Humanitarian policy and partnerships

Why we give aid

Natural disasters, conflict, and economic shocks (such as food and fuel price spikes) severely undermine growth, reverse hard-won development gains and increase poverty and insecurity. Women are often also at heightened risk of violence during crises.

In reducing risks from, preparing for and responding to crises Australia's humanitarian action saves lives, builds resilience and helps people overcome poverty.

How we give humanitarian assistance

DFAT's Humanitarian Strategy provides the framework for Australia's humanitarian action, which is designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity during and in the aftermath of conflict, disasters and other humanitarian crises, as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for the occurrence of such situations.

The Australian Government can respond to simultaneous disasters, and often combines Australian personnel and expertise with that of our partners such as United Nations agencies, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and non-government organisations.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Australia provided $27.5 million in core funding to the ICRC in 2016-17.

The ICRC is one of the world's largest and most respected humanitarian organisations. It has a mandate in international law to protect the lives and dignity of people affected by conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. The organisation also works to promote and strengthen international humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

In 2016-17, our investment in the ICRC has helped:

  • protect and assist civilians affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence
  • promote and strengthen adherence to international humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles through training and advocacy
  • support the ICRC to deliver emergency medical assistance, primary health care and shelter for millions affected by conflict and violence.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)

Australia provided $8.3 million in core funding to OCHA in 2016-17 and $11 million in core funding to the CERF.

OCHA is responsible for the coordination of humanitarian response in natural disasters and complex emergencies. Funding to OCHA supports the rapid and effective allocation of humanitarian assistance based on need. OCHA's global coordination role and advocacy on access and impartial responses make Australia's and other donors' responses more effective.

The CERF provides rapid response funding to sudden onset emergencies enabling UN agencies to move quickly to save lives. It also provides support to under-funded and protracted crises. OCHA and the international humanitarian system rely on the CERF to improve the level of predictability, flexibility and timeliness in international humanitarian crisis response.

In 2016-17, our investment in OCHA supported:

  • mobilisation and coordination of effective humanitarian action, in partnership with national authorities, to alleviate human suffering in disasters and emergencies
  • strengthened disaster preparedness across the Indo-Pacific region
  • effective advocacy and leadership to ensure timely and coordinated humanitarian responses

In 2016-17, our investment in the CERF supported:

  • rapid and comprehensive humanitarian responses by UN agencies to sudden onset, protracted or 'neglected' emergencies; improved response times to humanitarian crises; early action to reduce loss of life; and, strengthened coordination and leadership.
  • recent CERF allocations were made to humanitarian responses in Iraq ($44.3 million), Nigeria ($60.3 million), Ethiopia ($52.1 million) and Somalia ($44.3 million).

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

In 2016-17, Australia provided $25 million in core funding to UNHCR.

UNHCR is given responsibility by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action for the global protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. There are now nearly 65 million people forcibly displaced around the world due to conflict, political insecurity and natural disasters. Australia's funding supports UNHCR to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and internally displaced persons in the Indo-Pacific region and around the globe.

In 2016-17, our investment in UNCHR helped:

  • provide early and critical life-saving assistance, including water, shelter and food, to the millions refugees and other persons who have been forced to flee their home
  • protect vulnerable displaced persons, particularly women and girls from sexual exploitation and gender-based violence
  • strengthen international protection for refugees and internally displaced persons, including by supporting dialogue with governments hosting and resettling refugees
  • promote refugee resilience and self-reliance through livelihood support and vocational training.

World Food Programme (WFP)

In 2016-17, Australia has provided $37 million in core funding to WFP, $3 million to support school feeding programme, and a further $43.5 million to date in response to individual crises. WFP is the lead United Nations agency for food assistance and logistics during emergencies. WFP also works to help prevent hunger and build resilience through programs that use food as a means to build assets and promote economic growth in communities, helping them to become more food secure.

In 2016-17, our investment in the WFP helped:

  • WFP to feed approximately 80 million people in around 80 countries, including in the Indo-Pacific region, during humanitarian emergencies
  • provide ongoing support for the re-establishment of livelihoods and food security in communities after emergencies
  • expand innovative food assistance initiatives that engage the private sector
  • contribute to improved nutrition and increased access to education for children through WFP school feeding programs
  • enhance disaster preparedness and response capacities in highly vulnerable countries, including in the Pacific.

United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA)

Since 2015-16, Australia has committed $3.6 million to UNFPA to support the prepositioning of sexual and reproductive health, and gender based violence supplies in disaster-prone countries across the Indo-Pacific region. Recent disasters, including the earthquake in the Solomon Islands in 2016, and Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji and the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, highlight the usefulness of being able to immediately respond to the urgent needs of women and children with culturally appropriate lifesaving items and equipment following a crisis. Lifesaving items include tents, clean delivery kits, and equipment necessary for maternity and delivery facilities.

In addition, Australia has recently provided $5.5 million to UNFPA to respond to sexual and reproductive health and gender based violence needs of women and girls in Iraq, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Australia also provides critical sexual and reproductive health assistance through the Sexual and Reproductive Health Program in Crisis and Post Crisis Settings (SPRINT).

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