The Department

6.1 Country Programs

Table 36: Resources Summary for Sub-program 6.1

Figure 42: Country Programs Program Structure as at 30 June 1998

Sub-program Objectives

In 1997-98, the objective of sub-program 6.1 was to:

  • promote sustainable development in designated countries by assisting their governments and regional organisations through the delivery of the highest quality program of development cooperation.

Description

The Pacific, Africa and International Division and the Asia and Corporate Division of AusAID administer the sub-program. They manage the delivery of projects and programs in partner countries that are designed to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. These projects and programs are developed, implemented, monitored and reviewed jointly with partner countries. Country programs also are designed to encourage partner governments to adopt and implement appropriate policies and activities to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. They provide expert and timely advice to partner governments on country and regional development issues and program directions and performance.

Performance Information

In 1997-98, the Agency indicated that it would evaluate its performance using:

Papua New Guinea

  • successful delivery of projects and programs in the six sectors mutually identified as the highest priority— education and training, health, transport and communication, renewable natural resources, law and justice, and the private sector— as reflected in achieving agreed benchmarks in each sector
  • review of the Development Cooperation Treaty including the continued transition to program aid
  • effective aid response to Bougainville

Pacific Island Countries

  • greater island government commitment to, and effective implementation of, policy and management reforms aimed at improving economic self-reliance
  • development and recipient government agreement of new country strategies and delivery mechanisms for bilateral programs, with programs tailored to meet individual country circumstances
  • extent to which outcomes of the March 1997 South Pacific donors’ meeting are carried forward, and regular dialogue and cooperation with other donors is continued, including project specific collaboration with other key donors
  • demonstrable improvements in the strategic planning, management and coordination capacity of Pacific regional organisations

East Asia

  • development of, and recipient government agreement to, new country strategies and delivery mechanisms for core countries, with programs tailored to meet individual country circumstances
  • extent to which the development of an enabling environment for private sector development in eastern Indonesia, in line with the Australia Indonesia Development Area, is supported
  • commencement of the construction phase for the My Thuan bridge project in Vietnam and complete construction of the bridge by 2000
  • continued implementation of major de-mining initiatives in Cambodia and Laos
  • commencement of new projects in China in the areas of women’s and children’s health, hepatitis diagnosis, economic and foreign trade training, and water supply in Tibet
  • extent to which programs are effectively wound down in Thailand and Malaysia
  • extent to which programs assist in dealing with major regional issues, such as HIV/ AIDS and
  • cooperation in the Mekong River basin, and support APEC and ASEAN initiatives

South Asia

  • development of a new education and training program in India and successful delivery of short-term training and technical advice in a range of sectors including environment, education and health
  • successful commencement of the Community and Resource Management and Land Conservation project in Nepal
  • effective delivery of food security programs in Bangladesh

Africa

  • development of a strategy to sharpen the focus of Australian assistance in Africa in light of reduced country program assistance
  • support for HIV/ AIDS activities in accordance with the pledge to provide $10 million over four years

Cross-regional

  • successful introduction of a single scholarship scheme, the Australian Development Scholarships
  • extent to which country programs reflect the Government’s response to recommendations from the Simons Review of the aid program.

Performance Outcomes

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea remains the largest recipient of Australian aid, with the country program comprising approximately 22 per cent of the total aid program. Australian country program assistance and budget support to Papua New Guinea totalled $313.3 million. In addition to providing emergency and humanitarian aid and assistance for the peace building process on Bougainville, Australia sought to contribute to Papua New Guinea’s efforts to achieve economic sustainability and social cohesion.

The Australian aid program to Papua New Guinea contributed to sustainable development by delivering projects and programs in the six sectors mutually agreed as the highest priority— education and training, health, transport and communication, renewable natural resources, law and justice, and the private sector.

