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Human rights and aid: address to Community Aid Abroad Conference



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HUMAN RIGHTS AND AM

ADDRESS BY

ALEXANDER DOWNER, MI' SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

TO

COMMUNITY Al]) ABROAD CONFERENCE

SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY

COMMONWEA.ITH PARLIAMENT

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1. HUMAN RIGHTS

11 Importance of Human Rights

Human rights matter in international relations for two reasons. First, where they are being

breached and under threat, they represent the foundation for political instability and major

conflict As the Security Council has recognised in its resolutions on the conflict in Somalia

and the former Yugoslavia, internal abuse of human rights and subsequent conflict can

constitute a "threat to the peace" sufficient to endanger international security.

Second, human rights are important in the conduct of Australian foreign policy because the

treatment of individuals is a matter of concern in and of itself to Australia.

The Coalition supports the proposition that human rights are universal and that there is a

responsibility to preserve and promote those rights outlined within the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights.

The universality of rights springs from the public commitment of States to the principles

contained within the Universal Declaration itself and its two subsequent Covenants.

Moreover, the fimdamental nature of rights reflects a consistency of experience in cultures

throughout the world. Of course, there are differences in traditional and local cultural

practice, but the prevalence of notions of popular sovereignty, equality of treatment and

freedom to act is a recurrent feature of human society.

The Coalition also recognises that there is a very great difference between the attitude of

particular Governments to the protection of rights and the attitude of civilian populations to

the existence and promotion of such rights.

Human rights issues will be addressed within the context of the overall relationships between

Australia and other countries.

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1.2 Specific Safeguards for the Protection of Human Rights

The primary safeguard for the protection of individual rights is promotion of a democratic

society. Although there are numerous structures which democratic society may take, there are five elements which are fimdamental to safeguarding individual rights:

adherence to the rule of law;

▪ an independent judiciary;

• a free press;

• freedom of speech and assembly, and

* the right to a fair trial.

These rights are complemented by the basic economic right to development which the

Coalition regards as complementary to rather than as mutually exclusive to the civil and

political freedoms.

1.3 Australian Diplomacy and Protection of Human Rights

The Coalition believes that it is important that Australia's diplomacy encourages promotion

and protection of human rights. At times this will involve public comment on particular issues,

although long experience has shown that success in individual cases is often best obtained

through diplomacy conducted in private.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros-Boutros Ghali, has argued that the

most effective approach for promotion of human rights is successful economic development.

Increases in health standards and educational opportunities for example are themselves human

rights achievements of fundamental importance.

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In addition the Coalition will consider options for working in conjunction with other countries

as part of a concerted and cooperative approach to addressing human rights problems.

In order to assist in the promotion of human rights .within the Asia Pacific region, the Coalition

• encourage the establishment of a privately fimded Centre for Democratic institutions.

The Coalition supports the establishment of an Australian based Centre for Democratic

Institutions to assist in consolidation of democratic institutions in countries where democratic

structures are evolving. The Centre will, where requested, assist in areas such as judicial

administration, training of parliamentary officers, training of electoral officers and election monitoring. Government seed money -will be available to help establish the Centre.

I would now like to make some comments on three specific issues of human rights:

Firstly, the Coalition remains deeply concerned about human rights problems in East Timor. A

Coalition Government will therefore:

• support the process of talks on East Timor under the auspices of the United Nations; andwewiU also

• encourage, through our diplomatic consultations with the Government of Indonesia, the reduction of the military presence in East Timor, religious tolerance and improved

human rights conditions in the province and administrative arrangements which accord more influence and autonomy to indigenous East Timorese.

Secondly, in relation to Burma, although there has been welcome reform in some aspects of

the political situation within Burma there are still significant problems flowing from the events of 1990 which remain unaddressed. In that context the Coalition supports the general concept

of a set of benchmarks as the basis for messing formal relations between the two countries.

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In pa:fielder, a Coalition Government will:

* work for the restoration of democratic government within Burma and an end to human

rights abuses in that country.

Thirdly, a Coalition Government would, in diplomatic consultations with China, reaffirm our commitment to religious freedom and the promotion of human rights, especially within Tibet.

2. DEVELOPMENT AID

2.1 The Purpose of Foreign Aid

The purpose of Australian foreign aid is to assist developing countries to help meet the basic

needs of their people, and to assist in achieving a more secure and equitable international

order.

