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Launch of the ACFOA [Australian Council for Overseas Aid] Code of Conduct, Canberra, Friday, 27 February 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.



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ADDRESS BY SIR WILLIAM DEANE

GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

ON THE OCCASION OF THE OPENING OF

THE LAUNCH OF THE ACFOA CODE OF CONDUCT

CANBERRA

FRIDAY. 27 FEBRUARY 1998

It is a pleasure for me to be with you this morning, at the invitation o f my friend and former colleague, Sir Ronald Wilson, for the official launch o f the Code o f Conduct o f the Australian Council for Overseas Aid the ACFOA Code, as it is now known

The Code is the culmination o f a process that began over a decade ago when the first steps were taken to develop a code o f ethics for non-government aid organisations. It reflects the work and co-operation o f many people and various organisations and committees. It is a mandatory code for all members o f the Australian Council for Overseas Aid as well as for non-members who receive funding assistance through government

The Code is, in many respects, a world leader in the field Its standards extend to the governance, the finances, the organisational integrity, the compliance procedures and the public communications policy, o f the organisations to which it applies

This official launch is obviously a significant milestone for the Council and the 107 signatories to the Code It is also important for the more than two million Australians who each year contribute very substantial funds, by way o f voluntary donations and gifts-in-kind through the members and partners o f the Council, to assist in the great work o f relieving poverty, disease and deprivation among some o f the most disadvantaged nations on the globe, particularly in Africa, and the countries o f south and south-east Asia

In 1996, members o f ACFOA and other Australian agencies raised an estimated $ 174 million from the public for development assistance The bulk o f the money was for overseas programs. But significant amounts were expended within Australia - for development projects among indigenous peoples, for public education, advocacy programs, administration costs and so on In addition to support from the public, more than $100 million was provided to Australian non-government organisations in this sector through the Australian Agency for

International Development (AusAID), the United Nations, and other international agencies

And, o f course, as those o f you here today well know, fund-raising totals are only one indicia o f the extent o f aid for the disadvantaged In fact it is quite impossible to put dollar figures on the total voluntary contributions by way o f services offered, goods donated, time, effort and persuasion freely given by many known - and unknown - men and women. Thus, in 1996, there were almost 160 paid Australian staff and nearly 1280 volunteers working for ACFOA agencies in over 70 developing countries.

A ll these things together represent an extraordinarily substantial contribution towards mitigating the plight o f millions o f our fellow human beings who are in desperate need o f our assistance. The burden o f that contribution and the credit for it are shared by many people. Those who take part in the fund-raising compaigns Those who give. Those who offer their services, paid or unpaid, within the various agencies Those who by persuasion and by example foster and inspire public appreciation within this country o f the importance o f overseas aid Those who work in the field in the towns, the villages and remote rural regions on a vast range o f development assistance programs in education and literacy, health, housing and sanitation; with food production and employment projects, helping to ameliorate the scourges o f war, o f famine o f HI V-Aids.

Whatever their contribution, those Australians who constitute and sustain the members o f ACFOA and the other agencies are ambassadors o f hope o f whom all Australians can be proud They have sent a clear message on behalf o f all o f us to the poor o f the world that we in Australia do care. We do know how important it is for a community, such as ours, that enjoys a high standard o f living, to assist others to survive hunger, oppression and other disadvantage and to enjoy the fruits o f sustainable development In part it is for the obvious, pragmatic reason o f helping to ensure regional and global stability But beyond that we also know that we have a moral obligation to do so

I have long believed that the ultimate test o f a democratic nation such as ours is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and disadvantaged members Thus, in this office, I have sought to draw public attention to the problems o f the unemployed in today’ s Australia, especially the long-term unemployed young people, to the plight o f the homeless, the afflicted, and o f course the enormous disadvantages under which most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to lead their lives.

But what is true for the citizens o f any one country is also tme for all o f us as citizens o f the world None o f us can truly be free o f responsibility to help others wherever suffering exists - as unfortunately, somewhere, it always w ill We cannot, in this age o f instant global communications and shrinking boundaries, even claim the defence o f ignorance. For the devastations o f human conflict, o f seasonal and environmental failure, are brought by satellite into our very living rooms. We see the consequences o f poverty, o f malnutrition, o f crop failure, o f urban over-crowding, o f unemployment, o f epidemics that can lay waste to whole communities and o f human inhumanity. We know that some diseases, such as malaria, which we thought were under control are once again on the increase And who o f us can be easy o f conscience when so many thousands o f the world's children die every day from causes which are, in the main, preventable7 Who o f us can deny that, as in the Parable o f theRich man in St Luke’s Gospel, Lazarus lies starving and dying at our gate?

The sense o f moral obligation which impels people to action through organisations, such as the members o f ACFOA, must itself be supported by a strong ethical base. And it is here that the Code o f Conduct which is being officially launched today assumes its significance The values and practices it espouses have been developed over many years. What is important now is that they have been refined and articulated, and the key principles - vision, commitment, integrity, professionalism, accountability, and a spirit o f partnership - have been accepted by all signatories.

Time does not permit me to detail the Code at any length this morning. But let me acknowledge the statement o f integrity that, “ In all its activities, and particularly in its communication to the public, an organisation shall accord due respect to the dignity, values,

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history, religion and culture o f the people with whom it works consistent with the principles o f basic human rights” . And that must be so. It is the well-being o f the recipients —not the donors - that matters.

In seeking and promoting that well-being, as the Code sets out in its Preamble, the aim must be to build creative and trusting relationships with the people o f developing countries, and to meet program standards which give priority to the needs and interests o f the people they serve, which encourage self-reliance and avoid dependency, which involve the beneficiaries to the greatest possible extent in designing, implementing and evaluating the projects; which enhance gender equity where possible, and certainly which respect and foster internationally-recognised human rights and the history and culture o f the people who are served

Ladies and gentlemen, these are principles and standards which must be supported by all who are committed to helping the disadvantaged, wherever they may be They are principles to which members o f ACFOA have dedicated themselves over the years, and which now are enshrined in its Code o f Conduct with the new logo bearing the words “ Integrity, Values, Accountability” . I compliment ACFOA, its members and all who support them on their commitment to these high ideals I congratulate them - and all who have been associated with them in the development o f the Code - on a job well done. More than ever, Australians can be assured that the activities o f our non-government overseas aid organisations are undertaken in a way o f which we can be proud. We can be confident that the care and concern, which we feel for the people o f the developing world and which the voluntary contributions to the member and associated agencies o f ACFOA express, is fully reflected in the principles and standards observed by those agencies

And now, with great pleasure, I officially launch the Code o f Conduct for the Australian Council for Overseas Aid And I present the Chairperson o f the ACFOA Code o f Conduct Committee, Ms Gay Hart, with this bound copy o f the Code