The aid program improved education by increasing enrolment levels, retention rates and female attendance in elementary and primary schools; improving opportunities for secondary education; training 1 700 teachers and 50 central and provincial education administrators; providing educational resources; and helping 355 PNG students to graduate from Australian tertiary and secondary institutions.

Health sector improvements were achieved by:

  • training health administrators in six provinces to make better use of limited resources and improve the delivery of rural health services
  • training over 100 rural health staff and 500 hospital staff
  • completing a Demographic Health Survey, the first in Papua New Guinea, covering 19 provinces. The survey provides a significant database for planning future initiatives in reproductive and population health
  • constructing and equipping ten new STD clinics and training staff at 40 clinics in HIV/ STD testing procedures
  • immunising over 600 000 children aged under 5 years against polio and 23 000 women against tetanus
  • completing the training attachments for more than 50 nurses, medical officers and other health professionals; providing 28 workshops in hospital management; building new accommodation for students and resident medical officers; establishing Papua New Guinea’s first degree level health administration course; and enrolling the first intake of 34 students
  • providing approximately $5 million in goods and associated services, such as surgical equipment and supplies, ward furniture, administrative equipment such as computers, and ambulances, and an additional $3 million in biomedical equipment to provincial hospitals.

Photo: The aid program assisted Papua New Guinea and other Pacific island countries to achieve improvements in the health sector by training health staff.

The aid program contributed to improving transport links by rehabilitating 250 kilometres of rural roads, constructing five bridges and maintaining a further 17 bridges. Through the aid program, Australia provided staff training and development in a number of areas, including maintenance management systems for Lae City Authorities. A major telecommunications project in Western Province was begun; this will improve communication services in the South Fly region.

Aviation industry improvements included developing a major new program to improve safety and efficiency of air transport; completing maintenance programs at nine airports; training 12 air traffic controllers; and producing manuals of operating procedures and airspace charts. Twenty fire officers were trained in Australia and four large fire vehicles provided.

The aid program contributed to improved land administration and development by establishing a computerised map production facility, providing vehicles and other support equipment to assist the monitoring of logging in forest concessions, developing a Logging Code of Practice, training forest workers, landowners and Forest Authority staff and helping to implement new forestry degree and diploma curriculums at PNG University of Technology.

In five provinces, Australian aid supported a program to control water hyacinth, a noxious weed that blocks rivers; this contributed to advances made in coastal and river management. The aid program continued to support the PNG quarantine service in protecting vital agricultural industries and the environment from exotic pests and diseases. A feasibility study and data collection project to assist coastal resource management in the Torres Strait Protected Zone also was completed.

The aid program provided urgently needed humanitarian relief in response to the severe drought in Papua New Guinea. This included transporting food to more than 100 000 people living in the remote areas most severely affected, distributing around 400 tonnes of seed and planting materials, providing essential pharmaceuticals and transporting technical personnel to isolated villages. Over $3.5 million was channelled through Australian NGOs to improve water supply, assist agricultural recovery and provide supplementary food. The aid program helped develop and implement an agricultural recovery program to help drought-affected farmers re-establish crops, including potato, maize and vegetable seed stock, lost during the drought.

The law and justice sector was strengthened through support for improving criminal investigation and prosecution, and managing and training police officers. A program to improve the performance of the Ombudsman Commission also began.

Photo: The aid program helped to strengthen the law and justice sector in Papua New Guinea by training police officers.

The aid program provided support for poor rural women through a microfinance project. Also, the services of the PNG Investment Promotion Authority were upgraded by producing a business information guide and establishing a companies registration system. As a follow-up to the February Economic Summit, Australia supported a private sector dialogue with the PNG Government and provided expert advice to assist the PNG Government in formulating enterprise policy and producing the 1998 Economic Survey.

