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This is a non-printable proof of an article published in Survival, vol. 50, no. 4 (August–September 2008), pp. 155–168.
The published version is available for subscribers or pay-per-view by clicking here or visiting: The California Consensus: Can
Private Aid End Global Poverty?
Raj M. Desai and Homi Kharas Foreign aid from private sources is changing the landscape for international
development assistance. Since 1998, international giving by US-based corporate and independent foundations has doubled, and they now contribute,
along with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities headquar- PROOF tered in the United States, over $30 billion to international causes annually.
The World Bank, in comparison, disburses about $20bn in loans, credits and
grants.1 Some have traced the beginning of the new era of global philanthropy to 1997, when cable-TV mogul Ted Turner pledged $1bn to the United
Nations – and challenged wealthy ‘skinflints’ to do likewise.2 Two years later
the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, poured $16.5bn into his foundation to
help pay for a campaign to improve health care for the world’s poor. Bill and
Melinda Gates have since pumped $31bn – over two-thirds of their current
net worth – into their foundation, making it the world’s largest. With Warren
Buffett’s promise to contribute an additional $31bn, the Gates Foundation
promises to become the largest, most rapidly growing foundation of all time.
This growth in private aid is being seen at all levels: community foundations are growing faster than ‘mega-charities’ such as the Gates, Ford and Raj M. Desai is Associate Professor of International Development at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign
Service at Georgetown University, and a visiting fellow at the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the
Brookings Institution. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank,
the United Nations Development Programme and other international organisations. Homi Kharas is a Senior
Fellow at the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution and a member of the Working
Group for the Commission on Growth and Development. He previously worked at the World Bank, serving
as Chief Economist for the East Asia and Pacific region, and as Director for Poverty Reduction and Economic
Management, Finance and Private Sector Development.
Survival | vol. 50 no. 4 | August–September 2008 | pp. 155–168 DOI 10.1080/00396330802328982 156 | Raj M. Desai and Homi Kharas Hewlett Foundations.3 Meanwhile, NGOs distribute more development
aid than the entire United Nations and multilateral system, excluding the
European Community. Large NGOs such as CARE, Oxfam, Médecins Sans
Frontières and Save the Children, each with annual budgets exceeding $500
million, now deliver essential services and public goods that poor-country
governments cannot. Over the next decade, this expansion in private giving
to international causes will continue.
Charitable organisations and philanthropies, of course, have long
found fertile soil in the United States. John Winthrop’s sermon ‘A Model
of Christian Charity’, best remembered for its invocation of the ‘city on a
hill’, argued that the wealthy had a holy duty to look after the poor. And
Alexis de Tocqueville commented in Democracy in America on the American
disposition to organise and join voluntary associations which, among other
things, provided relief to those in need. Modern philanthropy emerged PROOF between the 1880s and 1915 when multimillionaires sought practical ways
of disposing of their immense wealth. The cornerstone of charitable giving
– domestic and global – was Andrew Carnegie’s set of guidelines for ‘scientific philanthropy’: investigating the causes of poverty and influencing the
morals of the poor by personal involvement. Similarly, private giving for
international causes can trace its roots, primarily, to the United States, where
nineteenth- and early twentieth-century international charity was closely
tied to American missionary work around the globe. Both the Rockefeller
Foundation (1913) and Ford Foundation (1936), for example, had partnerships with religious missions in India among their first programmes in
developing countries.
Early twentieth-century global philanthropy focused primarily on health
and disease, including the eradication of yellow fever, the professionalisation and training of public health workers, and the spread of Western
medicine to non-Western lands. Post-Second World War philanthropy, on
the other hand, broadened to encompass educational needs, birth control,
maternal health and agriculture.
Private development aid may soon eclipse official aid, a development
that many of those disappointed with the spotty performance of such assistance would welcome: ‘Turn all foreign assistance over to the private sector’ The California Consensus: Can Private Aid End Global Poverty? | 157 trumpeted a Wall Street Journal article in July 2007.4 Development activists
(and an alliance of left-leaning NGOs, conservative groups, and other aid
critics) have long argued that the global ‘foreign aid’ regime is ineffective
– even harmful – and increasingly irrelevant given the needs of the poorest
around the world. These claims are supported to some extent by official-aid
statistics. Of the more than $100bn in official foreign aid disbursed by rich
countries to poor ones in 2005, over $60bn was used for debt relief, technical cooperation, emergency or humanitarian relief, and food aid. Of the
remaining $40bn directed at actual development projects and programmes,
perhaps half reached its intended beneficiaries, the rest being spent on
administrative costs, side payments to politicians or local elites in recipient
countries, or routine bribes to bureaucrats. In other words, only $20bn actually reached the poor. Of that, a mere $5–6bn was allocated for the poorest
continent, Africa.5 PROOF In response to such deficiencies, the global foreign-assistance regime is
rapidly changing. Traditional donors are splintering into many specialised
agencies. Some, like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, only select wellperforming countries. Others target their resources in places where they
determine the need is greatest. The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis,
and Malaria, for example, focuses its activities in those countries where the
burden of these diseases is heaviest. Countries like China, India, Venezuela,
Russia and Saudi Arabia are setting up their own foreign-aid programmes
with their own approaches to development cooperation.
Meanwhile, a new form of global philanthropy has emerged, exemplified by the Global Philanthropy Forum. Established in 2001, the forum
considers itself a ‘community of donors and social investors committed to
international causes’. More generally, it promotes a new philanthropy that is
increasingly global, aims to reduce poverty through flexible and innovative
initiatives, and sits at the intersection of the private and non-profit sectors.
It is also closely tied to the US information-technology sector – many of
the forum’s members derive their wealth from high-tech and IT ventures.
Thus, their initiatives largely reflect their experiences in starting companies and securing capital, customers and markets, and they are focused on
innovative, small-scale projects in which there is often significant donor 158 | Raj M. Desai and Homi Kharas involvement. Their approach – what has been called ‘venture philanthropy’,
‘philanthrocapitalism’ or ‘social entrepreneurship’ – emphasises the ‘scalability’ of innovative, small-scale projects (that is, the extent to which the
number of beneficiaries can be quickly expanded). In contrast to earlier
philanthropic approaches, the new global philanthropy has moved away
from programme-based grant-making to a more open, flexible architecture
in which donors are typically heavily involved in beneficiary projects. And
there is an emphasis on blurring the line between Private aid is less
susceptible to
‘leakage’ ‘non-profit’ and ‘for-profit’ approaches, as the new
philanthropists seek to invest in income-generating
activities. (a for-profit charity aiming to
address issues of global health, disease, poverty and
climate change) and the for-profit Omidyar Network
are prime examples. Rather than funding a medical PROOF clinic, for example, the new philanthropists invest in biotech companies
working on tropical diseases. Rather than fund the distribution of drugs,
the new philanthropists seek to invest in and create incentives for drug companies to operate in poor regions.
Many of these newer foundations, charities and non-profit organisations
have reached something of a consensus on their potential role in reducing
global poverty. Reflecting the Silicon Valley dot-com boom that created
much of the wealth of these new philanthropists, this ‘California consensus’
holds an abiding faith in the capacity of innovation, technology and modern
management methods to solve problems of extreme poverty. Indeed, the
strength of the new private-aid movement stems from the ‘power of many’,
the notion that the thousands of international NGOs, tens of thousands of
developing-country NGOs and hundreds of thousands of community-based
organisations in developing countries provide a network of knowledge and
resources that can be tapped in powerful new ways. Private aid is less susceptible to ‘leakage’ due to corruption and bribes, and because it usually
avoids governmental recipients and is transferred directly to front-line
NGOs and development projects, it avoids the thorny problems associated
with poorly functioning public sectors in developing countries. Smaller portions of private aid are spent on overhead and administrative costs, and The California Consensus: Can Private Aid End Global Poverty? | 159 on technical assistance and other purposes that typically fund contractors,
advisers and consultants in rich countries. How much private aid?
Most of the world’s charitable activity takes place in the domestic rather than
the international sphere. Out of 100,000 foundations worldwide, fewer than
1,000 conduct activities that affect developing nations. Moreover, although
the United States is by far the largest source of global private aid, only about
11% (18% when the Gates Foundation is included) of US foundations’ grantmaking has gone to international development, and most of that money has
been channelled through international institutions such as the International
Committee of the Red Cross or the World Health Organisation rather than
going directly to developing countries.6
Nevertheless, the amount of private aid dedicated to international devel- PROOF opment is rapidly growing. Estimates for the United States suggest a fourfold
increase in international giving in the 1990s, and, after a dip in 2002 following the stock-market crash, steady growth since. In 2005, private giving
from the United States to developing countries, excluding remittances, was
estimated at $33.5bn.7 Sources of American giving comprise foundations,
corporate donations, private voluntary organisations, NGOs, educational
scholarships and religious organisations (see Table 1). Moreover, this giving
is broad-based: some 65% of all households with annual incomes of less
than $100,000 contribute to international charitable causes.8
US philanthropic giving represents between 49 and 58% of the global
total annually.9 If US private international giving, excluding humanitarian aid and emergency relief, is about $21.4bn per year, then global
Table 1. Sources of US Private International Giving, 2005
Voluntary and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
Higher education
Religious organisations
Source: The Index of Global Philanthropy, Hudson Institute, 2007 US$bn
33.5 160 | Raj M. Desai and Homi Kharas US$bn
Technical cooperation 100 Administrative costs 80 Emergency and food aid
Debt relief
40 Development aid
Interest received 20
Official Aid Private Aid PROOF Figure 1. Breakdown of International Aid Spending, 2005 private giving for international development might total around $37–44bn
per year. However, not all of this is available for development projects.
In the United States, administrative overhead and fundraising consume
roughly 11% of NGO expenditures.10 Applying this percentage to all
private-aid organisations yields an estimate for private giving in the range
of $33–39bn per year. This is less than official aid from rich countries,
which totals $61bn, plus $6.7bn in new developing-country bilateral aid
programmes. But one-third of this ($23bn) pays for technical cooperation
and is not available for development projects and programmes. Moreover,
$6bn in bilateral funds is channelled through private NGOs, and when
these are counted, private service delivery may be as large as, or even
larger than, official aid in terms of the money actually reaching the poor.
Figure 1 shows that comparable amounts of official and private aid are
allocated for development work. It also shows that charitable organisations and NGOs have been generous in mobilising funds for emergency
operations. In the United States, humanitarian aid and relief work is estimated to represent 36% of total private assistance, much more than is the
case for official aid.11 The California Consensus: Can Private Aid End Global Poverty? | 161 The destination of private aid is more difficult to assess, but general trends
suggest a focus on Africa and Asia. Among prominent international NGOs
and US foundations, Africa and Asia are clear areas of intense activity. But
US-based organisations give Latin America nearly twice the attention Africa
receives, suggesting a propensity to send aid to projects closer to home in
geographic, cultural and religious terms.12 How effective is private aid?
