Elise Scott, AAP
Australian foreign aid cuts were some of the hardest among developed countries last year, and the world’s poorest are bearing the brunt.
But Australia was not alone: OECD figures show 15 member countries pulled back foreign aid in 2014 as many grappled with domestic debt.
Australia was among the worst, cutting aid by 7.2 per cent to 27 cents per $100, and dropping from 13th to 14th in OECD rankings.
To put that in context, Sweden hands over 1.10 euros ($A1.54) per 100 euros ($A140.32) and the United Kingdom has brought in laws insisting on a foreign aid budget of at least 70 pence per STG100 ($A193.54).
Spain, Japan, Portugal, Canada, France and Poland slashed their budgets more than Australia.
But it’s going to get worse for Australia in coming years as the Abbott government’s $11 billion worth of cuts take effect.
By 2016, the government will spend 22 cents per $100, the lowest since records began in 1960.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the report was another international embarrassment for Australia.
‘Not only are [foreign minister] Julie Bishop’s foreign aid cuts hurting the world’s poor, they are damaging Australia’s international reputation,’ Ms Plibersek told AAP.
The report found no significant drop in overall global foreign aid contributions between 2013 and last year, with 13 countries boosting their funding.
However, only five countries reached the UN target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.
The figures come as one of Australia’s largest foreign aid organisations, World Vision, revealed $5.5 million in program cuts around the globe.
Child protection programs in India, Senegal and Lebanon have been cut, while education projects in South Sudan and Laos will also go.
‘It’s shattering. There’s been lots of tears here,’ World Vision chief executive Tim Costello told AAP.
‘We know many of these programs are literally life-saving.’
Make Poverty History executive officer Tony Milne said Australia’s cuts mean neighbours such as Vanuatu could miss out on assistance for natural disasters, vaccinations, teachers and classrooms.
‘We are losing our place as one of the fairest nations on earth,’ he said.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the figures showed the nation was viewed as a ‘mean-spirited country’.
Australia’s explanation in the report for the drop in funding is cuts in bilateral aid to sub-Saharan Africa and the timing of contributions to multilateral organisations.
Comment has been sought from Ms Bishop’s office.