The signing of the Bougainville Ceasefire on 30 April was the successful culmination of ten months of international meetings and negotiations. Australia’s effective aid response to Bougainville included reconstruction activities and direct support for the peace process, including:

  • completion of a new 84-bed hospital at Buka
  • training for the Bougainville auxiliary police
  • a program of infrastructure building and teacher training to improve the opportunities for secondary education and specialised training
  • regrading and sealing of the 1 500 metre Buka airstrip
  • funding of 403 community groups to undertake emergency road rehabilitation works
  • procurement of powered lanterns, radios, emergency medical kits and education kits to be distributed to remote rural health and education facilities
  • contribution to an International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 1998 Emergency Appeal which provided resettlement kits to 700 villages, medical kits to first aid posts, as well as water supply, sanitation and community health training programs
  • technical assistance to the Office of Bougainville Affairs and the Bougainville Transitional Government in the legal, infrastructure, social and strategic planning sectors
  • secondment of a liaison officer to the Office of Bougainville Affairs
  • provision of staff as monitors in the truce/ peace monitoring group exercise and payment of personnel costs of civilian staff other Australian government agencies provided
  • provision of $1.5 million to transport delegates from all factions to peace meetings.

Photo: Australia provides an effective aid response to Bougainville with reconstruction activities and direct support for the peace process.

Preparations began for the Review of the Papua New Guinea-Australia Development Cooperation Treaty with consultations with Australian stakeholders and agreement with Papua New Guinea on a timeframe and review process. The 1998 review will address the levels and forms of aid beyond the final phase-out of budget support in 1999-2000.

The phasing out of budget support continued according to the agreed schedule in the Treaty on Development Cooperation. In the review period, nearly two-thirds of Australian assistance to Papua New Guinea was programmed aid.

Pacific Island Countries

Australia is a major donor to countries in the South Pacific region; Australian bilateral aid flows to the region totalled $115.8 million. Australian assistance focused on education, health, sustainable resource management and public policy reform, and emphasised coordinating aid delivery with other donors.

In accordance with the recommendations of Better Aid for a Better Future, AusAID has commenced preparation of an aid policy statement and draft development strategy for the Pacific region. The strategy will include a modus operandi specific to major aid recipients in the region, as well as a proposed new approach to funding regional organisations and programs.

Australia placed a high priority on dialogue and cooperation with other donors in the Pacific to maximise the impact of the aid program. It initiated annual Pacific donor consultations to create greater mutual awareness of aid policies and strategies, and better coordinate aid. AusAID also continued to work with key donors in planning and delivering specific projects, for example:

  • working with France to extend the scope and reach of regional renewable energy activities the Pacific community undertakes
  • co-financing with the Asian Development Bank, a Treasury Institutional Strengthening Project in Samoa
  • collaborating with Japan and New Zealand to significantly enhance the University of South Pacific distance education program. Through donor cooperation, the University of South Pacific telecommunications network will increase its capacity to provide quality distance education to 12 Pacific island countries.

Through country programs and the regional Policy and Management Reform fund, which was increased to $11 million, the aid program supported the action plan Pacific island ministers adopted at the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) in July.

Australian aid supported improvements in the strategic planning, management and capacity of regional organisations. These improvements will assist in implementing reforms and programs regional organisations undertake to promote sustainable development, and include the Forum Secretariat’s articulation of priorities and strategies in its corporate plan.

Member countries advanced regional issues, notably security and aviation, implementing the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting Action Plan. Members’ progress in implementing aspects of the FEMM Action Plan needs to be surveyed to compare the performance of individual countries against the regional reform agenda.

Regional organisations also were strengthened through individual projects. For example, the Vector Borne Disease Project provided the platform for the Pacific Community to manage and coordinate efforts against outbreaks of dengue fever in Fiji and formulate strategic plans to prevent the spread, and reduce the affects of malaria, dengue fever and filarisis within the Pacific region.

The aid program contributed to developing a project with the UN Conference on Trade and Development to automate customs systems in a number of Pacific island countries. This project is ready for implementation in three countries, and will allow customs departments to increase efficiency and improve revenue collection.

