Monday 21 Jun 2021 | 06:54 | SYDNEY
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Aid & Development

The battle for Africa

In first overseas trip as US President, Joe Biden has flagged he intends to rally European allies in a critical “battle between democracies and autocracies”, and “make it clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight”. Biden is not the only one in the

Long-ago battle in Solomon Islands keeps claiming lives

Solomon Islands is littered with unexploded bombs, a legacy of the Second World War as the site of one of the fiercest battles between Japan and the United States in the Pacific. Much of the population across the islands still live with unknown quantities of explosive remains left behind from the

Australian aid: How low can it go?

In Australia’s budget last year, delayed until October responding to the unprecedented global health and economic crisis brought on by Covid-19, the Coalition government increased spending on foreign aid from $4 billion to $4.417 billion for the financial year 2020–21. The release this week of

Do Belt and Road projects provide local benefits?

In a virtual meeting with a group of African students in late April, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked a question, implicitly, about China: “Are they bringing their own workers with them, or are they giving jobs to people in the country where they’re making investments?” Blinken

Accountability is the path to better governance in PNG

When we look at progress in decentralisation in Papua New Guinea over the last 20 years – the sole continuous and overriding policy priority of successive governments – many challenges remain to improve downstream service delivery. Programming for “social accountability” shifts the focus

Has China given up on state-owned enterprise reform?

Outside observers have all but given up hope that China will engage in meaningful state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform. There is a pervasive sense that rather than shrinking SOEs, China’s leaders are committed to increasing their prominence within the economy. Foreign perceptions of Chinese SOEs

The Belt and Road, and the pandemic detour

Book review: Daniel Drache, A.T. Kingsmith and Duan Qi, One Road, Many Dreams: China’s Bold Plan to Remake the Global Economy (London, Bloomsbury, 2019). The economic fallout of the pandemic has been global, but not equal. If the often-necessary lockdowns have uniformly resulted in economic

Food security and Covid-19: Recognising women’s leadership

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” – this recognition was a central focus of the 1996 World Food Summit. Today, Covid-

What Biden means for Australia’s aid policy

Joe Biden has taken the mantle of US president at a critical time for international development – amid a resurgence in poverty, increasing geopolitical contestation, rapid technological and environmental change, and of course Covid-19.  The immediate priorities of the new administration will

Pacific development outlook for 2021

Pacific nations have mostly escaped the heavy death toll and hospital bed shortages faced by Western countries battling Covid-19, but the pandemic has dealt a disproportionately severe blow to the region’s economic ambitions. But with the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery in sight in China

Messages from China’s third white paper on foreign aid

In January, the Chinese government released its third white paper on foreign aid, entitled “China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era”. It is worth taking a closer look at the Chinese-language original, which is more detailed in content than the English-language version

Re-evaluating the military’s role in disaster response

Past global economic downturns have usually had a knock-on effect for military budgets, resulting in lower defence spending. After the global financial crisis led to the contraction of the world GDP in 2009, global military spending only recovered in 2015. With the World Bank predicting that the

Avoiding a “lost decade” in the Pacific

The horror year that has been 2020 is thankfully coming to an end with a dose of welcome optimism, now that vaccines are on the way. But the end is still far from within sight for many of Australia’s Pacific island neighbours. In a new Lowy Institute policy brief, we argue that the Pacific is

Jim Wolfensohn’s knowledge bank

Jim Wolfensohn, an Australian-turned-American who became president of the World Bank in 1995, was a mercurial character. His struggle to tackle the challenges of global development, relying on the weak reed of the World Bank, is a classic story of the heroic individual challenging global forces.&

The UK’s unwelcome foreign aid cut

The recent move to cut billions of pounds from the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget was long feared by advocates. As result, one minister has flagged her resignation, and others have made threats to cross the floor. The reduction of the UK’s aid spend from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national

Gauge-changing train is no game changer for China

Railways are a natural pillar of overland transport for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, given their large capacity. But there is an obstacle to getting direct services across the borders and into neighbouring countries: different rail gauges. With the exception of North Korea, which uses

China’s problematic lending comes home to roost

On 13 November, the finance ministers and central bankers of the G20 will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss action to help poor countries struggling to pay debts. A key issue will be getting China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, to play a more active role. The push by China’s&

A budget of skewed priorities

It’s been a few years since my once-regular annual budget analysis for the foreign affairs, defence and trade portfolio. But of course, this is not just any budget.  This is a big-spending budget to address the most significant national and international crisis of a century. Before the

PNG electrification: Spend on solar to help meet targets

The Maseratis are still collecting dust in sheds on a wharf in Port Moresby, but the sun has started to shine on at least one of the major deals Papua New Guinea gained from hosting the APEC Leaders Summit back in 2018. The PNG Electrification Partnership committed the leaders of Japan, the United

Timor-Leste’s youth leave or get left behind

A crowd of young Timorese standing in front of the Portuguese Embassy in Dili has become a familiar sight in recent years. They are hoping to acquire a Portuguese passport, which represents an opportunity for a shot at a better future in Europe. But why are these young people so eager to leave their

Evaluating aid in the Pacific

Each year, more than US $2 billion of foreign aid is invested in the Pacific Islands region, equivalent to roughly 8% of the region’s GDP. This aid comes in the form of thousands of projects from more than 60 donors. Information about these projects is often messy and opaque, with public

India puts relations with Japan back on the rails

Arguably the greatest, most visible and most impactful legacy of the British Raj in India is the train network that criss-crosses the country. So it perhaps comes as little surprise that India’s favourite regional friend is shoring up their relationship by investing heavily in, yes, more trains

Debunking the myth of China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”

Against the fear and distrust that increasingly characterise Australia’s relationship with China, the Belt and Road Initiative looms large. Australian politicians from both major parties rarely agree on much openly, but nearly all agree that China uses the BRI to achieve geopolitical goals. Many

A China-Iran bilateral deal: Costs all around

Rumors circling about an impending major partnership between China and Iran seem to be accurate. A leaked draft of the agreement published by the New York Times in July indicates that it would involve a deep economic partnership which would open the door for strategic action. Ample speculation about

World order in the time of coronavirus

The liberal order faces its greatest crisis since the end of the Cold War. Liberalism is in retreat around the world. The United States is led by a president whose America-first realpolitik contradicts the very idea of rules-based governance. Europe has seen the rise of “illiberal democracies”.

Submission to the UK Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry into the contribution of the FCO to the Integrated Review of UK foreign policy strategy

The UK government's ‘Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and development’, announced in February 2020, has been described as the largest foreign-policy review since the Cold War. The UK Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee is inquiring into the FCO’s contribution

The Beirut explosion and the plight of Syrian refugees

When you have the privilege of working in international relations, there are some experiences that stay with you for life. There are the places you go and the people you meet. Conversations that start at the roundtable, continue into dinner, and often go late into the night. At airports and hotels,

The way to post-Covid recovery in the Indo-Pacific? Act now

Australia plans to spend a lot more on defence to confront what Prime Minister Scott Morrison says will be “a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly”. A chorus of voices have responded that Australian foreign policy risks becoming unbalanced, with

The obstacles to Syrian aid

On Saturday last week, following weeks of lobbying by humanitarian agencies and difficult diplomatic negotiations, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for the UN and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria from across the Turkish border. The final

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