Are governments listening?

Postcard to Foreign Minister

Why advocacy really matters

In early 2021, the world looked on aghast as the Delta strain of COVID-19 decimated communities in India. Exhausted medical staff, desperate people carrying oxygen tanks, a death toll that sent fear up the spines of people everywhere: it was on the news nightly for weeks.

“Many of us didn’t realise that Nepal, right next door, was suffering in similar ways,” recalls International Nepal Fellowship Australia CEO Ben Thurley.

“The local Nepalese community here in Australia was mobilising fast to do what they could, and one of those things was advocating to Government to provide COVID aid not only to India, but to Nepal as well.”

The Nepalese community is the fastest growing segment of the migrant population in Australia. They believed they had a cause and numbers to support their message, but would Government listen?

“The previous year, we’d heard that the Government was planning to cut aid. DFAT was very clear – they were considering cuts to every program in SE Asia,” says Ben.

“Alongside Nepali organisations, we put together a joint letter to the Foreign Minister and a public petition that was signed by hundreds of people, including International Nepal Fellowship supporters. We also organised a meeting with advisors to the Foreign Minister.”

The outcome? When the aid budget was released, there were only three countries that escaped deep cuts to programs. Nepal was among them.

“Of course we don’t know for sure it was the result of the campaign, but when communities raise their voices, governments do listen,” Ben says.

“They may still make decisions we don’t agree with, but living in a democracy means we have every opportunity to speak up.”

The outcome in 2020 encouraged INF and local Nepalese organisations in mid 2021 to request specific COVID aid for Nepal, as well as Australian Government support for a waiver of World Trade Organisation rules that prevented equitable development and distribution of COVID-19 treatments. 

Again, the community rallied to create a petition and conversations with Government reps. When additional aid was given to India, it was followed up with another 7 million for Nepal, as well as support for the waiver.

“That made a huge difference on the ground in Nepal,” Ben says.

“The money was channelled through the Australian Embassy in Nepal to local NGOs, among them International Nepal Fellowship who opened an additional oxygen plant to supply patients in Green Pastures Hospital. While negotiations on WTO rules continues, it was a very concrete win.”

Off the back of both campaigns, International Nepal Fellowship is once more advocating to the Australia Government. We’re asking that aid to Nepal, and to other global neighbours, be increased. 

Please help us by signing the petition here, and if you’re able, write to your local member to put your concerns on the agenda.