Health services in Pacific island countries were improved by:

  • providing vaccines and technical assistance to combat Hepatitis B. Survey results in Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu, indicate Hepatitis B carrier rates have dropped 80 per cent since the project began. The number of Pacific island countries with a reliable vaccine supply increased from eight in 1994 to 21 in this review period
  • funding over 100 specialist teams to conduct around 4 000 consultations and 1 000 operations across the Pacific in cardiac surgery; dermatology; ear, nose and throat; general medicine; neurosurgery; ophthalmology; orthopaedic surgery; paediatric surgery; plastic and reconstructive; radiology; and urology
  • commencing a $3.3 million program over three years to assist in the campaign to prevent and control HIV/ AIDS in the Pacific region. This initiative includes Australian experts working with regional organisations and local NGOs to develop national strategic plans to prevent and control HIV/ AIDS
  • commencing the Fiji School of Medicine Postgraduate Training Project. Curriculums for the diploma programs in surgery, anaesthetics, obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics, as well as the masters in surgery, were approved and 23 trainees enrolled in the new one-year diploma course. The project will provide a growing pool of locally-trained medical specialists for Fiji and other Pacific islands.

The aid program to the Pacific continued to emphasise promoting island government commitment to, and effective implementation of, policy and management reforms to improve self-reliance, thus promoting sustainable development.

Through the aid program, Australia supported the Solomon Island Government’s policy and structural reform agenda by co-financing, with the Asian Development Bank, a comprehensive study of the Solomon Island economy. Australia and the Solomon Islands subsequently agreed on a range of new activities to implement next review period. These will improve financial management, public accountability and natural resource management. In addition, a new Taro Genetics Project was established to support the collection and conservation of taro genetic resources and taro breeding programs in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Samoa.

Through the aid program, Australia supported Vanuatu’s comprehensive reform program. Australianfunded expertise helped the Vanuatu Government formulate and implement the reform program in partnership with community and business groups. Australia supported development of key legislation to increase public accountability and improve the climate for private sector investment and development, and assisted with the introduction of program budgeting to improve financial management, and with restructuring of the public service to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

Australia and Kiribati agreed on and developed an education sector programming approach to improve the flexibility, sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the education system. The program will improve access and equity through institutional strengthening, skills upgrading of 200 secondary school teachers, and curriculum and infrastructure development. The outer islands school construction program began in June, and access to basic education should improve through the construction of four additional schools.

East Asia

The East Asian economic crisis has led to some changes in programs undertaken in 1997-98 and highlighted the need for an increased focus in future years on governance in the region. Australian country program assistance totalled $262.9 million to the region.

Indonesia

Australian country program assistance totalled $80.4 million to Indonesia. AusAID undertook a Program Planning Mission with Indonesian government officials in August. The mission confirmed the framework for the program’s strategic directions, and recommended that the program focus on Indonesia’s poorest, eastern provinces and on aid in rural development, health, environment, education, water supply and governance sectors. Australia and Indonesia endorsed these recommendations during February at their annual High-level Aid Consultations.

In response to the drought and financial crisis in Indonesia, Australia provided a significant package of humanitarian, technical and financial assistance. This package included:

  • over $15 million to assist more than a million victims of drought in Indonesia
  • in Irian Jaya, a joint exercise between AusAID, the Australian Defence Force, and the Indonesian Armed Forces to distribute food and medical supplies, assisting up to 90 000 people suffering from food shortages and drought-related medical conditions
  • a commitment to provide up to 45 000 tonnes of wheat to the World Food Programme’s Emergency Operation, in response to the food security crisis
  • $1.7 million to assist Indonesia to combat fires, build fire control capacity, alleviate the health effects of fire and haze, and improve monitoring capacity during its 1997 bushfire emergency. Australia helped significantly in containing forest fires in south Sumatra
  • funding to provide six months of technical assistance to help design and implement labourintensive works programs in the seriously drought-affected provinces of Nusa Tenggara Timur, Nusa Tenggara Barat, and Central and Southeast Sulawesi, to strengthen food security by improving incomes of drought-affected people.

