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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

When One Door Closes, DFAT Opens a Window

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

Image credit: Feed My Starving Children

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, and it gets its funding from governments, corporations and individuals around the world. On Wednesday, July 1st, it announced deeper cuts in food assistance for Syrian refugees due to a severe lack of funding.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Cue Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

On Friday, July 3rd, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Hon Julie Bishop MP, announced the establishment of a new four-year, AU$167.5 million (US$126 million) partnership between Australia and WFP.

This is not the first time Australia has stepped up to the plate. In 2009, Australia entered into a similar four-year partnership, pledging AU$140 million (US$105 million) between 2009 and 2013. Australia was the first country to provide predictable multi-year funding to WFP, an approach which Josette Sheeran, former WFP Executive Director described as “global best practice”. This steady funding assists WFP to plan for the future and deliver more effective aid.

So this approach sounds great in theory. Does it actually work?


That’s not just me saying it either. The numbers speak for themselves.

  • In 2013, the final year of DFAT’s last pledge, WFP reached 80 million people in 75 countries around the world.

  • During 2013, WFP delivered 3.1 million metric tons of food to hungry people. That’s an inconceivable amount of food. Think filling 5,700 Airbus A380s to their maximum capacity.

Don’t get me wrong: WFP’s approach isn’t just about handing out food. WFP uses food to make long-term positive changes to society by using some of this food as incentives in developing countries for people to build assets or attend training. Plenty of other benefits also flow from a community being able to get the food it needs - kids can concentrate better in school and learn more; people are more productive at work, and healthy bodies can better resist and recover from illness.

In 2013, the final year of DFAT’s last pledge, WFP reached 80 million people in 75 countries around the world. Image credit: Feed My Starving Children

So what is all the fuss of DFAT’s pledge really about? As an ex-Australian-public-servant, I can tell you right now government funding is not easy to receive. Think hours of paperwork, discussions, meetings, meetings ABOUT meetings, etc. etc.. It’s a painstaking process and, in many cases, an exercise in total futility. Not only is it a difficult process - the Hon Julie Bishop MP’s act of pledging this money is also a great achievement in light of many foreign aid cutbacks in recent years.

Where to go from here?

The money used in the last four-year pledge went towards the 2010 monsoon floods in Pakistan, hunger and food insecurity in Somalia, Afghanistan and Myanmar and emergency food assistance in Syria to list a few of the worthwhile causes. This year, money has been put towards nutrition support for women and children in North Korea.

This article was originally published on the Global Citizen website.


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