In the provision of basic human needs, the principal objectives are to ensure the reduction of poverty and the promotion of economic development as a permanent means of overcoming

such poverty. The essential features which a Coalition Government will emphasise in its aid

policy will therefore be based upon the following principles:

* recognition that the primary purpose of foreign aid is assistance in overcoming humanitarian concerns through permanent outcomes;

* an increase in the proportion of aid allocated to humanitarian and poverty reduction

purposes;

* support for an increased role of non-government organisations, both Australian and local, in the delivery of Australia's foreign aid;

* significant increase in support for rural development;

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* significant increase in focus on assistance projects directed to the needs and abilities of

women and girls;

* institutional support for States hi the process of developing democratic structures;

* preference for the conduct of Australian aid activities overseas using Australian goods and

services and personnel rather than contracting out to organisations from any other

developed countries; and

continued support for the United Nations' goal of applying 0.7% of our gross national

product to aid as and when budgetary circumstances permit.

In order to ensure that these principles are given force, and to update the specific ways in

which .AnsAID carries out Australies aid objectives, a Coalition Government will;

* commission an independent review of Australia's aid program in its entirety, similar in

scope and form to the process which led to the Jackson Report; and

* broaden membership of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Aid, to include more people

with community development experience and gender expertise.

2.2 Sectoral Priorities

Australian aid is not sufficiently well targeted 50 as to ensure that economic benefits are

enjoyed by the poorest people.

A Coalition Government will therefore;

* place far greater emphasis on community level health development. Such a proposal will

include program to reduce high maternal mortality rates, meet post-war trauma recovery

needs and address inoculation needs. It is important that health programs deliver services

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to rural areas and concentrate on increasing the skills of local health staff,

* emphasise programs directed at the education of women and girls. In particular there will

be a focus on primary level education for women and girls;

* increase the sectoral focus in rural development and agriculture. There will be greater

assistance in rural areas along with improved agricultural techniques and provision of

materials. One of the critical purposes will be to help reduce rural poverty which, in turn,

leads to the mass transfer of people in developing countries front rural areas to large and

overcrowded cities;

* stxengthen resource management and environmental activities, especially within the Pacific.

The importance of such development is to ensure that not only are resources sustained, but

that developing countries are able to increase the yield which they receive front their natural

resources. In particular this will include land owner educational programs and community

based development programs;

* review binding for the proposed My Thuen Bridge in Vietnam, subject to contractual

obligations, with the intent of reallocating it to the provision of basic community level

health, education and sanitation projects within that country; and

* guarantee maintenance of existing Australian funding commitments to the forthcoming IDA

11 pledging conference.

The Coalition recognises the hardship which has flowed from the significant debt levels built

up by many of the world's least developed nations_ In that respect, the Coalition will examine

possible new multilateral approaches to resolving the issue of Third World debt.

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2-3 Bilateral Priorities

As the largest bilateral aid donor within the Pacific region, and given cur responsibility within

the region, a Coalition Government will concentrate its aid program within the South Pacific

and the poorer countries of the East Asian region.

A Coalition 'Government will focus on specifically targeted aid programs rather than. budgetary

assistance. The specific priorities for country to country assistance will be evaluated in the

overall review of Australia's aid program, which will be commissioned by a Coalition

Government. The purpose here is to ensure that decisions are made on a systemic and

coordinated basis, and are not merely driven by representations made by particular groups.

There are, however, some key programs which a Coalition Government would pursue.

The Coalition clearly recognises the poverty and other hardships facing Africa and will at least maintain dsting levels of aid to Africa.

In particular there are two projects of importance which a Coalition Government will

prioritorise in our aid program to Africa:

* establishment of a special program to support post-war reconstruction and the transition

from authoritarianism to democracy; and

e the establishment of a program for lilWAMS prevention and care in East and Southern Africa,

Other specific country policies will be guided by the principles laid out in this policy and the

approaches to be identified in the overall aid review.

Ultimately, a Coalition Government will undertake a major restructuring of Australia's Aid Program so as to focus directly upon poverty reduction, community-level health, education

and sanitation needs, and the specific education and focus on the needs of women and girls in

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developing countries.

2.4 Landmines

The Coalition is concerned that anti-personnel landmines continue to have a devastating and

indiscriminate impact on people in many countries throughout the world.