The ‘California consensus’ view is that private aid is more effective than
official development assistance for numerous reasons. Freed from the
complex decision-making structures of official aid agencies and the sensitivities of maintaining bilateral relationships, international philanthropies
are assumed to be cost-effective, nimble institutions that adapt well to
local environments.13 Overhead costs are lower: foundations and chari- PROOF table organisations typically lack a (costly) network of field offices with
international staff, and instead tend to rely on local staff and partnerships
with frontline NGOs. NGOs, in turn, find their public image is bolstered
by keeping overhead costs low.14 Very little private-aid money is funnelled
back to consultants and contractors in rich countries, leaving more for beneficiaries in developing countries. And while official donor allocations are
influenced by, among other things, political coalitions, policy concerns and
colonial ties, NGO allocations are assumed to be influenced by need. Finally,
because international philanthropy does not fund public sectors in recipient
countries, NGO resources are said to suffer from less leakage (in the form of
bribes and other transfers to public officials) than official aid.
There are certainly reasons to believe that private aid is more cost effective, and that larger portions of private aid than official aid actually reach
the poor. But in contrast to the extensive evaluation of official-aid effectiveness, there is very little evidence for or against the argument that private
aid is more cost efficient. To be sure, self-evaluations of NGOs are overwhelmingly positive, but these are rarely conducted according to accepted
standards of reliable evaluation. NGOs raise billions of dollars each year
from individuals, private- and public-sector donors, and charitable foundations, but there are no commonly accepted benchmarks for evaluating the 162 | Raj M. Desai and Homi Kharas effectiveness of NGOs in their stated missions, and NGOs are not subject to
the same standards of budgetary and governance oversight as official aid
Of the thousand or so NGOs operating internationally,15 a tiny portion
has been evaluated. The available evidence is mixed. One study of several
European NGOs found that NGO aid per capita had a limited effect on
infant mortality and female illiteracy in recipient countries.16 An examination of Swedish NGOs found that the selection of potential PROOF The history
of charitable
giving is
replete with
scandals recipients was less affected by policy considerations than
was the case with official aid, but that the funds did not outperform official Swedish aid.17 A study of leading NGOs
from the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and the United
States concluded that NGOs tend to cluster in ‘favourite’
recipients, allowing them to take advantage of networks of
other NGOs and aid workers.18 Thus, NGOs complement
official aid, concentrating their efforts in the same countries
as official donors. This means, however, that NGOs and official donors often make similar allocation decisions; it also means that
NGOs are able to spread the blame for failure among many partners.
Some sceptics of private development aid believe that aid allocation is
influenced by considerations unrelated to the needs of the poor in recipient countries. In particular, they assert that increased competition among
NGOs for funding has prompted these groups to capitalise on the misery
of the world’s poor in order to perpetuate and fund themselves. As a result,
NGOs hop from crisis to crisis, forever seeking the next development cause
or humanitarian disaster that will draw funding. A study of NGOs, however,
found no evidence of ‘faddishness’ in aid allocations.19
While there are reasons to believe that NGOs may be less vulnerable to
corruption, some notes of caution are necessary. First, the history of charitable giving is replete with scandals involving misappropriation of funds and
theft. High-profile incidents include the misuse of children’s-aid funds by
US-based groups in the late 1990s, the American Red Cross’s use of donations in response to the 11 September attacks for other causes, and a series of
questionable land deals by the Washington DC-based Nature Conservancy The California Consensus: Can Private Aid End Global Poverty? | 163 in 2003. A study by Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit
Organizations listed 152 incidents of misconduct by US non-profits between
1995 and 2002, including 104 cases of criminal activity.20 These may be no
more alarming than recent cases of corporate wrongdoing, but as NGOs
operate more and more like businesses, there will inevitably be a greater
need for tighter rules and enforcement.
Second, many high-profile NGOs are now closely involved with managing official aid programmes and may be susceptible to the same sorts of
pressures that traditional implementing agencies face, including the temptation to adopt corrupt practices to speed up implementation. Between 1990
and 2005, official aid grants and funds channelled through NGOs more than
tripled, rising from $1.7bn to $5.4bn in constant 2005 dollars. Programmes
executed by NGOs now constitute between 5 and 6% of total official development aid, up from 2% in 1990.21 PROOF Third, unlike official aid agencies, which have the backing of recipient
governments, NGOs often find themselves at odds with the governments
of countries in which they work. Governments may deny them access to
those in need; officials or warlords may demand payoffs; and local violence
may threaten the safety of field personnel. This kind of harassment, unfortunately, is often a way of life for NGO workers. In extreme cases, recipient
governments see NGOs as Trojan horses for Western governments. When
international aid workers die in the field, it is more likely to be from intentional violence than from any other cause, including illness and vehicle
accidents. In the vast majority of cases, aid workers have been deliberately
Moreover, accountability with respect to private aid raises a host of additional difficulties. Global regulation is mixed at best. The United States and
United Kingdom have fairly rigorous reporting requirements for charitable organisations, but in many other countries there is virtually no control.
While many large NGOs have strong internal rules, NGOs as a class are
generally much less transparent than either business or government.23 Large
and small NGOs, the beneficiaries of their activities, and their donors are
increasingly aware of the importance of ensuring that the work of international charities is transparent and subject to oversight. But in practice 164 | Raj M. Desai and Homi Kharas even those who think that NGOs should be accountable cannot agree on
how to accomplish that goal. Should donors or recipients judge success?
Should achievement be measured by those within the organisation or by an
independent watchdog? And what exactly should be measured: short-term
improvements or harder-to-assess long-term investments?
Another criticism is that NGOs are too small and fragmented to make a
real difference on a large scale. By this argument, private aid organisations
can alleviate the worst forms of poverty by providing ‘band-aid’ assistance,
but this does not mean they are effective in attacking the root causes of
poverty that are often to be found in the ineffective – or downright harmful
– operations of the public sector in poor countries.24
Finally, private aid can exacerbate the growing fragmentation and volatility
that characterise the international-aid architecture. The costs of fragmentation and volatility are well known: multiple donors will make requests for PROOF studies and for individual meetings with country officials; these donors will
establish separate project-management units and multiple procurement practices for the same products; and they will be unable to coordinate to identify
and propagate best practices. With the multiplicity of groups now involved
in the delivery of aid, and especially as amounts increase, it is common for
aid recipients to see high volatility in their year-to-year disbursements. This
translates into large swings in a recipient’s domestic expenditures, especially
recurrent spending which is difficult to adjust. Breaking the official aid cartel
If the new milieu of international aid is fragmented and volatile, it is also
one in which private aid will continue to represent an ever-larger share of
total assistance. With traditional multilateral and rich-country bilateral aid
agencies still expanding, developing-country aid agencies proliferating, and
private aid from large and small foundations (and individuals) growing all
the time, ‘harmonisation’ will be harder to achieve. Recipients who once
faced a choice between loans and grants now have a vast repertoire of
instruments from which to choose. Under these conditions, how can the
growth in private aid improve the overall architecture for assistance to poor
countries? The California Consensus: Can Private Aid End Global Poverty? | 165 A competitive market for aid – in which experimental and innovative
ideas are matched with donors – has historically faced several obstacles.
Official aid to most places has typically been determined by political alliances, geopolitical considerations and national security rather than need.
For many years, private aid was too small to make a difference. Accurate
information about donor performance was often difficult to come by, preventing recipients from making informed choices. And the
lack of rigorous evaluation prevented donors from understanding the prospects for success and failure of different
The oligopoly that characterises official aid can be broken
only by its regulators: the political powers that govern their
boards. The governance structure of most official aid agencies encourages them to harmonise activities, diffusing PROOF accountability. As is often the case with oligopolies, ‘buyers’ Competition
should be
embraced by
official aid
agencies (recipients seeking help) are usually forced to deal exclusively with a particular official bureaucracy on matters of project design,
appraisal and evaluation, and are prevented from getting second opinions
from non-official sources.25 Instead, competition should be embraced by
official aid agencies. They should be encouraged to be transparent about
the costs of their programmes and open to contracting with those who can
provide the same poverty-reduction services for less.
Also, the focus of private donors must shift to programmes that can be
replicated and enlarged. Traditional donors have long claimed that they can
‘scale up’ programmes more effectively than private-aid suppliers, but this
is because they have been entrusted with far more resources. The availability
of resources would be less of a...
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aidreview chapter 5,6 ,7.pdf
Independent Review of
Aid Effectiveness
April 2011 Independent Review of
Aid Effectiveness
April 2011 © Commonwealth of Australia 2011
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968,
no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the
Commonwealth. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be
addressed to the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney General’s Department,
Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
or posted at
This document is online at
Cover photos courtesy of AusAID and Australian Federal Police. ii Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness iii iv Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness Contents
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT 303 Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness v Part 5—THE WAY AHEAD 311 vi Chapter 18: THE STEPS AND HURDLES TO 2015–16
On 16 November 2010, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP,
announced the Australian government had commissioned an independent review of the
Australian aid program.
The Review Panel consisted of: Sandy Hollway AO (Chair), Professor Stephen Howes,
Hon Margaret Reid AO, Bill Farmer AO and John WH Denton.
The purpose of the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness is to thoroughly examine the aid
program, determine whether the program’s current systems, policies and procedures are as
effective and efficient as they can be, and give advice on how to make the program more
strategic over the next five years and beyond. The Review’s Terms of Reference are in Annex A.
Given the bipartisan commitment that expenditure on aid should reach 0.5 per cent of Gross
National Income by 2015–16, this Review is timely. Australians need to feel confident that the
aid program is achieving its purpose and to know that the increased funding is improving the
lives of the poor.
This Review has therefore been a forward–looking exercise. The Review Panel has moved beyond
an assessment of current aid effectiveness to propose a vision of what the aid program should
achieve and provide guidance on the steps needed to realise this vision.
The Review Panel has not found it necessary to recommend a ‘root and branch’ change to the
aid program. Instead, the Panel has made proposals that build on what is already a good
program. The main challenges relate to the rapid growth of the program, which is achievable
without a sacrifice in quality, but only if a methodical program of improvement and change
is pursued over the next five years. B. STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT
The Report is structured around the Terms of Reference for the Review. It includes analysis,
findings and recommendations on the following:
• concepts of aid and development
• contemporary international thinking on what makes aid effective
• the aid program as it currently stands and its effectiveness
• political, economic and social trends likely to shape aid and development to 2015
and beyond
• vision and objectives of the future program
• geographical and sectoral priorities for the program
• partnerships and delivery of the program Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness vii • aid allocations – the shape of the future program
• governance, leadership and management
• managing risk
• measuring success
• enhancing transparency, scrutiny and community engagement
• the steps and hurdles for moving to an effective program in 2015–16 and beyond.
The Review Panel’s main recommendations are contained in the Executive Summary and
Key Recommendations. That summary confines itself to a relatively short number of the most
important recommendations, in order to assist government in preparing its strategy for the
scaling up of the aid program. The Report as a whole contains many other ideas and
proposals on specific matters which the Review Panel hopes will be helpful in moving the
aid program forward. C. METHOD OF THE REVIEW The Review Panel drew on extensive evidence to develop its findings, as outlined below:
• Public submissions. Approximately 300 submissions were received from a wide cross–section
of individuals and organisations, both in Australia and overseas. The list of those who made a
submission are in Annex B.
• Consultations. The Review Panel met with non–government organisations (NGOs), business
groups, think tanks and statutory bodies.
• Australian government. Australia’s aid agency (AusAID), central agencies within the
Australian government, and other departments and agencies involved in the delivery of aid,
were actively consulted.
• Parliamentarians. Meetings with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Shadow Minister for
Foreign Affairs and other Members of Parliament were held. Australian Parliamentarians who
are members of the United Nations and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Parliamentary Associations, and the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
were consulted.
