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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

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

A Biden presidency and US-Russia relations

Moscow’s muted reaction to Joe Biden’s election victory is unsurprising, and speaks volumes. The Kremlin is likely bracing itself for more confrontation with Washington, as US policy towards Russia hardens. That’s saying something. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and revelations

Japan-Australia: The chance to sweeten the deal

Typically, much of the initial foreign policy interest in a new (or slightly revised) Japanese government tends to look towards the United States – to consider the adjustments necessary to the alliance, to plan the first face-to-face meeting, to determine the nickname that will characterise

But what does “rules-based order” mean?

Although the “rules-based international order” is central to Australian strategy, what exactly this concept means remains a work very much in progress. For Australia to achieve its objectives for the order, it will have to get more specific. A hardy perennial The importance to Australia of

Diplomacy after Covid: No looking back

The 75th United Nations General Assembly held last month was unique. The media spectacle of leaders’ speeches gave way to resident diplomat introductions, pre-recorded video presentations, and videoconferences. For some, the unspectacular and even boring nature of the General Assembly’s high-

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

A dose of climate realism about China’s carbon pledge

In 2009 China was blamed for destroying the Copenhagen conference on climate change, leaving the world with no successor to the Kyoto Protocol. In 2015, along with France and the United States, its leadership helped make the Paris Agreement a reality. And in 2020, China is the first major greenhouse

The shrinking of the Australian mind

When one reflects on the high-minded schemes of Australian leaders past, the international objectives of contemporary governments seem rudimentary by comparison. Consider the shear boldness of Australia’s ambitions throughout the 20th century – Stanley Bruce’s plans to combat world hunger,

The limits of Zoom diplomacy in Asia

Say it quietly, lest the wrath of the pandemic gods be triggered. But the wheels of in-person diplomacy are starting to turn again across Asia. The smiling handshakes are gone, replaced by awkward elbow bumps and socially distanced photo opportunities. The negotiating tables have been moved further

A diplomatic breakdown over “snapback” tests the UN

After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the

Where next for MIKTA?

After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers

Hidden seams in the UAE-Israel deal

The main questions about the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a week ago are why did it happen and what will it change? It’s pretty clear what US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get out of the deal – both leaders

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