By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

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In February Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop declared that stronger Foreign Aid accountability will focus on mutually accountable outcomes, fraud control and anti-corruption strategies. A target of 80% of the programs will address gender equality issues and strengthened gender assessment criteria.

TAFE Queensland will host 10 women leaders from PNG’s Department of Higher Education as part of the 2015 Australia Awards Fellowships program. As part of the New Colombo Plan, 1400 Fellows from 67 countries to undertake short term study, research and professional development.

This year the Fellowships have been awarded to 742 females and 699 males, 86 per cent of whom are from Asia, the Pacific or Papua New Guinea.

Julie Bishop became the first Australian Minister to visit Iran in 12 years. The meeting with counter-part Foreign Minister Zarif attracted wide media attention as well as being noticed by the United States, who’s relations with Iran are still frosty over Iran’s nuclear development program.

The growing and real threat to International peace and security is developing in cyberspace. Serious risks from attacks have been identified by security experts who’ve called on the Australian government to convene an enquiry into cyber issues, involving government, business and the community.

Australia has provided $15 million in assistance to Vanuatu following the recent devastating cyclone “Pam”. The funds were used towards schools repairs, replacing learning materials, repair of health infrastructure, pharmaceutical supplies, cold-storage for medicines, food aid and the restoration of local food sources.

$100,000 in emergency supplies comprising shelter materials, tools, hygiene kits as well as two Pacific patrol boats were provided by Australia to the Federated States of Micronesia following the extensive damage caused by Typhoon Maysako.

Some 15,000 Australians attended overseas events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC Day landings at Gallipoli, at services in Turkey, France, Belgium, Malaysia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea.  Importantly honouring the sacrifices of all servicemen and women, the observance; a uniquely Australian NZ event, ironically reinforces a ‘peace message’ that will never fade.

The recently elected Queensland government has vetoed the Abbott Point coal port expansion and port dredging in Cairns due to potential impact that dumping of spoils will impact on inner reefs within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area. The decision, while applauded by environmental groups locally and internationally will reduce any financial flow-on benefit to regional communities.

NCWQ’s communication officer, Steph Carter who works with management aid contractor GRM International, returned recently after a 6 month period working in South Africa. Her role there was as Senior Project Officer (Scholarships) on the ‘Australia Awards in Africa’ aid program funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This aid project supports African awardees and alumni with reintegration and planning to positively impact their country after returning home. This work funded by DFAT, promotes Australian-African partnerships as well as delivering in a real sense, good International relations. More Information is available at: www.australiaawardsafrica.org

 

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