• AusAID staff. Opinions were sought in a variety of ways.
• International discussions. The Review Panel travelled overseas (to Afghanistan, Africa,
Bangladesh, Europe, Indonesia, PNG, Vanuatu and the United States) to meet with
governments, civil society, multilateral donors and think tanks.
• Commissioned studies. The Review Panel commissioned studies to inform its work on the
following topics:
a. the effectiveness of Australia’s aid program to Indonesia
b. the effectiveness of Australia’s aid program to Africa
c. how the aid program can more effectively engage with multilateral organisations
d. how the aid program can more effectively engage with the private sector viii Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness e. what lessons can be learnt from the experience of other donors in scaling up
their programs
f. findings from independent reviews of AusAID activities over the past three years
g. an analysis of the political, economic and social trends that are likely to shape the
development context in 2015–201.
• Stocktake of other recent evaluations. In recent years, a number of evaluations and reviews of
the aid program have been conducted. An analysis of these documents was completed,
including the 2009 audit by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and the 2008
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance
Committee (OECD DAC) Peer Review.
• Online media. The Review Panel commissioned two blogs in order to generate debate about
the Review and the aid program more generally: the Interpreting the Aid Review blog (hosted
by the Lowy Institute for International Policy) and the blog (hosted by the
Australian Development Gateway).
• Academic conference. A one–day conference on Doubling Australian Aid was hosted by the
Australian National University and attended by more than 200 participants, including
Review Panel members. Many of Australia’s leading aid researchers and aid practitioners
were involved.
• Disability Leaders Forum. AusAID convened this high–level forum on disability and
development, in which the Review Panel participated.
• Academic literature. The Review Panel considered the latest international research on aid
and development.
The Review Panel was proud to take part in this process and hopes that this Review will help the
Australian government continue to strengthen the way it delivers aid for the world’s poor as it
scales up the program to 2015. 1 These Studies are available at: and Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness ix x Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness Executive Summary and Key Recommendations Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness 1 2 Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND
In one of the earliest consultations conducted by the Review Panel, the Minister for Foreign
Affairs said that he wanted Australia to have an aid program of which Australians would
be proud.
The Review Panel agrees that this is a good way of looking at the goal of aid effectiveness,
because it captures two essential points. In the first place, an effective Australian aid program
must be sustainable over the long term, and this means that it must be firmly founded on a
public consensus. In the second place, aid is not just about efficient delivery of services to
clients. It is an expression of human values. It is about helping people living in deplorable
conditions to overcome poverty.
Australians are generous supporters of this cause. Each year the Australian people contribute
$800 million to NGOs for aid work. Australia has some of the most active NGOs in the field and
many Australians also volunteer their time and skills overseas. Additionally, on behalf of the
people, the government provides $4 billion a year, and runs a substantial aid operation around
the world.
The other side of this coin is that Australians want their contribution to be effective. They want
to know that there is value for money; that it is having a real impact on the lives of people.
In aid, performance needs to be judged against degree of difficulty. Australia is seeking to get
results in difficult and sometimes dangerous countries overseas, in a wide range of areas from
health and education to humanitarian support in emergencies, and grappling with multiple
methods of delivery. By the standards of donors generally, Australia is an effective performer.
Moreover, to the credit of the people running the program, the Review Panel found when it came
to its task that improvement was already underway. This is a strength.
But there are problems and, if these are not addressed, they will become more serious as
Australia’s aid operation, already under strain, comes under the increased pressure of ramping
up over the next five years to achieve the target of 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI).
They range from lack of a unified sense of strategic purpose across government, through the
need to reform the government’s budget processes, to the dangers of fragmentation and
stretching the program too thin, to the need for greater public involvement and transparency.
The challenge is not, of course, simply to spend the money. There is assuredly enough poverty.
The challenge is to spend effectively. The recommendations of the Review Panel are designed to
suggest the characteristics of – and the preconditions for achieving – the aid program to which
Australia should aspire in 2015–16, if the Australian people are to have confidence in its
The Review Panel makes 39 key recommendations that are outlined in the Executive Summary.
These recommendations are elaborated in detail in the main body of the Report. Beyond the
main recommendations, further recommendations, proposals and suggestions are made
throughout the Report. Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness 3 1. CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL THINKING ON DEVELOPMENT
By most measures the world has seen unprecedented developmental success over the past
15 years. Contrary, perhaps, to popular belief, this is not just because of China’s remarkable
growth, but because of progress in Africa and elsewhere. A lower proportion of the world’s
population now live in poverty than at any time in history.
Despite successes, development challenges remain acute. More than 1 billion people live on less
than US$1.25 a day, the most commonly used measure of poverty. This is a level of destitution
almost unimaginable in Australia. Progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs), the internationally recognised benchmark of development progress, has been mixed.
There have been important changes to the aid environment in the past decade.
The total volume of aid has grown dramatically, driven by: large increases in aid from traditional
donors (basically the Western industrialised countries); the emergence of new non–government
donors (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and global funds (for example the Global
Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria); and the rapid growth in aid from
non–traditional donors such as China and Brazil.
The geographical concentration of the world’s poor is now in Africa and South Asia. The bulk of
the world’s poor also now reside in ‘middle–income’ countries such as Indonesia, which remain
very poor by Australian standards. The average annual income of an Indonesian is less than
one–twentieth of an Australian’s average income, and more than 35 million Indonesians live on
less than US$1.25 a day.
Aid can play an important role in promoting development. Aid can specifically target the poor,
help to stabilise fragile states, promote innovation and help to tackle global challenges. But the
role of aid must be kept in context. For most countries, in most times, it is their own policies and
practices that are far more important than aid in determining whether or not they succeed.
Many factors determine the effectiveness of aid. They can be grouped into three main categories
– the capabilities of the recipient country, the performance of the donor country, and the quality
of the relationship between the two. In recent years, across this spectrum, a clear international
agenda for aid effectiveness has emerged.
This agenda focuses on selectivity of efforts, effective partnerships, a focus on results,
promoting feedback, the need for transparency, and coordination across the whole–of–
government. This international aid effectiveness agenda informs many of the findings and
recommendations in the Report. 2. AUSTRALIA’S AID PROGRAM
A central feature of Australia’s aid program is the rapid growth underway in the aid budget.
In 2010–11, this stands at approximately $4.3 billion, or 0.33 per cent of GNI. This represents a
doubling of Australian aid over the past five years in absolute dollar terms. The government’s
commitment to reach 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015–16 will, subject to future levels of economic
growth, see the aid budget almost double again, to around $8 billion. 4 Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) manages about 85 to 90 per cent
of Australia’s aid program. The remainder is delivered through other Australian government
departments and agencies.
Like most Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) donors, the
Australian government is committed to the MDGs as the agreed international development
targets. Australia is also a signatory to both the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the
Accra Agenda for Action, which focus on improving coordination of donor effort and aligning
donor programs with recipient government priorities.
Geography has a very significant bearing on Australia’s aid program. Two–thirds of Australia’s aid
goes to the Asia–Pacific region (East Asia, PNG and the Pacific). Australia’s two closest
neighbours, Indonesia and PNG, are the two largest aid recipients. The OECD has recognised
this geographic focus as a major strength.
A high proportion of Australia’s aid program is delivered in countries classified as ‘fragile states’,
largely in the Asia–Pacific region, but also beyond, such as Afghanistan. In 2010–11, over
50 per cent of Australia’s bilateral and regional aid will be spent in fragile states, higher than
any OECD donor except the United States.
Although the Asia–Pacific region remains at the centre of Australia’s aid program, the doubling
of the aid budget over the past five years has seen significant geographic expansion. Programs in
South Asia, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, have risen sharply, as has country program
aid to Africa. New programs have been established in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In terms of sectors, since 2005 there has been a gradual decline in the proportion of the
program spent on governance. Governance has been given high priority because of the
importance to development of sound institutions and government processes, but results have not
always been commensurate with spending levels. There have been gradual increases since 2005
in the proportions spent on infrastructure, health, education, rural development and the
environment. Together, these five sectors, along with governance and humanitarian spending,
dominate the Australian aid program. 3. THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE CURRENT AUSTRALIAN
Australia already has a good aid program – improvable but good. It is, however, a program under
administrative stress and this will increase as it moves up the steep trajectory to 0.5 per cent of
GNI by 2015–16.
The Review Panel has made findings on 10 key issues that determine effectiveness and inform
the recommendations made in the Report:
• The aid program lacks a clear and comprehensive overall strategy. This risks a scattered effort
and makes an assessment of effectiveness difficult.
• The aid program is fragmented. In 88 countries Australia has aid programs of more than
$200,000 a year, compared to 69 countries five years ago. The number of projects has
doubled. These trends are unsustainable. Consolidation is a recurring theme of the Report.
It will require a sustained effort to tighten political and bureaucratic discipline. Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness 5 • AusAID has greatly strengthened its performance management system in the recent past,
but an important gap is the absence of a single, easily comprehensible scorecard on the
effectiveness of the Australian aid program as a whole. The system of independent
evaluations is not working well and requires reform.
• One of the most striking changes over the past five years has been the dramatic rise in the
proportion of the program going through multilateral, NGO and government partners. In
2005, over 40 per cent of aid from AusAID was spent through contractors; now it is just over
20 per cent. In several respects this shift has been highly successful, but there is scope to
make better use of existing partnerships and include new partners, particularly the private
sector and community groups.
• A wide range of government agencies are involved in delivering aid. Other government
departments bring a variety of strengths and skills. More emphasis needs to be given to
whole–of–government coordination and performance management.
• There are significant shortcomings with the current budget process. It does not have a
whole–of–ODA approach, and has led to fragmentation, inadequate overall scrutiny and an
imbalance between the crucial spine of predictability which is needed for multiyear aid
projects, on the one hand, and the need for flexibility to respond to unpredictable events on
the other.
• A process is already underway to strengthen the management of aid. This is heading in the
right direction but management challenges are becoming increasingly pressing. There is too
much paperwork, leading to lengthy processing times. The recruitment, learning and
development required to scale up the aid program is a very substantial task. Resolving these
problems requires a determined program of change management and a more selective and
focused aid program.
• Delivering complicated aid programs in difficult, often corrupt and sometimes fragile
countries around the world inherently involves risk. This comes in various forms. AusAID has
strong systems for the prevention and detection of fraud. The adviser remuneration review
and procurement review are potentially positive steps in improving economy and efficiency.
Risks around fraud and efficiency are important, but a third risk to value for money is
development ineffectiveness. This is the risk that inputs will be delivered but few if any
outputs and/or outcomes achieved. Development ineffectiveness carries a lower political
cost than fraud, but is actually the greatest risk for the taxpayer. Many of the core
recommendations of the Report are addressed to this challenge of improving development
• The aid program has taken significant steps to improve transparency but release of
documents and data is not yet always standard practice.
• The government does not have an effective communications strategy for the aid program.
Fostering more informed public debate about and more community engagement with the
program is healthy and appropriate.
It is important to note at the outset that AusAID is alert to many of these issues and is acting on
them. The most senior inter–agency committee of officials with oversight of the total Australian
government aid program – the Development Effectiveness Steering Committee (DESC) – is also
focused on the need for improvements in the management of Australian aid. 6 Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness But the Review Panel believes reform must be taken further and continue to be driven hard.
