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Diplomacy

Australia is one of the most highly globalised nations on the planet and therefore extremely dependent on an effective and active diplomacy.  In a region undergoing rapid and transformational change, where shifting power balances are creating uncertainty about the existing regional order, Australia’s security and prosperity rely heavily on its international networks and relationships with both near neighbours and geographically-distant allies.

The Lowy Institute has conducted ground-breaking comparative research on Australia’s diplomacy and that of like-minded nations. It focuses on public diplomacy and Australia’s soft-power capabilities, leading-edge research on ediplomacy, consular affairs, international broadcasting, leadership, and resourcing of Australia’s international policy infrastructure and its overseas network. The Institute’s work has been instrumental in shaping a parliamentary enquiry into Australia’s diplomatic network,  providing independent, non-partisan policy options to steer Australia’s diplomatic future.

In 2016, the Lowy Institute released the Global Diplomacy Index, an interactive web tool which maps and ranks the diplomatic networks of all G20 and OECD nations. The interactive allows readers to visualise some of the most significant diplomatic networks in the world, see where nations are represented – by city, country, and type of diplomatic mission – and rank countries according to the size of their diplomatic network

AUKUS: France’s strategic outcry

Last week Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom announced a new security partnership (AUKUS) and, in the process, put an end to the Attack class submarine program negotiated by France and Australia in 2016. After calling the decision “a stab in the back”, French Foreign Minister

Beyond Fortress Australia

The reality of living in a pandemic has dawned on Australia. Covid cases at the time of writing are high and still climbing. The virus is here to stay. Equally clear is that ring-fencing the country from the world — the ‘Fortress Australia’ policy — is no longer viable

Australia and LGBTQI rights

Less than a month into his term, US President Joe Biden issued a Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) Persons around the World. Biden’s foreign policy focus on LGBTQI rights confirms that it is now time for Australia to step

Rules Based Audio (Episode 1): In Conversation with John Ikenberry

In an increasingly contested world, basic questions about how the world works, and how it should work, are being asked anew. In Rules Based Audio we will be posing those questions to some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners. This podcast series is part of the Lowy Institute’s Rules

Keeping PNG connected by investing in radio

News that Australia’s Telstra could be a buyer of the Pacific Island region’s prominent mobile network and media player Digicel has put communications technology in the spotlight. The Australian government is set to underwrite the deal which some reports suggest could be worth up to A$2 billion

Economic diplomacy: Going for gold in 20 years and counting

Silver medal winner Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week became the latest national leader to bank the immediate short-term political benefits from the projected long-term economic and soft power value of hosting the Olympic Games. Morrison declared after Brisbane won a competition against no

Far more world leaders visit China than America

In April, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga became the first foreign leader to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House. Suga’s trip marked the return of leader-level travel to Washington after the Covid-19 pandemic. Suga told reporters that his team was so excited to meet their

The changing face of Australia’s diplomatic network

“Pale, male, and stale” has been a consistent lament when looking at the roll call of ambassadors from most Western nations. There have been frequent calls to include more women, more people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Indigenous communities, and to avoid plum

Lowy Institute Diplomat Database

This Lowy Institute interactive uncovers the changing face of Australia's diplomatic network, tracking 47 years of Australian diplomatic appointments overseas. The data reveals the way issues such as political affiliation, gender, family background, and education have shaped Australia’s

Personality in foreign policy

Readers with long memories might recall the fleeting controversy about the time that a then freshly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stopped, propped and saluted a deeply unpopular US President George W. Bush during a grand global summit. It was a NATO meeting, April 2008, one of the early trips

Australia’s China politics heats up

After a long period of uber-bipartisanship in the handling of China relations, Labor has opened a clear line of attack on the Morrison government.   Last month, at the Canberra launch of Nine columnist Peter Hartcher’s new book, The Red Zone, shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong said

China overtakes America in presidential diplomacy

Joe Biden is about to fly to the United Kingdom on his first foreign visit as US President. Biden will attend the G7 summit in Cornwall from 11–13 June, head to Belgium for summits with NATO and the European Union on 14–15 June, then meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland the

PNG can’t turn a blind eye to the conflict next door

A video recently surfaced on social media in Papua New Guinea, featuring a group of about 20 men, gathered around their apparent leader, declaring war on Indonesia. “People of East Sepik,” the leader says, referring to one of the two provinces which stretch along PNG’s northern coastline

ASEAN’s huge gamble on Myanmar

It has been a month since the ASEAN Leaders met with Myanmar junta Leader Min Aung Hlaing on 24 April in Jakarta to discuss the situation in Myanmar. The meeting itself and the outcome of it – the Five-Point Consensus – has been applauded by some as a rare win for ASEAN, given its limitations in