In addition to this package, the aid program continued to support projects which contribute to achieving sustainable development and alleviating poverty in Indonesia’s eastern provinces.

Over 800 people received short-term training in midwifery, hospital administration and intellectual property rights through the Specialised Training Project. A further 265 students completed postgraduate study in Australia with AusAID funding.

Seventy health care facilities were upgraded, and in Nusa Tenggara Timur and Nusa Tenggara Barat provinces, training was provided under the Women’s Health and Family Planning Project, benefiting up to 3 million people.

The aid program funded studies in economics, agri-business opportunities, foreign investment promotion and small to medium-sized enterprise development to support the Australia Indonesia Development Area initiative the Indonesian and Australian Governments launched in April 1997. These studies are intended to lead to project activities which support the AIDA objective of facilitating growth in private sector trade and investment in the area.

The Philippines

Australian country program assistance totalled $51.2 million to the Philippines. The aid program continued to promote sustainable development in the Philippines by delivering projects and programs in accordance with priorities agreed between the Australian and Philippine Governments.

Through the aid program, Australia supported a UNDP emergency program to promote the peace process in Mindanao, which provided assistance to 45 000 people. In addition, Australia provided 1 000 photovoltaic electric generating systems to power district hospitals, rural health centres, schools and community centres in over 400 remote villages in Visayas and Mindanao.

Australian aid contributed to improved health in the Philippines by:

  • training over 1 049 health workers, including physicians, nurses, midwives and volunteer health workers
  • starting the restructuring and upgrading of public health services for approximately a million people in the provinces of South Cotabato and Surigao del Norte
  • training 76 community-based health staff in health promotion, multimedia and social marketing skills in the cities of Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.

Australian aid helped improve education by:

  • providing rice and educational equipment in support of formal education programs conducted by 140 street educators for some 15 000 street children and 6 500 parents
  • upgrading the skills of 435 senior staff at teacher education institutions.

Improved planning, lands record management, tax revenue raising and asset maintenance benefited 2.3 million people in seven cities. In addition, the aid program helped 12 provincial technical institutes of agriculture develop appropriate curriculums and staff development to better meet the needs of small landholders and agri-business.

Vietnam

In April 1997, the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced a new aid pledge to Vietnam of $236 million over the next four years. In addition to developing a new draft country strategy for Vietnam, the Australian aid program continued to promote sustainable development by delivering projects and programs in accordance with priorities agreed between the Australian Government and the Vietnamese Government. Australian country program assistance to Vietnam totalled $53 million. It helped to:

  • progress construction of the My Thuan bridge. Mr Downer attended the ground-breaking ceremony in July. Australians trained their Vietnamese counterparts in design, construction and project management to assist in the transfer of skills. The My Thuan Bridge will open up transport access to Vietnam’s major agricultural export area by 2000
  • train 20 senior Vietnamese officials to assist in developing Vietnam’s computerised customs infrastructure which will simplify and harmonise clearance procedures and facilitate trade. In addition, Australia provided courses in Vietnam in international law, training of trainers, environmental management, project planning appraisal and environment, and teacher inservice education
  • provide 300 000 bed nets and insecticide for the treatment of bed nets to protect the population at risk from malaria in 242 communes in Vietnam. The health of over 130 000 people also was improved with access to clean water from the commissioning of two new water treatment plants to service the towns of Bac Giang and Bac Ninh
  • start a four-year Primary Health Care for Women and Children Project to strengthen management capabilities, improve basic in-service training and promote community support for health services. It also will provide equipment, books and essential drugs to selected commune, district and provincial health facilities.

Photo: Parliamentary Secretary (Foreign Affairs), Kathy Sullivan, opens three wards at Vinh Long Hospital in February in Vietnam which were upgraded with aid program funds.