Continued ministerial interest in, and leadership of, reforms to improve the effectiveness of the
To achieve an effective aid program, Australia needs to understand current trends and emerging
challenges to prepare for the future.
Spreading and sustaining economic growth will be an important challenge. The world is
becoming increasingly interconnected: markets are expanding; mobility of people, resources,
finance and ideas is increasing; business is becoming even more international in nature; and
developing countries are adopting more market–friendly policies which give the private sector
greater scope. These are positive trends, but their continuation cannot be taken for granted.
Countries which are now experiencing growth will want more, not less, assistance to consolidate
the start they have made and build on it.
Just as important as sustaining growth will be expanding the opportunities for people within
countries who are disengaged from growth to participate in its benefits. An important role for aid
is to help to dismantle barriers that stand in the way.
Gender barriers are among the most important which need to be broken down. Gender will
remain a key priority for aid, with increased focus on areas where disparities are the greatest,
including economic and political opportunities for women, and protection from violence.
This will be especially important in the Pacific, where Australia is a major player and gender
disparities are among the worst in the world.
Food insecurity and water shortages are growing risks, where Australia should be able to
share expertise and experience. Other mounting risks to development where Australian aid will
need to respond include climate change, disaster preparedness and response, and
transboundary threats.
Australia will continue to be called on to assist with stabilising fragile and conflict–prone states.
In the Pacific, it is likely that Australia would again be required to take a lead role if a crisis
emerges, as was the case in East Timor and Solomon Islands. Further afield, Australia will
need to contribute to international efforts, including possibly in conflict zones, as in Afghanistan
and Iraq.
Australia will be able to use its growing aid budget (which will see Australia become one of the
top 10 donor countries in the world), the significantly increased core funding to multilateral
organisations which the Review Panel proposes, and its membership of key institutions including
the G20, to push for a higher profile for development issues. Given the ongoing importance of
the multilateral system, but also its variable performance, an enhanced engagement, with
greater financial support for the better performing multilateral organisations, will be the best way
to leverage reform. Independent Review o...
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Australian aid .pdf
3. Australia’s Foreign Aid
to Latin America
John Minns Introduction
The chapter outlines the background to the Latin America Program’s launch by
the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID),1 which manages
the bulk of official development assistance (ODA) to the region. It also provides an
overview of the Program’s current and proposed activities. It reviews the current
approach in the contexts of operation, especially focusing on the necessity
for effective partnerships. It considers briefly a number of different forms of
collaborative work, including trilateral engagements (i.e., third country delivery
via channelling of funds through regional governments) and partnering with other
donors, including the New Zealand Aid Programme; The United States Agency
for International Development (USAID); the Canadian International Development
Agency (CIDA); and the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ).
Based on this investigation, it posits that a single issue should be championed
in place of a widespread range of efforts. Reflecting on the region’s specific
needs, as well as lessons gleaned from review of the work of other actors, and
finally considering Australia’s comparative advantage, capabilities and national
interests, the chapter suggests that the key focal point for the Program should be
natural resource governance. Given this, it seeks to offer some brief pragmatic
programming and policy advice in terms of modalities for delivery. The intention
is to minimise the changes required to achieve this focusing of efforts, thereby
avoiding time- and resource-consuming restructuring efforts.
The key purpose here is to provide consumable and pragmatic policy advice
to decision-makers, bearing in mind the constraints within which they
operate. While it pays tribute to much broader debates about aid and general
international interactions, it does not seek to engage deeply in these. It is the
hope of the author that the advice provided here might lead to more coherent
strategy and activity in order to maximise this unique engagement in the Latin
American region.
1  At the time of publication, new arrangements in the Australian government are being implemented to
bring AusAID into DFAT, thereby removing its status as a separate agency. Recommendations later in this
chapter for AusAID refer to the agencies functions and should be read as applicable to the area within DFAT
that ultimately takes charge of Australia’s aid program to Latin America.
57 Australia and Latin America Overview of aid context and AusAID’s Latin
America Program
Although under-publicised, in 2011–12 Australia was to provide some
$A27.2 million in official development assistance (ODA) to the Latin American
region.2 This was largely managed by the Australian Agency for International
Development (AusAID).3 This is a significant increase from $A9.2 million in
2010–11—which comprised some $A5 million to Chile post-earthquake and
$A0.5 million to Guatemala in humanitarian relief 4—and $A2.1 million in the
previous year (2009–10).5
Nonetheless, the 2012 sum is dwarfed by the overall increase in Australian aid
from $A4,362 million in 2010–11 to $A4,836 million in 2011–12. This increase
constitutes a scaling-up of the aid budget from 0.33 per cent to 0.35 per cent
of gross national income (GNI). This was again proposed to almost double
by 2015–16, with ODA forecast at that time to reach $A8–9 billion.6 This
increase was in line with Australian bipartisan commitment to the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs), which sets an aspirational goal for donors to
increase their overseas aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI by the end of the 2015–16
MDG deadline.7 Although the announced rise in aid was put on hold by the
2013 Federal Budget, it is nonetheless a significant increase by Australian
historical and international standards.
As a proportion of the aid budget as a whole the commitment to Latin America
is small, at well under one per cent of Australia’s total ODA. Nonetheless, it
constitutes a significant and unprecedented movement into the region. This is
the first time in its history that the Australian aid program has featured a Latin
American Program.
2  Australian Agency for International Development, the (AusAID), Informal consultations with Latin America
(LA) Program staff members eliciting ‘open source’ (public) information, (May 2011). Defined as the 17 Spanish
or Portuguese-speaking countries located in the Central or South America regions, excluding Caribbean states
and CARICOM members. Namely: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela.
3  Rudd, Kevin, ‘Australia’s International Development Assistance Program 2011–12: An Effective Aid Plan
for Australia: Reducing Poverty, Saving Lives and Advancing Australia’s National Interest—Statement by the
Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs 10 May 2011’, Budget 2011–12. Australian Government,,
accessed 23 May 2011, p. 116.
4  Ibid. The $5 million to Chile was provided for emergency relief and reconstruction following the
earthquake and tsunami in February 2010; the $0.5 million to Guatemala was for humanitarian assistance in
the wake of the eruption of Pacaya and tropical storm Agatha.
5  Australian Agency for International Development, the (AusAID), Caribbean and Latin America Program
overview, 2011:
6 Rudd, op. cit., note 3, p. iv.
7  Steven Smith, ‘Budget 2009–10: Policy Statement on Australia’s International Development Assistance’,
58 3. Australia’s Foreign Aid to Latin America Given this substantial shift, what appears to be a general downplaying of the
activity is at first confusing. For instance, reference to the Program is tucked
away in the AusAID Annual Report 2010–11 within the indexed chapter
ODA—Africa, South and Central Asia, Middle East and Other. Moreover, even
mention of ‘Other’, under which the Program is ambiguously relegated, drops
off in the referencing throughout the report to read: Africa, South and Central
Asia and Middle East.8 There is no mention at all in the Budget Highlights of
the program’s inception.
Australia’s discreet camouflaging of this aid provision to Latin America is
best explained as a means by which to dodge criticism. Public comments
gathered by the Lowy institute—which has been managing the ‘interpreting
the aid review’ blog for the recently completed Independent Review of Aid
Effectiveness9—indicate that the Australian aid community, comprising
individuals, organisations and institutes engaged in aid delivery work, is
critical of Australian aid directed beyond the traditional geographic scope of
the Asia-Pacific region.10
Criticisms levelled at the Program can largely be grouped into three clusters. The
first relates to the reasons for entry into the region, especially those motivations
of aid delivery which are tainted by undertones of diplomatic or national
interest. The second questions the Latin American region’s needs for aid visà-vis those of other regions. The third points to Australia’s limited capacity to
operate effectively in the region given budget constraints combined with a lack
of experience and history of engagement from which to draw. Purity of aid
It is a very dangerous thing to justify aid only from the perspective of
national interest. In fact, aid delivered with nation [sic] interest front of
mind doesn't really deserve to be called aid at all… There is a role for the
government in protecting our national interest and ensuring we have a 8 Rudd, op. cit., note 3.
9  Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness, Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness Official Website,
Commonwealth Government (of Australia), 2011: The Independent
Aid Review’s primary objective was to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of the Australian aid program
and make recommendations to improve its structure and delivery.
10  Stephen Grenville, ‘Aid Review: Narrow the geographic focus’, Lowy Institute for International Policy,
20 January 2011:
aspx; Jenny Hayward-Jones, ‘Geographic focus or national interest?’, Lowy Institute for International Policy,
25 January 2011:
59 Australia and Latin America secure and stable region, but this should not be funded out of our aid
program, which the majority of Australians agree should be used to help
people living in poverty, not ourselves.11
Criticisms of Australia’s strategic political reasons for expanding into Latin
America indicate a somewhat naïve understanding of the nature of the Australian
aid program or indeed that of any government. Enhancing Australia’s national
interest is explicitly articulated in AusAID’s overarching aim:
[t]he objective of the Australian aid program is to assist developing
countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line
with Australia's national interest.12
This intention was echoed in former Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s statement
at the 2010 launch of the aid budget:
A strong and effective aid program advances Australia's reputation and
our influence in the international community. Our aid program is not
separate from our foreign policy. It is a crucial part of it.13
Similarly, commitment to the MDGs is justified by its contribution towards
securing Australian national interests, as former Foreign Minister Rudd noted
in the 2011 budget release:
It is for…humanitarian, national security and economic reasons that the
Government is committed to increasing our aid to 0.5 per cent of our
gross national income by 2015–16.14
While the Australian government generally frames entry into the Latin
American region as relating to Australia’s increasing commitment to meeting
the MDG-based GNI aid commitment of 0.5 per cent—and hence the additional
funds with which it might spread Australia’s aid efforts—it is also not difficult
to link the expansion to Australia’s campaign at the time to win a temporary
seat on the UN Security Council,15 a particularly sore point of contention for
those who object to linking aid to foreign policy objectives. Moreover, this
campaign was successful, with Australia assuming its seat in 2013. Nonetheless,
these debates around motivation for aid delivery in the Latin American region
might equally be conducted for all Australian aid activities, in all regions.
11  Michael Wesley, ‘Designing our foreign aid future: Interpreting the Independent Aid Review Blog’, Lowy
Institute for International Policy, 29 April 2011:
12  Australian Agency for International Development, the (AusAID), About AusAID, 2011: http://www.
13 Smith, op. cit. note 7.
14 Rudd, op. cit., note 3. p.iii.
15  Nina Markovic (on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), ‘Australia, 2011, Budget
2011–12: Introduction’, 2011:
60 3. Australia’s Foreign Aid to Latin America Indeed, this is already the case with the concurrent and much greater move
into Africa,16 which continues to receive significant scrutiny and criticism for
the political reasons prompting the expansion.
This chapter takes as a starting point the position that aid’s linkage to the
pursuit of national interests is inherent in contributions that are generated from
tax revenues and managed by national governments. General debates about
linkages between aid and politics, while important and necessary, are far too
broad to be addressed by this chapter, which has the modest scope of providing
targeted policy advice. That is, it takes the pragmatic view that the Australian
aid program is inherently political and that policy advice ought, on the one
hand, to acknowledge this given context, and, on the other seek, maximise
ethical conduct within it.
