What goes around comes around: three good reasons to become an international volunteer

By Aaron Watson, previous international volunteer and current graduate at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

International Volunteer Day held on 5 December provides the opportunity to recognise the contribution volunteers make in their local communities and in places around the world.

Over the years I have learned a great deal through volunteering- from the people who have taught me about the world and from reflecting on myself, and by working together on projects and causes to think about, plan, act and achieve shared goals.

In 2008, I moved to rural Cambodia on assignment with the Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD) program funded by the Australian Government. I was ready for a change after working in the Northern Territory for a few years and keen to put my studies in International Relations and Development Studies into practice.

Aaron meeting with youth and peer educators to conduct monitoring for the Integrated Livelihood Enhancement and Non Formal Education Program in rural Banteay Meanchey Province, Cambodia

Aaron Watson meeting with youth and peer educators to conduct monitoring for the Integrated Livelihood Enhancement and Non Formal Education Program in rural Banteay Meanchey Province, Cambodia

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People with disability play a bigger role in Cambodia’s elections

By The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

In countries like Australia, all citizens of voting age know that on election day, they will be able to have a say in who should run the country and represent them in parliament.  But, this isn’t a right enjoyed by everyone around the world. In many countries people with disability are, effectively, disenfranchised – unable to cast a vote or have their voices heard.

Participating in political life is a fundamental human right enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In Cambodia, the Australian aid program is helping people with disability realise this right.

Australia is a long-term supporter of disability-inclusive development and disability rights in Cambodia. One of Australia’s key partners in this work is the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation (CDPO). Australia supports its efforts to raise disability awareness, advocate for the rights and needs of people with disability, and strengthen the capacity of people with disability.

In Banteay Meanchey province, Boeung Sreykan is helping voters to find their names and instructing them about election procedure. Photo: CDPO

In Banteay Meanchey province, Boeung Sreykan is helping voters to find their names and instructing them about election procedure. Photo: CDPO

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Riding the Wave: Reform, Private Sector Development and Growth in the Pacific

By Paul Holden, Lead Economist for the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative, Asian Development Bank

Since I began working in the Pacific region, many years ago, people have continually asked me if the Pacific can ever really achieve broad-based economic growth.

It is true, Pacific island economies are mostly small, geographically isolated, and relatively undiversified, with narrow export bases. Because of their size, there are very few opportunities for economies of scale and limited access to international capital markets.

Further, they are vulnerable to natural disasters and rely heavily on donors and remittances. They are mostly characterized by large informal sectors, a substantial public sector presence in the economy, and low productivity. Growth performance lags behind other comparable countries in other regions.

And yet many familiar explanations for low growth do not hold in the Pacific.

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Encouraging the private sector to deliver

By Carmen Nonay, Program Manager, Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid

In developing countries, many poor people are excluded from access to basic services because they cannot afford to pay the full cost of user fees, such as connection fees for electricity, water or telecommunication services. There is a “gap” between the amount people can afford to pay for services, and the actual cost of providing the service.

Output-based aid (OBA) is designed to address this problem by working with service providers to “fill the gap” and provide better services to the poor.

OBA is a results-based financing instrument designed to enhance access to and delivery of basic infrastructure and social services for the poor. Through the use of performance-based subsidies, OBA links the payment of aid to the delivery of basic services such as electricity, water, sanitation, or basic health care to poor consumers who cannot afford the cost of access. The delivery of these services is contracted out to a third party, public or private, which then receives a subsidy to top-up or replace the user fees. The service provider is responsible for pre-financing the project, and in doing so takes on a significant amount of risk, as it will be reimbursed only after delivery and independent verification of the pre-agreed “outputs.” Examples of “outputs” are water and electricity connections, solar home systems, or access to education and basic health care.

Picture of a house with telecom equipment attached

Equipment from the Mongolia telecom project, which benefitted 20,000 nomadic herdsmen and brought phone and internet access to district centers to provide service to about 22,000 additional users. Source: GPOBA

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Art of preventing HIV transmission in PNG

By Prue Borthwick, Health and HIV Program, AusAID

Plastic plates do duty as palettes for blobs of poster paints. Paper, pencils and paintbrushes are handed out around the room. It’s not a kids art class, though. Papua New Guinea’s National AIDS Council Secretariat is holding a workshop on communicating with those most at risk of HIV transmission.

The artists hard at work are staff and volunteers from organisations in Port Moresby who work with sex workers, transgender people and men who have sex with men. Some of the staff and volunteers leading the workshop know first-hand about the issues facing the people they work with. They are in training with peer educators, who are sharing their experiences and knowledge of the issues in Port Moresby’s bars, guest houses and ‘hotspots’.

A group of women are frowning with concentration – it has been some time since many of them had to draw a picture or write a heading, and some have only had a primary school education. Most of the women – but not all – choose to write in Tok Pisin, rather than English. A lot of thought is going into these posters and the results are amazing.

A painting made by a workshop participant showing the positive use of contraception to prevent HIV

A workshop participant describes her poster promoting condom use to stop the spread of HIV; a blue strip across the top is dotted with tombstones from the bad old days before treatment was available, when many of her friends died of AIDS. A green strip in the middle shows a woman asking, “I worry that if I get sick from HIV or an STI, what will happen to my children?” The bottom of the poster is coloured cheery orange, with a message about using female condoms.

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