water and sanitation, as well as provide health facilities and services.
Bishop said in a statement that the partnership will provide the country’s aid strategy a “more targeted approach to reaching [the] region’s most vulnerable people.” Examples of these humanitarian disasters over the past months include large-scale relief and recovery operations in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam and the devastating earthquake in Nepal.
“Partnering with the Australian Red Cross provides a transparent and accountable means of supporting Red Cross National Societies in our region, which often have the greatest access to vulnerable communities,” she said.
The partnership will continue support for the organization’s long-standing, community-based international volunteer programs as well — something that has been at the center of discussions following the aid cuts, as several major volunteer-sending organizations ended up on the country’s aid budget chopping board.
Walton said that while DFAT will mainly provide funding, the partnership will be more than a funder-recipient model. Both parties will share technical expertise — DFAT will focus mostly on provision and support, while the Red Cross will maintain its extensive on-the-ground operations by having “very strong presence and active national society [groups] in 189 countries.”
“It's a genuine partnership. We bring a lot of experience … it's absolutely about how we can work very closely together, bringing a range of skills with DFAT,” he concluded. “It's looking at how we can work collaboratively to really get better outcomes.”
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