The only gesture this chapter makes towards the much broader debate of aid
motivations is to point out that the objectives of aid delivery—for the purpose
of this chapter defined here as activities aimed at poverty alleviation and/or
improving human living standards in recipient countries—are not, by necessity,
at loggerheads with aims of furthering a donor’s national interest. There is not
necessarily a relationship of trade-off and indeed, in some instances, these two
objectives and the activities they comprise can enhance one another. This is most
clearly seen in examples of trade, wherein aid activities might support a more
equal distribution of revenue generated from enhanced bilateral or multilateral
trade relations. It is also apparent when activities funded by aid money offset
the negative potential of the pursuit of ‘national interests’. An example of this
would be the funding of ‘watch dog’ or transparency mechanisms to monitor
government or private industry activities, to ensure certain standards, such as
those set in the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA),17 are
adhered to.
In relation to providing policy advice, the most valuable point arising from this
body of criticism is that, given the short-term political motivations prompting
the Latin America expansion, the presence of Australian aid in Latin America
might well be short-lived. This factor should be central to all programming
decisions, both in terms of aid focus areas and delivery modalities.
16  Australian Agency for International Development, the (AusAID), op. cit., note , p. 5. Australia’s estimated
ODA to the African region (targeting over 40 countries) for 2011–12 is $A291.3 million.
17  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ‘Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda
for Action’, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC), 2011:
/18/0,3343,en_2649_3236398_35401554_1_1_1_1,00.html. Australia, like most major donors, is signature to
the Paris Declaration (2005) and the related Accra Agenda for Action (2008). These outline five core principles,
drawing on decades of lessons learnt from development activities. These refer to the need for: ownership (aid
recipients establishing their own national development strategies with their parliaments and electorates);
alignment (donor-support and compliance with the recipients’ strategies); harmonisation (donor work to
streamline their efforts in-country); results (the monitoring of aid activities toward articulated goals); mutual
accountability (responsibility sharing between donors for realising the determined goals).
61 Australia and Latin America The deservedness of the Latin America region
as an aid recipient
The case for narrowing the geographic distribution is strong. There are
plenty of poor people in the countries closer to us.... Almost half the
Indonesian population lives on less than two dollars a day…. Thus there
is plenty to do close to home.18
The more specific criticisms of Australia’s expansion into Latin America relate to
whether the region is a worthy recipient of aid money. Latin America is an area
that has seen significant economic growth in the past decade. Furthermore, it is
an area blessed with an abundance of natural resources, from which it derives
much of its economic growth.19
The Human Development Index (HDI)20 indicates that region-wide, Latin
America enjoys a much higher standard of living than most countries of the
African continent or South and South-East Asian regions.21 Put in very crude
terms, it is certainly true that few people in Latin America starve to death.
That said, indications of plenty distract from the very harsh inequity of wealth
distribution and the severe implications this engenders. It is a commonly
cited fact that the region features the greatest levels of income inequity in the
world.22 Significant portions of its populations—ironically most especially in
the advanced economies such as Brazil or Colombia—suffer under conditions
of deprivation and, related to this, human insecurity. The region’s average
calculation of Gini coefficients 23 for income distribution is 51.3. This represents
an average 65 per cent higher than high-income countries, 36 per cent higher
than the income inequality observed in East Asian countries, and 18 per cent
higher than that reported for Sub-Saharan Africa.24 Hence, despite indications of
strong national economic growth region-wide, there remain significant pockets 18  Wesley, op. cit., note 11.
19  Nancy Birdsall, Nora Lustig, and Darryl McLeod, ‘Working Paper 251: Declining Inequality in Latin
America: Some Economics, Some Politics’, Center for Global Development, 19 May 2010: http://www.
20  United Nations Development Programme, The, (UNDP), 2010, Human Development Index (HDI)—2010
Rankings, 2010: The HDI is a single statistic allocated to each country. It is
calculated from data about a wide range of social and economic conditions within each country and is used to
rank a country’s status on a spectrum between 0–1 to indicate their relative degree of development.
21  Ibid.
22  Luis F. López-Calva and Nora Lustig, (eds), Declining Income Inequality in America: A Decade of Progress?
Baltimore, MD: Brookings Institution Press, 2010.
23  The World Bank, 2011. The Gini coefficient is a measure of the inequality of a distribution, a value of
0 expressing total equality and a value of 1 maximal inequality.
24 López-Calva, et. al., op. cit., note 22.
62 3. Australia’s Foreign Aid to Latin America of deprivation throughout Latin America. This is a regional characteristic that
must be considered in undertaking aid activities, which should in some form be
aimed at correcting this inequity.
Putting aside equity issues, another significant point to redress is this criticism’s
implicit assumption that countries in the greatest desperation as defined by
the HDI are also the countries where aid money will have the most impact.
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Aid saturation occurs quickly in countries
where infrastructure is limited, governance structures are poor, and human
capacities are low.25 There are numerous problems arising from pouring
aid money into areas that are unable to absorb it properly. This approach is
consistently linked to corruption and bypassing of government, as well as
potentially fuelling existing or reigniting latent conflicts.26 In other words, aid
money often inadvertently funds activities that are in direct contradiction to the
approaches espoused by the Paris Declaration and the AAA.
By way of contrast, aid money in many of the Latin American countries—
when targeted appropriately—has been found to be highly effective in
assisting communities to find and implement sustainable solutions to their
challenges.27 Additionally, the AusAID proposed modalities for aid delivery
include south–south partnering between regional countries with strong GNIs
and the necessary capacity, namely Chile and Brazil.28
For all these reasons, Latin America qualifies as a worthy recipient of aid.
Furthermore, AusAID should identify and seek to understand regional
characteristics as well as capitalise on the region’s strengths, among them
the presence of a relatively large highly educated middle class and numerous
national organisations with strong aid-delivery capacity.
An example of such regional opportunity is the potential for donors to work in
areas often overlooked when working to meet critical humanitarian needs, such
as areas of environmental sustainability. 25  Matthew Clarke, ‘How to deliver a doubling aid program?’, Lowy Institute for International Policy, 6 April
26 Hayward-Jones, op. cit., note ; ‘In our national interest—effective aid to the Pacific’; ‘African gold rush:
Aid and UN votes’, Lowy Institute for International Policy, 4 May 2011:
27  Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, 2011: GTZ in Honduras,; 2011: About GIZ,
profile.html; (and) Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)–ACDI, 2011: ‘Statistical Report on
International Assistance, Fiscal Year 2009–2010’, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada,$file/Statistical_Report_2009-2010_eng.pdf.
28  Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), op. cit., note 2.
63 Australia and Latin America Australia’s limited capacity for effective
The case for narrowing the geographic distribution is strong…the
most powerful argument is about administering the program. Sure, aid
funds are in short supply. The greater shortage, however, is effective
and expert administration. Effective implementation requires detailed
knowledge of the recipient country and a sharply focused experience of
what can and can’t be done with foreign aid.29
The final group of criticisms levelled at the Latin America Program’s inception
is that Australia lacks the engagement history and expertise to be effective in its
aid delivery in the region. Bearing in mind the political reasons for engagement,
and hence the likelihood of only short-term commitment to such work, this
body of criticism is warranted in insisting that AusAID function realistically
and strategically.
The AusAID team charged with managing the Latin America Program should
undertake a realistic stock-take of its own capacity and consider this in light of
the regional and country-specific needs and challenges. The Latin America Aid Program in its current
The LA Program has identified four priority focus areas around which it will
align its efforts. These are: Rural Development; Human Resource Development;
Natural Resource Governance; and Climate Change and Environmental Stability.30
Rural Development is to be addressed via partnering with other donors.
Within this focus area, Australia is to support work that improves agricultural
productivity and financial services for the poor. The means of achieving this
objective will be via provision of financial literacy training and programs that
provide access to affordable, transparent and well-regulated financial service
providers. These activities are expected to enable poor people to improve local
enterprises and their overall standard of living. Additionally, AusAID will fund
projects that improve small landholder agricultural production and access to
markets so as to help poor rural dwellers secure sustainable livelihoods.31 29  Wesley, Michael, ‘Designing our foreign aid future: Interpreting the Independent Aid Review Blog’ 20
May 2011.
30 Rudd, op. cit., note 3. p. 63.
31  Ibid.
64 3. Australia’s Foreign Aid to Latin America Australia’s contribution towards Human Resource Development is envisioned
to be via sharing knowledge and technical expertise in sectors identified as
supporting economic and social development. Activities relating to this
will be: long-term scholarships; short courses and short-term professional
development opportunities; volunteer programs; and small grant schemes. The
expectation of such activities is that they will build capacity in the public and
civil society sectors.32
Natural Resource Governance is intended to encompass those Australia-funded
activities aimed at enhancing Latin American countries’ capacity to manage their
natural resource wealth effectively. This will be undertaken in close partnership
with governments from the region as well as local stakeholders and other donors.
Short courses, fellowships and scholarships will provide the means.33
The final priority focus is Climate Change and Environmental Stability. Work
in this area will be aimed at assisting vulnerable Latin American countries’
preparedness and ability to respond to increasingly common natural disasters.
The modalities for work in this sector include support to projects and capacitybuilding activities aimed at climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction
(DRR), and will also likely involve the placement of some Australian volunteers.34
It would seem that despite the significant breadth of this program, few activities
at the time of writing are underway. Current activities include: a commitment
to an AUD$2 million microfinance project in Peru for financial literacy; and the
initiation of two AUD$1 million microfinance proj...
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Chapter 1
Introduction and conduct of inquiry
Referral of inquiry
On 24 June 2008, the Senate referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs, Defence and Trade the matter of the economic and security challenges facing
Papua New Guinea and the island states of the southwest Pacific. The committee was
to inquire into, and report on, the reference by 30 May 2009. On 13 May, the Senate
resolved to restructure its committee system and as a result the Standing Committee
on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade was split into two separate committees—the
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee and the Foreign Affairs,
Defence and Trade References Committee.1 Under standing order 25(4), the
References Committee assumed responsibility for the inquiry.
On 29 May 2009, the committee tabled an interim report notifying the Senate
of its intention to consider recent developments of significance to the committee's
inquiry, including the release of Defence White Paper 2009, the Prime Minister's
announcement about a proposed deployable civilian capacity and the 2009 Budget
Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretary for
International Development Assistance. The committee informed the Senate that it
would present its final report on 21 August 2009. On 18 August, the Senate granted
the committee an extension to its reporting date to 29 October and subsequently to 19
November 2009. Terms of reference
Under the terms of reference, the committee was to inquire into the major
economic and security challenges facing Papua New Guinea and the island states of
the southwest Pacific:
(i) the implications for Australia; and (ii) how the Australian Government could, in practical and concrete
ways, assist these countries to meet the challenges.
The inquiry was to include in its examination:
(iii) employment opportunities, labour mobility, education and skilling;
(iv) barriers to trade, foreign investment, economic infrastructure, land
ownership and private sector development; and
(v) 1 current regional organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum
and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Journals of the Senate, no. 68, Wednesday, 13 May 2009, pp. 1942–1946. Page 2 Conduct of inquiry
The committee advertised its inquiry on its website and in The Australian,
calling for submissions to be lodged by 30 August 2008. The committee also wrote
directly to a range of people and organisations inviting written submissions. These
included government departments and agencies, academics, research and strategic
studies institutes, non-government organisations, and a number of embassies and high
commissions of countries from the region.