Cambodia and Laos

During the review period, a new draft country strategy was developed for Laos and work began on developing a new country strategy for Cambodia. At the 1998 High-level Aid Consultations, agreement was reached with the Lao Government that the future Australian aid program would focus on education, health and rural development, and governance. This will entail moving away from infrastructure projects in the medium term. The Australian aid program to Cambodia and Laos continued to deliver projects and programs to promote sustainable development. Australian country program assistance to Cambodia totalled $24.4 million while $13.8 million was provided to Laos.

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre destroyed around 45 000 landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance, resulting in the clearing of 16 square kilometres for agricultural use and refugee resettlement. CMAC has operated for five years, and during that time Cambodia’s landmine injury rate has dropped from between 400 and 600 per month to between 150 and 200 per month. Australia also contributed to the clearance of unexploded ordnance in Laos and supported awareness-raising activities through NGOs.

Photo: Australia provides support to Cambodia for landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance, awareness training and assistance to victims through the Cambodian Mines Action Centre.

Six bridges in rural areas of Cambodia were constructed to reduce travel cost for residents, provide greater reliability of transport and improve safety for vehicles and pedestrians.

The aid program helped to establish the National Elections Computer Centre in Phnom Penh, providing a computerised list of voters for the 1998 Cambodian national elections. The automated voter registration system enhances the capacity to control electoral fraud and strengthen voter confidence in the elections. It will also serve as a repository of registration data for future elections.

Through the aid program, Australia has cooperated with UNICEF to train 2 774 teachers and 110 trainers since 1992 in Laos. Teacher upgrading activities now operate in 31 districts and 12 provinces of Laos. These teacher upgrading activities benefit some 124 830 students in 940 schools.

The health of people in the Toumlane district of southern Laos has been improved through drilling clean water wells, installing pumps and providing preventive health education through Community Aid Abroad.

Photo: The provision of safe water improves the health of people in the Toumlane district of southern Laos. (photo: Felicity Volk)

Thailand and Malaysia

In response to Thailand’s economic crisis, AusAID developed a new strategy for aid delivery to Thailand. In late April, the Prime Minister, John Howard, announced in Thailand the decision to delay the phase-out of the aid program to Thailand; this was strongly welcomed by the Royal Thai Government. Australian country program assistance totalled $16.5 million to Thailand.

The new strategy for Thailand involves significant additional Australia aid resources in the short term (1998-99 to 2000-01), and also a commitment to continuing the Australian aid program to Thailand past 2000-01, when Australian aid was due to cease. The new medium-term program will contribute to rehabilitation of Thailand’s banking and financial systems and will focus on mitigating the crisis’ negative effects on the poor and disadvantaged.

In accordance with the aid graduation strategy the Malaysian and Australian Governments jointly agreed on in 1992, the aid program to Malaysia continued to decline. Australian aid to Malaysia comprised contributions to regional programs and remaining scholarships. Australian country program assistance to Malaysia totalled $2.4 million.

China and Central Asia

Australian country program assistance totalled $36.6 million to China, with $2.4 million of assistance to Mongolia.

In addition to ongoing projects, the aid program supported several new projects in China in economic and foreign trade training, women’s and children’s health and hepatitis diagnosis, and in Tibet, water supply. Loans were provided to over 11 200 households in China through a microfinance program to improve their productivity and incomes. These projects will promote sustainable development.

Australia and China agreed to implement a $20 million, four-year Capacity Building Program, announced by the Prime Minister in December. This program will contribute to China’s governance reforms and transition to a market economy through the transfer and adaptation of Australian systems and expertise.

The Economics and Foreign Trade Training Project included establishing a trade policy library within the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation and 12 Chinese officials completing a Graduate Diploma in International Economics.