In order to address the problems related to landmine usage the Coalition:

• is committed to the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines;

• will continue diplomatic efforts to tighten the 1980 Inhumane Weapons Convention;

and

supports a total ban on the supply of landmines to non-signatory states and guerilla

forces.

1 '4 institute a "free Indochina of landmines" initiative under the development cooperation program which will supplement existing efforts by the ADP in Cambodia, and seek to have that project joined by other countries within the region.

3 TND1NG

As I have said, the Coalition is strongly committed to providing aid to assist developing

countries to help meet the basic needs of their people, and to assist in achieving a more secure and equitable international order. Central to that commitment is our continued support for the United Nations' goal of applying 0.7% of our gross national product to aid as and when

budgetary circumstances permit.

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The Coalition has decided to abolish the Development Import Finance Facility (DDT) with

effect from 1996-97. Current contractual commitments will be met but no additional funding

will be allocated under this program.

In essence DIFF is a subsidy paid to domestic business.

I note that Judy Henderson the Chairperson of Community Aid Abroad said on Radio National

last week on Friday 16 February of the Din that:

'This is the export subsidy program for Australian industry which actually Subsidises

Australian industry to tender for contracts. That subsidy is through the aid program.

We have said we don't have any problem with subsidising Australian businesses but its

not aid. It shouldn't be in the aid program. "

Foreign aid should be, and under a Coalition Government would be directed towards

humanitarian assistance and the alleviation of poverty.

realise that this proposal may not entirely satisfy you, but it is, I believe an honest open

ius-planation of the Coalition's intentions.

I note that the Coalition's honest approach is in complete contrast to the Labor Party's

dissembling on the level of aid. At the last Federal Election the Labor Party promised in the

life of this Parliament to increase foreign aid to 0.4% of GNP. In fact they reduced it from

0.36% in 1993 to 033% in 1996.

Indeed John Kerin, as Minister for Trade & Overseas Development, said in 1993 that:

"under Labor's commitment to fund development assistance to the level of 0.4% of GNP

by 1995, total aid funding will rise to approximately $1:738 billion by 1994-95.'1.

Furthermore, the Labor Party's latest claim that it will achieve 0.4% of aid by the Year 2000 is

an additional act of dishonesty.

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Only yesterday Senator Evans said to this Conference that:

'We retain the aspiration to continue real increases in aid to reach the UN target for

official development assistance of 0.7% of GNP, and the commitment to at least get

to 0.40% by the year 2000 "

Their forward estimates do not make any provision whatsoever for any increase in the real

level of aid in the period up to the end of the decade

In fact those forward estimates are quite revealing. The forward estimates for 1998-99 show

that projected spending on aid would be $I.666 billion. That Figure represents 0.29% of

estimated GNP for 1998-99. In other words, expenditure on aid as a proportion of GNP will

decline from its current level of 0.33% to 0.29%.

Labor's forward estimates acknowledge that aid will actually decline by an average of 1.5% in

real terms over that period.

To get aid up to 0,40% of GNP by the Year 2000, the Labor Party will have to spend an

additional $1.2 billion on foreign aid if you assume a progressive increase from 0.33% to

0.40% over the next three budgets. Indeed, Labor would have to spend an additional $635

million in 1998-99 alone. This is indisputable.

The Labor Party has a $1.2 billion hole in its aid budget. This once more exposes the fact that

either the Labor Party has completely failed to budget for its promises or Senator Evans

express commitment of yesterday was a straight lie.

accept that all other things being equal, it would he desirable to _increase the level of aid.

However, until that time, I believe there is an absolute duty on the major political parties to be

honest about their intentions, and only one Party has the courage to be honest.

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As you know a Coalition Government will commission an independent review of Australia's

ad program in its entirety, similar in scope and fomi to the Jackson Report in 1984_

I would welcome any contribution that you would like to make to the review.

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- # 40Vi- :: , Community Aid AbroadWA 074k 4 OXFAM IN AUSTRALIAwelcomes you to a conference on Taking

Australia into Asia: trade, investment

and human rights.

Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th February 1996 in collaboration with AsiaLink, the Evan Foundation and the Australian Conservation Foundation and with support from

the Department of Environment, Sports and Tourism, AusAID and the Myer Foundation