The committee received 71 submissions which are listed at Appendix 1.
During the inquiry, the committee also placed a number of questions on notice to
witnesses. The answers are available on the committee's website.
The committee held seven public hearings in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.
A list of the hearings, together with the names of witnesses who appeared, is at
Appendix 2. The committee also took evidence from Australia's High Commissioners
to Tonga, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Fiji. During the inquiry, the committee
received additional information, which has been tabled with this report and is
catalogued at Appendix 3.
In producing this report, the committee relied not only on the evidence
presented to it but also on a significant body of recent research on Pacific island
countries. A selected bibliography at the end of this report cites the main references
used by the committee.
When calling for submissions, the committee left open the definition of
southwest Pacific islands to allow submitters the opportunity to consider islands in the
general region that in their view warranted attention. Overall, most submissions
focused on the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum and in particular, the Cook
Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Nauru, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and
Vanuatu. When using the term Pacific island countries, the committee is primarily
concerned with these countries.
Previous inquiries
Committees of the Commonwealth Parliament have conducted inquiries into
Australia's engagement in the Pacific on a number of previous occasions. In 2003, the
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee tabled its report on Australia's
relations with PNG and the island states of the southwest Pacific; in 2006 it reported
on Australia's public diplomacy with a special emphasis on the region and in 2008 it
produced a report on Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations with
particular reference to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled its report
on Australia's aid program in the Pacific in September 2007. Reference is made
throughout the report to the findings of these inquiries. Scope of inquiry
Although the report builds on the findings of previous parliamentary
committees, it takes a different perspective that reflects the changes that have taken Page 3 place over the past six years. For example, in 2003 the committee recommended that
Australia introduce a Guest Labour Scheme. A pilot scheme is now under way
requiring the committee to examine the implementation and operation of the scheme
in detail.
The increased participation of Australian government departments in assisting
Pacific island countries has also allowed the committee to focus on the practical and
hands-on work that Australian officials are doing in the region. For example, the
Department of the Treasury (Treasury) noted that it did not appear before the
committee during its 2003 inquiry, stating that 'we were not in the game very much at
that stage'.2 This change in engagement, which highlights the importance of an
evolving whole-of-government policy, is indicative of the shift in emphasis that has
taken place over recent years.3
Pacific Partnerships for Development
The Australian Government also recently indicated its intention to usher in 'a
new era of cooperation' between Australia and its Pacific island neighbours through
Pacific Partnerships for Development. They are to be 'the centre piece of Australia's
new approach to the Pacific region'.4 Under these arrangements, the government has
stated that it 'will be prepared to provide increased development assistance over time
in a spirit of mutual responsibility…to improve governance, to increase investment in
economic infrastructure, and to achieve better outcomes in health and education'. The
Pacific Partnerships initiative is also intended to enhance private sector development,
including better access to microfinance.5 Australia has signed partnerships with PNG,
Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu.6 The
committee examines this new framework. 2 Committee Hansard, 20 November 2008, p. 2. 3 Committee Hansard, 20 November 2008, pp. 2–4. 4 Prime Minister of Australia, 'Pacific Partnerships for Development with Solomon Islands and
Kiribati', Media release, 27 January 2009; (accessed 13 February
2009; Prime Minister of Australia, Joint Press Conference with Prime Minister Helen Clark,
Parliament House, Canberra, 27 February 2008 (accessed 25 September
2008); Prime Minister of Australia, 'Port Moresby Declaration', Media release 6 March 2008, (accessed 27 May 2008). 5 Prime Minister of Australia, 'Port Moresby Declaration', Media release, 6 March 2008, (accessed 27 May 2008);
Committee Hansard, 21 November 2008, p. 3. 6 Prime Minister of Australia, 'Port Moresby Declaration', Media release, 6 March 2008; 'Prime
Minister Signs Partnership for Development with PNG and Samoa', Media release, 20 August
2008; 'Pacific Partnerships for Development with Solomon Islands and Kiribati', Media release,
27 January 2009; Submission 71, p. 3; Richard Rowe, Committee Hansard, 21 November 2008,
p. 24. Page 4 Regional architecture
Under the terms of reference, the committee was also to consider regional
organisations. Pacific island countries are now members of a raft of international and
regional organisations. In this report, the committee focuses on the Pacific Islands
Forum. Its history dates back to 1971, when leaders and representatives from Nauru,
Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia met as
neighbours to discuss a range of matters—trade, shipping, civil aviation, foreign
investment, education, telecommunications, joint diplomatic representation and
regional cooperation. This group has met regularly since then and in 2000 assembled
under its new name 'Pacific Islands Forum'. Its membership has grown and now stands
at 16. Ministerial meetings have become a feature of its activities with, for example,
economic ministers, aviation ministers, education ministers and communication
ministers holding separate gatherings and reporting to the Forum. Its agenda has also
expanded considerably to include regional security, the vulnerability of islands and
environmental issues including climate change.7 In April 2004, the Forum Leaders
adopted the following vision statement:
We seek a Pacific region that is respected for the quality of its governance,
the sustainable management of its resources, the full observance of
democratic values, and for its defence and promotion of human rights. We
seek partnerships with our neighbours and beyond to develop our
knowledge, to improve our communications and to ensure a sustainable
economic existence for all.8 1.14
The Leaders agreed to give effect to this vision by developing a Pacific Plan
which is intended to be a 'living document' having the flexibility that allows the vision
and the goal of regional integration to 'extend far into the future'. A revised version of
the plan was produced following decisions taken by the Leaders at the Forum meeting
in October 2007. This key document provides the roadmap that the Pacific island
countries have agreed to follow in their pursuit of economic growth and regional
prosperity and security. It identified four main objectives—enhance and stimulate
economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security for Pacific
countries through regionalism.9 These objectives provide a key reference point for the
committee's inquiry.
Over time, numerous regional organisations focusing on specific areas have
also been established and work closely with the Forum. They include the Fiji School 7 Forum Communiqué 2000, Thirty–first Pacific Islands Forum, Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati,
27–30 October 2000. 8 The Auckland Declaration, Pacific Islands Forum, Special Leaders' Retreat, 6 April 2004,
Auckland. See also, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Working Draft, The Pacific Plan for
strengthening regional cooperation and integration, p. 3 and Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade, 'Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders' Retreat', Auckland, 6 April 2004, (accessed 29
September 2008). 9 Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, The Pacific Plan, revised version 2007. Page 5 of Medicine; Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, Pacific Islands Development
Program, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Pacific Islands Applied
Geoscience Commission, South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment, Secretariat
of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, and the
University of the South Pacific. They are members of the Council of Regional
Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).
The committee is not examining in detail the activities of CROP and its
members. Some of the above organisations, however, are considered in following
chapters, particularly the work of the SPC. This organisation provides technical
assistance, policy advice, training and research services to 22 Pacific island countries
and territories covering areas such as health, human development, agriculture, forestry
and fisheries. It celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007 and has grown to become the
largest developmental organisation in the Pacific with around 350 staff and offices in
Noumea, Suva, and Pohnpei.10
International partners
A number of international organisations work with Pacific island countries to
further their economic and human development. They include the Asian Development
Bank (ADB), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
Pacific (ESCAP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)
and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Their research has
provided a valuable source of information in preparing this report.
The statistics on Pacific island countries are incomplete and in many cases
outdated. In the main, the committee used data produced by ESCAP, the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the ADB. This information should be
used as an indicator of broad trends and read in light of the rapid changes taking place
in the global financial markets which may also affect its currency. For example, rising
fuel prices were a major problem in the first half of 2008 but the sudden decline in the
price of oil toward the end of the year brought relief for the time being. Structure of the report
The report considers the nature and extent of the key economic challenges
facing Pacific island countries and the measures that they are taking to meet these
challenges individually and collectively. It also examines Australia's bilateral and
regional endeavours to help these countries. The report is divided into three main
segments. Part 1 presents an overview of the economic performance of Pacific island
countries, including the role of remittances and official development assistance
(ODA). It also: 10 Secretariat of the Pacific Community website,
(accessed 12 June 2009). Page 6
• discusses the inherent physical and geographical conditions of Pacific island
countries that create challenges for them in developing their economies—size,
remoteness, natural disasters and climate change; and • identifies conditions and circumstances stemming mainly from these physical
and permanent factors that impede economic development. 1.20
Part 2 examines the measures that individual Pacific island countries are
taking to encourage economic growth. The committee looks at:
• development and management of natural resources—agriculture, fisheries,
forestry and mining—sustainable development, food security and climate; • opportunities for growth and expanding markets; • the business and investment environment in Pacific island countries
• economic infrastructure such
communication technology; as transport and information • human resources—education and training, workforce productivity,
population growth, employment, labour mobility and brain drain; • the effectiveness and efficiencies of state institutions and public
administration for example in delivering essential services and managing
government finances; • regulatory and legal framework; • political stability; and • land tenure and access to finance. 1.21
The committee also considers Australia's assistance to Pacific island countries
that is helping them to promote economic growth and human development.
Part 3 analyses the effectiveness of the development assistance Australia
provides to the region including the new Pacific Partnerships for Development.
The committee in this report deals with a complex range and interplay of
forces affecting economic and human development in Pacific island countries. It
recognises that there is a direct link between economic performance, human
development and national and regional security. To explore security in a
comprehensive manner and to allow detailed consideration of the relationship between
economic and human development and security matters, the committee decided to
divide the report into two separate volumes. The first volume is concerned primarily
with economic challenges and the second with security. The committee intends to
present its report on security in the region soon after tabling volume I. Acknowledgments
The committee thanks all those who contributed to the inquiry by making
submissions, providing additional information or appearing before it to give evidence. Part I
Overview of the economic performance of Pacific island
Guide to Essay .docx
Australia’s Foreign
Prof Russell Trood
3735 5143
[email protected] Convenor (Gold Coast) Dr Cathy
Email: 2
Email: [email protected] ESSAY ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS Write your essay on one of the topics mentioned here in the Course
You can choose any topic, except that you can’t do an essay on the topic
on which your group is presenting.
The essay should be no longer than 2000 words excluding references
and the bibliography.
The essay is to be handed in a week after the topic was covered in class.
You should submit your essay on line through SafeAssign link under
the assessment link on blackboard, no hard copies are required.
The Readings listed under each topic are not exhaustive of the material
which is available. You are encouraged to do additional research in
completing the assignment.
You are encouraged to discuss your essay with one of the Course
Convenors before submission. ________________________________________________________________________________ Week 10: May 2016 Australia’s international Aid and the Pacific Assignment topics : In approximately 1750 words, answer ONE
the following:
Critically assess the extent to which Australia’s national
interests are served by a policy of increasing international aid
with the aim of achieving the target of 0.5 percent of GNI..
