Associate Professor Roche delivered a joint presentation with Andrew Hewett, the former CEO of Oxfam Australia, at the Development Futures conference recently hosted by the Australian Council for International Aid.
Associate Professor Roche said that the relatively muted response to the Abbott Government’s recent announcements on International Aid suggests the dependence of government funding is potentially curbing NGOs’ voices.
‘There is a need for more public debate about the reality of this increasingly unequal world and the implications for both global justice and the eradication of income poverty but also for the health of societies in rich countries,’ he said.
Associate Professor Roche and Mr Hewett’s call to the international NGO sector to be less reliant on government funding is part of an eight-point plan that they believe is essential if Australian development agencies are to remain effective agents for social justice.
The eight-point plan includes:
- A move towards NGOs acting as vehicles for social change and social justice rather than presenting themselves as aid agencies;
- A focus on challenging unequal power relations and the political, economic and social processes that drive them in order to bring about gender justice;
- Taking the lead in political debates in Australia about the challenges of inequality and inequity, including climate change and population movement around the world;
- A focus on helping communities to hold governments accountable for human rights rather than simply delivering direct services and
- The need to begin a discussion about whether a continued focus on organisational growth is hampering more strategic responses to a changing world
Associate Professor Roche said there was little doubt that NGOs would continue to exist but the question is whether they will remain relevant.
‘Today over 70% of world’s poor live in Middle Income countries. Addressing inequality in general, and gender inequality in particular, will be critical in further reducing poverty. The issue now is whether NGOs can be strategically relevant to the quest for a world without poverty where human rights are respected.’
Associate Professor Roche recently joined La Trobe University as Chair of International Development where he is developing new linkages between academia and development agencies. He previously worked at Oxfam Australia and has been involved in the development sector for over 25 years.
La Trobe University was one of the sponsors of the ACFID Development Futures Conference in Sydney from 21 – 22 November.
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Image credit: Timothy D Johnson