Australian aid improved health, hygiene and sanitation in the low-income community of Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province by constructing a major water treatment plant to provide a more reliable potable water supply to the community. In addition, the aid program improved the health of approximately 240 000 people in 171 villages through the Ningxia Family Planning, Women’s and Children’s Health Project. This project demonstrated the effectiveness of family planning services based on voluntary participation and quality of care.

A project began to construct two new health centres, refurbish eight others and improve the water supply for 54 rural communities in Shigatse prefecture of the Tibetan Autonomous Region in China. This project includes training health and water supply staff to help improve primary health services in the region.

Under the Australian co-financed UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Project, communitylevel education in sanitation and hygiene began in 25 communities in three provinces in Mongolia.

In addition, a memorandum of understanding for capacity building in Mongolia will support policy making during Mongolia’s transition to a market economy.

China and Mongolia received human rights technical assistance from Australia for the first time in 1998. This included:

  • a visit by 13 senior Chinese officials from the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate to study the Australian criminal justice system, including the legal and judicial systems, and human rights protection
  • lectures to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences by Australian judges at the National Judges’ College in China on Australia’s legal system, criminal processes and procedures, and provision of publications on mass communications law and freedom of expression
  • funding of an Australian human rights expert to advise the Mongolian Government on the training needs for establishing the Mongolian Human Rights Commission. Funding also was provided to translate key resource documents on international law.

Asia Regional

The Australian aid program supported regional initiatives through contributions to APEC and ASEAN and assistance to NGOs to address major region-wide issues such as HIV/ AIDS. These initiatives facilitated cooperation in, and coordination of, aid program delivery, thus improving the effectiveness of the Australian aid program.

Through the aid program, Australia supported participating ASEAN countries in achieving their environmental management goals by demonstrating environmental technology and providing training. As a result, National Environment Resource Implementation Centres were developed in each participating country. These centres will collect and manage data on the coastal zone, particularly on its environmental qualities and natural resources.

The Australian aid program assisted APEC-member developing countries to implement the APEC trade and liberalisation agenda. Assistance included drafting legislation for a comprehensive food control system in Vietnam and training senior officials from Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia to enhance private sector participation in infrastructure development.

A Mekong sub-region HIV/ AIDS strategy was developed. The region welcomed the strategy which will form the framework for donors, recipients and NGOs to work together on high priority HIV/ AIDS issues over the next three years. In addition, 1 000 women in Vietnam participated in workshops on the culturally appropriate negotiation of safe sex practices within a relationship. This training is designed to lower the incidence of HIV/ AIDS infection.

South Asia

Australia responded rapidly to the nuclear testing programs of India and Pakistan, suspending non-humanitarian aid on 14 and 29 May respectively. This resulted in a reduction of funding to the India program by $3.5 million and a suspension of eight projects. The remaining projects contributed to the promotion of sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Australian country program assistance totalled $50.8 million to South Asia, with $12.9 million to India and $2.9 million to Pakistan.

The aid program began to support peace building in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh by supplementing food for some of the 11 000 families returning home. Further programs will provide health and clean water services, income-generation activities and essential rural infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. These activities will enable about 120 000 people affected by 15 years of armed conflict to return to their homes and re-establish their lives.

In Bangladesh, reafforestation, rural infrastructure, water supplies and income-generating activities were improved. Australia funded activities through the World Food Programme assisting a million women and children.

One million children, particularly girls from poor families in rural north west Bangladesh, had better access to quality education through Australian support for a UNICEF project to improve the quality of education, attendance and retention rates.

Photo: One million children, particularly girls from poor families, had better access to quality education in Bangladesh through Australian support for UNICEF.

The living standards of about 500 000 people living in rural communities in Nepal’s Middle Hills were improved. The Community Resource Management Project increased subsistence production, thereby improving community self-reliance while conserving the environment.

In Pakistan, reclamation and rehabilitation activities were undertaken in three saline and waterlogged sites, eventually covering 48 villages. The project improved the productivity of subsistence farming.