Australia’s international aid policy has become
dangerously unbalanced in recent years: too much of its focus
has been concentrated on the Pacific at the expense of other
regions of the world. This is not in the national interest. READINGS AND REFERENCES 3 Herr, Richard, Bergin, Anthony, Our Near Abroad, Australia and Pacific Islands Regionalism,
Strategy Paper, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, November 2011, Chs. 1 and 5.­near­abroad­australia­and­pacific­islands­
Hayward­Jones, Jenny, Policy Overboard: Australia’s Increasingly Costly Fiji Drift, Policy Brief,
Lowy Institute, May 2011
Commonwealth of Australia, Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness, April 2011, Executive
Summary at
Commonwealth of Australia, An Effective Aid Program for Australia Making a real difference—
Delivering real results, Executive summary and be familiar with the contents of Chs. 5,6 and 7
Independent Task Force, A better fit, National Security and Australia’s aid program, Special
Report, ASPI, March 2011
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Inquiry into the major
economic and security challenges facing Papua New Guinea and the island states of the southwest
Pacific, 2 Volumes, May 2009 and August 2009.
Mc Arthur, John, ‘The Future of Foreign Aid, Lowy Lecture Series, Lowy Institute, November
2011, download pod cast from website,
Riddell Roger C., Does foreign aid really work? Oxford University Press, 2007
Firth Stewart, ‘Australia, The Pacific Islands and Timor Leste’ in Cotton and Ravenhill,
Middle Power Dreaming, eds. Ch. 9
Desai, Raj M. and Homi Kharas, ‘California Consensus: can private aid end global poverty?’
Survival, Vol. 50:4 September 2008.
Oxfam International The right to survive: the humanitarian challenge for the twenty­first century.
April 2009:­to­survive­
Wesley, Michael, The future state of the world: what it means for Australia's foreign aid
program, Lowy Institute, 2011
O'Keeffe, Annmaree, ‘Aid program is healthy but in need of a plan,’ The Australian, 20 September
2010, p. 10 4 5
May 2011 Policy Overboard:
Program Director
The Myer Foundation Melanesia
Program Australia’s Increasingly
Costly Fiji Drift Tel: +61 2 8238 9037
[email protected]
What is the problem? Australia’s tough-love policy towards Fiji has failed to persuade the
government of Voreqe Bainimarama to restore democracy to Fiji and
may even be helping to entrench his regime. The Fiji government,
resistant to external pressure, has instead developed new allegiances
and partnerships which undermine Australia’s influence. Australia’s
reputation as a major power in the South Pacific and as a creative
middle power more broadly may be diminished by the Fiji
government’s continued intransigence. Over time the Fiji people’s
once-strong connections with Australia may dwindle and Australia’s
relevance to Fiji gradually diminish unless the Australian government
takes decisive action now.
31 Bligh Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: +61 2 8238 9000
Fax: +61 2 8238 9005 should be done? Canberra needs to redefine its relationship with Fiji to focus more
sharply on protecting Australia’s long-term equities there and on
supporting democracy rather than on increasingly hollow demands for
early elections. The Australian government should build and lead a
new coalition with traditional and non-traditional partners which
works with Fiji to develop a package of assistance for electoral and
constitutional reform. To support this effort, Australia should also
offer a range of confidence-building measures to prepare the ground
for Australia to assist Fiji’s transition to democracy. The Foreign
Minister should foster support for this new approach in the region and
with other key international partners. In doing so one objective should
be to put the onus for action back on the Fiji government, where it
properly belongs. The Lowy Institute for International Policy is an independent international policy think tank.
Its mandate ranges across all the dimensions of international policy debate in Australia —
economic, political and strategic — and it is not limited to a particular geographic region. Its two core tasks are to: · produce distinctive research and fresh policy options for Australia’s international policy and
to contribute to the wider international debate. · promote discussion of Australia’s role in the world by providing an accessible and highquality forum for discussion of Australian international relations through debates, seminars, lectures, dialogues and conferences. Lowy Institute Policy Briefs are designed to address a particular, current policy issue and to
suggest solutions. They are deliberately prescriptive, specifically addressing two questions: What
is the problem? What should be done? The views expressed in this paper are entirely the author’s own and not those of the Lowy
Institute for International Policy. Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard The current Australian approach Canberra’s response to the coup – then and
now – is designed to persuade the Fiji
government to hold elections, protect the Fiji
people and restore democracy to the country. Almost four and a half years after the
December 2006 coup, Australian policy
towards Fiji is virtually unchanged. Three
Australian Prime Ministers have so far failed to
persuade Voreqe Bainimarama to hold
elections. Targeted travel sanctions imposed by
the Howard government at the time of the coup
remain in place.
An arms embargo and
suspension of defence cooperation prevail.
Ministerial contact with the Fiji government is
suspended. Diplomatic contacts are limited. The rhetoric of the Australian government in
condemning Fiji is generally stronger in tone
than that it adopts in statements about many
other undemocratic states because Fiji, unlike
other non-democracies, is squarely within
Australia’s sphere of influence. Australia is
Fiji’s most important economic partner, the
biggest investor in Fiji, second-biggest
merchandise trading partner, the largest source
of tourists and home to approximately 50,000
Fiji-born people. Its relative influence there
gives Australia the capacity – at least in theory
– to respond to Fiji differently from the way it
approaches other authoritarian countries like
China or North Korea. Australia champions the continued suspension
of Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum and from
the Commonwealth – including through
Australia’s membership of the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group. Australia has not
resiled from its advocacy at the United Nations
to prevent Fiji participating in new UN
peacekeeping missions. Prospects for change
The Howard government’s response to the
coup in Fiji in December 2006 was measured.
From the traditional international options
available in response to illegal overthrows of
elected governments, Australia chose a
relatively mild one. Canberra could have
imposed an embargo on Fiji akin to that
imposed by the United States on Cuba in 1960.
It could have launched a military response to
restore the elected government, imposed full
economic and trade sanctions and sporting
sanctions, frozen assets of Fiji citizens in
Australia or penalised Australian businesses
dealing with Fiji and Australian tourists
travelling to Fiji. It chose none of these
options, as it did not want to punish the people
of Fiji (or Australian business) for an act not of
their own making. Not
objectionable aspects of Bainimarama’s rule,
the prevailing view in Canberra has been that
Australian policy should not be altered absent a
significant gesture from the Fiji government.
A trilateral meeting between then Foreign
Minister Stephen Smith, New Zealand Foreign
Minister Murray McCully and Fiji Foreign
Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in February
2010 did not result in any significant changes
in Fiji. Smith’s stated willingness to ‘have a
dialogue’ was later rebuffed by Kubuabola
during the Australian election campaign, when
he inferred that Smith had not been ‘genuine’
about wanting to help Fiji. Page 3 Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific
Island Affairs Richard Marles participated in
the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact
Group (MCG) on Fiji meeting in Vanuatu in
February 2011.
Ministers confirmed the
Forum’s interest in supporting Fiji’s early
return to parliamentary democracy and
‘encouraged Fiji to engage Forum members in a
detailed dialogue on the types of assistance
required to enable it to move forward on its
plans as quickly as possible’ and the Fiji
Foreign Minister said Fiji was willing to invite
the MCG to visit Fiji in the near future. This
kind of exchange with Fiji was not new and has
yet to translate from formulaic rhetoric into
practical action in Suva. would be understandable if Mr Rudd, having
supported the democratic push in North Africa,
were loathe to authorise any shift in Australian
policy towards Fiji that might signal the
democracy he thought so important in a region
far from Australia did not matter as much for
Fiji. The generally antagonistic rhetoric of the Fiji
government– including most recently a strong
statement from Fiji’s Foreign Minister, Ratu
Inoke Kubuabola, reiterating that elections
would be held in 2014 and not before –
suggests there is little prospect of any
significant gesture from Suva before 2014. The
Fiji government is focused on implementing a
series of economic reforms and it is not yet
‘ready’ for discussions about elections. The Foreign Minister is correct, and his
frustration that others are held responsible for
the present impasse is justified. Australia and
New Zealand did not create the situation in
Fiji. The problems now facing Fiji’s economy,
the lack of any concrete plans for a new
constitution or a democratic future, the absence
of freedom of speech, and reported rise in
human rights abuses are all the work of
Bainimarama and his unelected government. The
commitment to democratic values, both in its
rhetoric and in substance, constrains its options
in respect of Fiji. Rudd has said Australia is
‘not in the business of legitimising what has
been a very ugly military coup.’ Ultimately, however, Australia’s reluctance to
see the Fiji people suffer has strengthened
Bainimarama’s hand. In the absence of broader
economic sanctions, Australian businesses
which continue operating in Fiji in the face of
some challenges and the 318,000 Australians
who visited Fiji in 2010 (over 50 per cent of
total visitor arrivals) have thrown Fiji a vital
lifeline. In a recent interview, Mr Rudd said there was
‘often a tendency in parts of the region for the
question to be put in terms of what should
Australian and New Zealand diplomacy be
doing’, which bought into ‘a Bainimarama
assumption that the problem lies with the rest
of us rather than with the Bainimarama
regime.’ Consistency
consideration. Australia has an activist Foreign
Minister in Kevin Rudd who has championed
democratic movements in Egypt and Tunisia
and who was prominent in calling for the nofly zone in Libya to protect rebels there. It Outside Fiji, frustration amongst people with
an interest in the bilateral relationship is more
readily vented on Canberra than on Suva. It is Page 4 Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard relatively easy for Australian citizens with
interests in Fiji to complain to officials in
Canberra. The worst that can happen to them
is that they will be ignored. Pacific and, as part of that enhanced attention,
indicated the US would
‘ more direct engagement with Prime
Minister Bainimarama to encourage his
government to take steps to restore
democracy and freedom that would allow
movement toward normalization of Fiji’s
relations with other countries in the region.
This engagement would spotlight the
potential benefits of positive political steps,
while reinforcing the message that any
easing of U.S. sanctions is tied to the
restoral of democratic processes.’ In Fiji – in an environment where critics of the
government have been taken to military
barracks for questioning or had their business
examined by the government – attempting to
lobby Bainimarama to adopt different policies
is significantly riskier. The approach of other countries
Australia’s policy of isolating Fiji only has a
realistic chance of working when other
countries cooperate to isolate Fiji.
Minister Julia Gillard made this point when she
said: ‘It's important to us, to the US, to the
world generally, that we keep working together
to maximise pressure on Fiji to give the Fijian
people the appropriate opportunity to go out,
exercise a vote and pick their government.’ Japan invited Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke
Kubuabola to its first Pacific Islands Leaders
Meeting (PALM) Ministerial Interim Meeting
in October 2010. In a press release following a
bilateral meeting of former Japanese Foreign
Minister Seiji Maehara and Kubuabola,
Maehara said that ‘Japan placed importance on
continuous dialogue with Fiji and that Japan
would like to continue to explain the
importance of dialogue with Fiji to the
international community’. Most of Australia’s traditional partners
supported the Australian government’s policy
towards Fiji after the coup. But there are clear
signs that this support is wavering and that the
Australian government risks becoming isolated
in its hard-line position on Fiji, even from some
of its closest and most important diplomatic
partners. New Zealand’s Foreign
McCully has said: Minister Murray ‘...having got to where we've got to, we've
now got to find a way out of it. That means
that we do need to be prepared to engage
and to try and find constructive solutions.
I've been to Fiji I think three times last year,
I keep reasonably engaged in those issues,
and so hopefully one day when some
opportunities do arise we'll be able to take
them’. Kurt Campbell, United States Assistant
Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific
Affairs, has recognised that the ‘entrenchment
of authoritarian rule indifferent to criticism has
become a dangerous model for the region and
the global community.’ Campbell has
promised the US would ‘step up its game’ in the Page 5 Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard Members of the Pacific Islands Forum, when
they meet without Australia and New Zealand
present, often declare support for Fiji. The most
recent example was the support expressed for
Fiji being included in regional dialogue by the
Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
representatives at the Melanesian Spearhead
Group Leaders’ Summit in Suva. Many
Pacific Island country governments deal with
the Bainimarama government in the same way
as they did the elected Qarase government.