A rare test of China diplomacy

The term “political science,” as many have observed, is somewhat of an oxymoron. Of all fields of scholarly pursuit, politics is comparatively ill-suited to the processes of the scientific method. Political systems and policies cannot exactly be isolated in a laboratory. The “data sets” of

Andrew Peacock’s Timor legacy

Since his death on 13 April, tributes to former Australian foreign minister and leader of the federal opposition Andrew Peacock have flowed from across the political divide. He has been remembered as a huge figure who left an “indelible” mark on Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. Former Liberal

Economic diplomacy: Patent politics and trade deal twists

Biden’s jab First it was new carbon emission cuts, and then a global minimum corporate tax. But it is hard to beat the Biden administration’s move to shaft the pharmaceutical industry lobby over vaccine patents for putting the US back at the heart of global public policy. The devil will be in

China’s climate pivot could reshape the economic future

Diplomacy is not always diplomatic. This fact of international life was on full display during the recent meeting of top US and Chinese diplomats in Alaska. It has also frequently characterised the long-running United Nations climate negotiations – often with the same protagonists. A Chinese

Indonesia raises ASEAN’s bar on Myanmar

For much of his presidency, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo has taken a mercantilist view of foreign policy, pushing the country’s diplomats to promote trade and investment while keeping their heads below the parapet on most thorny international issues. Indonesia’s inward-looking approach compounded

With Olympic snub, North Korea returns to isolation

North Korean sports officials announced last week that the country would not be sending athletes to the Tokyo Olympics due to Covid-19 concerns. The brief statement, buried at the bottom of a post on North Korea’s quaint Sports Ministry website, instantly flashed across news bulletins around the

When a middle power is not caught in the middle

South Korea is set on a policy course that seeks to balance its economic relations with China and its security relations with the United States. Aiming for such a balance is understandable. China accounts for around one quarter of South Korea’s merchandise exports, and a fifth of its commercial

North Korea and Malaysia’s predictable diplomatic divorce

Last Friday, North Korea severed diplomatic relations with Malaysia. In turn Malaysia gave the North Koreans 48 hours to leave the country. By Sunday, the North Korean embassy was empty. The Malaysians did not have to worry about their embassy in Pyongyang, as it was already informally shut down in

A new “concert” to govern the Indo-Pacific

The joint statement issued following the weekend meeting of the four “Quad” leaders was titled “The Spirit of the Quad”. This title could be read as either self-affirmation or self-praise. The Quad’s first summit of leaders was a somewhat informal affair, held virtually amid a global

Her brilliant career

Book review: Sue Boyd, Not Always Diplomatic: An Australian Woman’s Journey Through International Affairs (University of Western Australia Press, 2020) I first met Sue Boyd in Hanoi, where she was Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam. She was an intriguing figure, combining a razor-sharp

Terrorism and New Zealand’s dual citizenship conundrum

Last week, the issue of depriving an individual of their citizenship because of terrorist activity made headlines once again. An alleged Islamic State member, Suhayra Aden, had been detained by Turkish authorities crossing from Syria into Turkey and was being readied for deportation to New Zealand.

What happened to Australia’s “soft power”?

In October, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that it had discontinued its “Soft Power Review”, launched amid considerable fanfare in 2018 by then–foreign minister Julie Bishop with the stated aim of ensuring “Australia remains a persuasive force in our region

India, Canada and the new vaccine politics

The threat of wealthy countries hoarding vaccines for themselves and denying access to smaller and poorer countries has become the world’s primary cooperative concern. Yet how vaccine nationalism also attaches itself to pre-existing relationships between countries may become another part of this

Foreign policy’s “Indigenous moment” is here

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, the first Maori woman in that role, hit the ground running in her first few months in office. Not only did her appointment break barriers for Indigenous women in international affairs, she has also begun to outline a stunning example of what an

Beijing’s “Wolf Warriors” score own goals

When China came for their kimchi, South Koreans knew they had had enough. Over the past several weeks, China’s state-backed Global Times has turned its crosshairs on Korea’s beloved fermented cabbage dish, running a provocative series of pieces asserting a version of the dish from China’s

Australia-Indonesia relations need to talk the talk

This year has been one of great tumult at Australian universities. Not least are the nonsensical proposals to axe Indonesian language programs by several universities, such as La Trobe, Western Sydney University and Murdoch. Australian universities are closing the door of opportunity to the

Do politicians really make “excellent envoys”?

The Interpreter has kept its eyes on political appointees to Australia’s diplomatic posts. Daniel Flitton’s most recent piece ended with the observation that the government should better explain why politicians make “excellent envoys”. The government explanation is likely to be, in the most

More pollies in more posts

I suppose Will Hodgman has plenty of experience in charge of a small island state. Because otherwise it’s a bit of a puzzle why the former Liberal premier of Tasmania should be picked as Australia’s next High Commissioner in Singapore, as was announced this week. Labor was quick to brand

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