Through the aid program, Australia provided support for some of the quarter of a million people affected by the civil conflict in the north and east of Sri Lanka. This included raising awareness about landmines, removing ordnance, counselling for trauma, educating children and helping to restore the local economy.

Australian aid program funding for community-based activities contributed to the delivery of clean water, education and health services, microfinance and community development in the region. Several programs helped to reduce the incidence of child labour through education, care and vocational training. Some 237 South Asian students of agriculture, health sciences, business administration, engineering and computer sciences graduated from Australian universities.

Africa and the Middle East

A new regional strategy paper for aid to Africa is being prepared. The strategy will go through an extensive consultation process prior to being finalised by the end of 1998. Australian country program assistance totalled $35.6 million to Africa, with $1.1 million to the Middle East.

Through aid projects, Australia contributed significantly to promoting sustainable development in Africa during the review period. Australia committed $1.7 million for 11 projects which will link Australian and South African tertiary education institutions in community development and institution strengthening.

A new three-year $6.4 million program began for NGOs to help combat HIV/ AIDS. This program will fund 13 community-based projects throughout six countries in southern and eastern Africa. This program will fulfill the $10 million pledge for HIV/ AIDS activities in Africa.

The Capacity Building Program continued as the centrepiece of Australian aid to South Africa. It supported key policy developments and capacity building in several areas of the public service. Education, finance and telecommunications were major areas of activity. Aid program support resulted in completing a policy document on further education and training, developing a broadcasting policy paper, building capacity at the newly established telecommunications regulatory authority, and drafting a treasury control bill to improve financial management.

Australia’s aid program to the Middle East supported the peace process by assisting Palestinian refugees with basic health, education, water supply and housing services through the UN Relief and Works Agency. The development component of the program also included assistance through NGOs in the legal and education sectors.

Cross-regional

A single scholarship scheme based on equity and merit— Australian Development Scholarships— was introduced across all country programs, with 1 789 students being granted scholarships to study in Australia, 188 secondary students completing their studies in Australia and 60 scholarship holders successfully completing studies at institutions in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

Contract Services

Rigorous contractor selection processes are fundamental to the effectiveness of Australian aid activities. AusAID sought to achieve the highest level of quality in delivering the aid program consistent with value for money. To ensure quality and cost-effectiveness, AusAID employed competitive bidding based on both technical and price considerations. AusAID awarded over 1 000 contracts in 1997-98 worth almost $550 million. Many of these were multi-year contracts. The value of contracts managed during the review period was approximately $1.8 billion. For the first time, this figure included new commitments to NGOs and new students studying in Australia.

To further strengthen the contracting and tendering function, AusAID:

  • consolidated the major contracting sections into a branch to ensure quality and consistency
  • initiated a comprehensive review of its contracts and related documentation to ensure they reflect best practise and current legal requirements (to be completed next review period)
  • commenced placement of tender documents on its Internet website to dispatch them more efficiently and allow tenderers to receive documents faster
  • introduced financial assessment of firms (due diligence) procedures into the tender assessment process to ensure firms are financially capable of implementing AusAID projects
  • provided a comprehensive training program in contract management which 250 AusAID officers attended
  • introduced a new management information system for tendering and contracting to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the Agency
  • improved insurance and public liability contractual provisions to protect the Commonwealth’s interests
  • established a process of consultation with a group of major private sector contractors to facilitate interaction on AusAID’s contracting arrangements
  • expanded access to high-quality technical expertise by awarding 108 period contracts in infrastructure, financial assessment of tenders, media services, water and sanitation, natural resources and education.

The criteria for firms and individuals to be eligible to undertake work for AusAID were amended following the Government’s response to the Simons Review of the aid program. They now allow up to two-thirds of project teams to be from recipient countries. In addition, where Australia and New Zealand demonstrate a lack of technical capacity, AusAID may accept nationals from other countries, developed and developing, to fill key project positions other than team leader. These changes will strengthen project teams and help ensure high-quality aid projects.

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