Australia should step up support to small island nations, says development expert

James Batley of the Australia National University (ANU) Development Policy Centre has suggested that development partners may have to step up migration access  from small island states. If Australia is to fulfill its claims to regional leadership, he argues, then it has a responsibility to work with the Pacific Island States of Nauru, Tuvalu, and Kiribati to help identify sustainable solutions for the future. All three nations face challenges of being small and far from other countries, which limit opportunities for their economic growth, for private investment, and for generation of government revenue. Insufficient transport and internet connectivity also impede development and growth. On top of this, climate change and overcrowding increasingly threaten the islands.

Blog post - ANU Development Policy Blog



Opposition spokeswoman criticises impact of budget cuts to development assistance on health in the region

In an article in The Australian, Senator Penny Wong, opposition spokeswoman on foreign affairs, has argued that cuts to Australia’s international development program under the Liberal National Party government have undermined Australia’s development cooperation. She said that health fell from 17% of the total development budget in the 2011-2012 period to slightly above 13% in the current budget. In response, Wong has called for health policy to be better integrated throughout Australia’s international development program. She wrote the article before the Australian government had announced details of its regional health security initiative, but in it she called for the initiative to put at its core three items:

  1. improve health of people in the  region;
  2. address the communicable health challenges in a disciplined, effective way; and
  3. balance Australia’s health security needs with the health priorities determined by Australia’s  neighbours.

Wong also said the initiative should provide support that meets the health needs and capacity of the people Australia is seeking to help; have autonomy to respond to health emergencies in partnership with recipient countries; be consistent in its funding and reporting structures for research; and provide opportunities of shared learning for both Australian and recipient country research and health workforces.

Newspaper article - The Australian


Australia Global health

Australia commits US$233 million to regional health security in Indo-Pacific

Australia has committed A$300 million (US$233 million) over five years on a range of measures to improve regional health security in the Indo-Pacific. This includes a commitment of up to US$58 million to product development partnerships (PDPs), as well as new measures to seek regional coordination on the approval of new drugs and devices in conjunction with Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Other initiatives involve additional training of staff in regional countries in the surveillance of, and response to, emerging pandemic diseases, and a new Health Security Corps, which places Australian health professionals in the region.  

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also moved to strengthen Australia's capacity to manage and respond to infectious diseases by establishing a new Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security within her Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Website - Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security

Australian development minister reiterates commitment to Pacific

The Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, gave a speech outlining Australia’s priorities for engagement with the Pacific region. Fierravanti-Wells stressed the importance of the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations, known as ‘PACER Plus’, which provides a regional framework for economic cooperation. She also repeated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement of a new Pacific Labor Scheme that will enable up to 2,000 low- and semi-skilled workers in the Pacific to access jobs in Australia.

According to her speech, the Australian government remains committed to increasing the role of women in government, business, and politics in the Pacific, where rates of participation are currently low. Other areas of focus include combatting disease, cyber-attacks, climate events, illegal fishing, transnational crime, and irregular immigration.

Press release - Australian Institute of International Affairs


Australian investments improve surveillance and data on emerging infectious diseases in the Pacific

The development office of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has completed an evaluation of Australia’s assistance to combat pandemics and emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) in Asia and the Pacific from 2006 to 2015. Worth A$194 million (US$145.8), Australia’s investments were found to have contributed to substantial improvements in surveillance and in the availability, timeliness, and sharing of EID data across the region. However, capacity to use this surveillance data for policy, planning, and response did not keep pace with its increased availability.

The evaluation presentation,  full report, and DFAT’s management response are available online.

News article - DevPolicy

Australian National University study finds no benefit of ‘tied’ development cooperation

A study done by the Australian National University's (ANU) Development Policy Centre on the long-run effects of foreign assistance on donor exports found no benefit to 'tying' assistance to Australian products and services. The study, which examined Australian exports to 17 Asian countries between 1980 and 2013, suggests that in the long-run, one dollar of Australian assistance increases Australian exports to the recipient by A$7.10 (US$5.3). It also finds that Official Development Assistance (ODA) from other OECD donors increases Australian exports. It concludes that untying Australian assistance in 2006 has not appeared to have reduced  impact on exports, suggesting that renewed calls to tie development financing are "at best, a distraction". 

Publication - Development Policy Centre


University of New South Wales study puts threat of antibiotic resistance into perspective

A study by the University of New South Wales has found that although antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has the potential to exacerbate  pandemics or seasonal influenza epidemics, the threat it poses should be kept in perspective. The authors found that AMR itself is not an epidemic condition, but poses the greatest risk during epidemics. 

The WHO recognises AMR is an increasing global concern; however, it does not feature among the leading causes of death and disability in the world.

News article - UNSW Sydney 

Australia launches women's leadership initiative in the Pacific

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched the Women’s Leadership Initiative, a five-year program to empower women and girls in the Pacific. At a cost of A$5.4 million (US$4.1 million), the program aims to help participants to fulfill their leadership potential and drive meaningful reforms in their communities. Women in the Pacific continue to be under-represented in leadership positions, and Minister Bishop emphasized that increasing gender equality in leadership and decision-making will in turn reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and enhance the well-being of women, girls, and their families.

Press release - Foreign Minister Julie Bishop


Australia leads initiatives on panel for global water security at UNGA

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop lead three initiatives at the High Level Panel on Water at the UNGA, highlighting Australia’s increased focus on water security. The initiatives include:

  • The World Water Data Initiative, which will ease access to water data for decision-makers
  • The Water Use Efficiency initiative, which will help developing countries effectively manage their water resources by providing policy guidance
  • The Water Innovation Engine, which will focus on innovation to improve access to water and hygiene

Furthermore, Australia’s Water for Women Fund, announced last year, will become operational in 2018. The program will invest A$110.6 million (US$82 million) over five years to deliver water, sanitation, and hygiene services, with a focus on women and girls.

Press release - Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Australia Global health R&D

Report presents strategy to manage economic risks in Asia

The Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank, published a paper recommending that Australia do more to manage the risk of financial crises in Asia. The report suggests that Australia increase its engagement with regional partners and institutions, and improve its capacity to step in to regional crisis responses. It proposes that Australia work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) in order to involve itself in more regional stability discussions, and cites the International Monetary Fund and G20 as other key institutions with which to cooperate.

Publication - The Lowy Institute