Bainimarama appears to have convinced many
Pacific Island leaders that the Pacific or
Melanesian tradition of respect for a ‘brother’
is more important than the democratic values
that are an integral part of the Pacific Islands
Forum’s Pacific Plan and The Agreement
Establishing the Melanesian Spearhead Group. pressing their ‘brother’ in Fiji to hold elections.
Indeed Fiji, as MSG Chair, is likely to use its
relative strength to dominate the Group over
the next year, probably creating more
difficulties for Australian diplomacy.
Yudhoyono hosted a visit by Bainimarama in
early April 2011 during which Bainimarama
opened the new Fiji embassy in Jakarta.
Following their meeting, Yudhoyono expressed
hope that Fiji would manage its transition
towards elections through a home-grown
process. In words that fed Bainimarama’s
resentment of external pressure, Yudhoyono
reportedly noted that democracy was ‘a process
and not an event’ and could not be ‘created
through external dictate.
The Indonesian
government has offered Fiji support through
sharing its experience of transition to
democracy and specific assistance to the
Electoral Commission’. The Fiji government has embarked on a
campaign to court new friends. It sought
membership of the Non Aligned Movement
and announced it would set up three new
embassies – in Indonesia, Brazil and South
Africa – in 2011. Bainimarama has made
claims for regional leadership by hosting an
‘Engaging the Pacific’ meeting in Fiji, attended
by leaders and representatives from ten Pacific
Island countries, prior to the Pacific Islands
Forum meeting in July 2010 and through
hosting and chairing the Melanesian Spearhead
Group Leaders’ Summit in March 2011. China has a noticeable presence in Fiji, to the
extent that US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton has expressed concern that China was
boosting ties with the ‘dictatorial regime’ in
Fiji. Lowy Institute research found that
although China had gone ahead with its aid for
the Nadarivatu hydro project, it has been slow
to disburse other promised aid. Estimated
cumulative soft loans to Fiji from 2005 to 2009
totalled US$253.4 million but the majority of
these were provided in 2007 and 2008. It is
likely that new Chinese-funded projects,
including a low-cost housing project, are
actually part of previously announced soft
loans. Chinese companies have invested in
hotels, roads infrastructure and fisheries
projects. While China’s interests in Fiji are
minor compared to its interests in Australia, The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) lacks
the capacity and resources to implement its
own agenda. The weakness and unstable
nature of the governments of Vanuatu and
Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea’s
preoccupation with its domestic affairs and
national elections in 2012, mean that these
MSG members will be unlikely to be active in Page 6 Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard Failing diplomacy they come at the expense of Australian
influence as the Fiji government convinces itself
it does not need Australia while it has a friend
in China. Australian diplomacy has failed its own test.
Australia set itself the objective of applying
sufficient pressure on the Fiji regime to force
Bainimarama to hold elections.
It has
manifestly failed. Resistant to pressure
The Fiji government has demonstrated itself to
be resistant to pressure. Bainimarama has
made clear that any engagement will be on his
terms alone. Without doubt, Fiji’s actions have damaged its
relationship with its most important partner –
Australia. Bainimarama has underestimated
Fiji’s economic dependence on Australia. He
expelled Australia’s most experienced Pacific
diplomat and his best avenue for dialogue with
Canberra in High Commissioner James Batley
in November 2009 and then expelled Acting
High Commissioner Sarah Roberts in July
2010. His provocative diplomatic stunts have
made it harder for Canberra to move. The European Union had the most significant
carrot on offer, with its promise of some
US$305 million in assistance for sugar industry
reform and related assistance if Fiji held
elections. Fiji refused and lost the EU funding
The IMF held out another significant carrot,
with negotiations under way for some time
about refinancing of the Fiji government’s $150
million bond due in September this year. The
Fiji government opted instead to raise funds on
the managed bond market and succeeded in
raising $250 million in foreign bonds at an
interest rate of 9 per cent. Although the issue
was rated B- by Standard and Poor’s, which
makes it sub-investment grade, the Fiji
government claimed its success demonstrated
investor confidence in the country. The Fiji
government’s willingness to accept such a high
interest rate when it could have obtained IMF
financing for a significantly lower rate shows
its resolve to resist traditional IMF conditions
on assistance with economic reform. Nor have Australia’s public diplomacy efforts
in Fiji been able to make up for the failings in
its formal diplomatic dealings with Suva. The
Public Emergency Regulation, media censorship
communication measures mean the only voice
in Fiji is that of Bainimarama’s government. It
is difficult for the Australian government to
communicate its message effectively in this
environment. While the premise of Canberra’s
approach is highly principled, sustained attack
from the Fiji Government’s public relations
campaign has meant Australia’s principles are
not always clear to people in Fiji.
Australia’s multilateral diplomacy – prosecuted
Commonwealth and the United Nations – has
also failed to persuade Bainimarama to restore
democracy in Fiji. The decision of Pacific
Islands Forum leaders to suspend Fiji in May Page 7 Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard 2009 and the Commonwealth’s decision to
suspend Fiji in September 2009 have had little
impact on the Fiji government. ground to do so. He has sought to eliminate or
marginalise all potential sources of opposition.
Bainimarama has suspended Fiji’s once
powerful Great Council of Chiefs and
prevented the influential Methodist Church
from holding its annual conference, the ‘Bose
Ko Viti’, in 2009 and 2010, in an effort to depoliticise the Church. A number of politicians
and other prominent individuals have been
charged with a range of offences. If future
electoral reform prevents people with a
criminal record from standing for parliament,
many of Bainimarama’s opponents will not be
candidates. Bainimarama has been more active
in visiting communities across the country and
in attempting to address their needs than
previous leaders of Fiji. He has time to build
his popularity and win an election. Australia’s failure to encourage the Fiji
government to hold elections reflects poorly on
the reputation and diplomatic influence of a
creative middle power seeking a temporary seat
on the United Nations Security Council. Kevin
Rudd’s active diplomacy in support of
democratic movements further afield cannot
mask such a major failure of diplomacy in its
own sphere of influence.
Aside from the damage to its international
reputation and credentials for continued strong
regional leadership, the Australian government
risks becoming irrelevant to Fiji. Fortunately
the same is not true of the Australian people.
The number of Australian businesses operating
in Fiji and the high numbers of Australians
visiting Fiji make Australia not only relevant
but vital for a country highly dependent on
foreign investment and tourism. In this sense,
Australian policy has become an irrelevant
sideshow to the relationship between the two
countries. By staking the bilateral relationship on a goal –
the holding of elections before 2014 – and
holding many other elements of the relationship
hostage to that goal, Canberra has lost the
initiative: it has no means of improving the
relationship and therefore no means of
influencing a transition to democracy in Fiji.
Australia is also ill-prepared to deal with the
possibility that Bainimarama will be the elected
Prime Minister or elected President of Fiji in
2014. It may be more difficult to rebuild
bilateral relations then than to seek to improve
them now. Bainimarama has promised elections in 2014.
There is good reason to be sceptical about this
commitment. Bainimarama has at various
times said he did not trust the Fiji people, threatened to postpone the 2014 election
timetable and warned the military would be
‘guiding’ an elected government after 2014. But he has also reiterated his commitment to
the 2014 timetable on many occasions. In addition, the lack of regular high-level
bilateral communication makes it harder for
the Australian government to pursue Australian
interests in Fiji in the same way as it does in
other countries; that is, promote Australia’s
foreign and trade interests and protect the
rights of Australian citizens abroad. Bainimarama has not yet declared his
candidature in the 2014 elections. There are
some signs, however, that he is preparing the Page 8 Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard A creative middle power Rudd needs to implement his own ideas and
work with non-traditional partners to tackle
the old problem of Fiji in new ways. In Kevin Rudd’s speech to the National Press
Club on Australia’s Foreign Policy Interests in
the Middle East, he said: It is unrealistic in the current environment –
and indeed undesirable – to expect the
Australian government to set aside its
commitment to seeing democracy restored to
Fiji. But Australia could and should alter its
policy to improve the bilateral relationship and
create opportunities to assist Fiji’s transition to
democracy without departing from its core
democratic values. ‘...I believe creative middle powers are
uniquely placed to bring together major,
regional and smaller powers alike to inform
and shape solutions. Their strength comes
from the good offices they bring to bear on
regional and global problems and the
persuasiveness of their arguments and the
coalitions they are capable of building, not
the assertion of direct power. What is to be done and how?
A creative middle power recognises
that we have to work in partnerships and
coalitions to achieve change – including
with non-traditional partners to establish
better understanding of the issue at hand
and to come up with better informed
solutions. Australia’s public rhetoric on Fiji should shift
from giving priority to early elections to the
protection of Australia’s long-term interests in
and the
Pacific Islands region.
Fundamental to achieving this goal will be
maintaining a connection and channels for
dialogue with the people of Fiji, including
through consistent strong support for
democracy. ...Australia always stands ready to propose
new partnerships to tackle new problems, to
tackle old problems in new ways.’ The key plank of this approach should be a
new multi-donor initiative that offers assistance
to Fiji for constitutional drafting and electoral
reform. Two changes to Australia’s existing
approach should take place before this offer
and other initiatives are announced. The situation in Fiji represents an old problem
for Australia. For understandable reasons,
Australia has been unwilling to deploy military
power or its full economic power in the form of
comprehensive sanctions to remove the
Bainimarama government. Neither the qualified
assertion of Australia’s direct power, nor its
building of a regional coalition within the
Pacific Islands Forum has succeeded in
achieving change in Fiji. If Australia is to prove
its credentials as a creative middle power and
advance its candidature for a temporary seat on
the UN Security Council in 2013-14, Kevin Confidence-building
It will be difficult to influence Fiji without more
regular formal engagement between the two
governments, so some confidence-building
measures need to be commenced. This could
take the form of Australian diplomats meeting Page 9 Po l i c y Br i e f Policy Overboard senior Fiji officials – in Suva and elsewhere – on
a regular basis to start rebuilding relati...
This is the end of the preview. Download to see the full text
Our_near_abroad chapter 1 and 5.pdf
Our near abroad Our near abroad
Australia and Pacific islands regionalism Australia and Pacific islands regionalism
ASPI OUR NEAR ABROAD: AUSTRALIA AND PACIFIC ISLANDS REGIONALISM Australia has devoted considerable resources to creating and supporting the Pacific islands
regional system—a system in which it’s both an insider and an outsider.
Australia is an outsider by virtue of its geographic boundaries. But membership of the Pacific
Islands Forum makes us the largest and most influential member of the regional family.
The Asian century has brought new actors and new problems into the Pacific islands region:
the rise of China, organised crime and strategic rivalry in the broader Western Pacific.
Cuba, Germany, Israel, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are amongst a host
of new interests seeking closer relations with the Pacific islands.
The bases of Australia’s special relationship with the Pacific islands are being eroded by the
changing tectonics of Asia–Pacific geopolitics.
Our membership of the regional family is being tested by the imbroglio with Fiji, the growth
of sub-regionalism and a diversification of the Islands interests expressed through the UN
and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Our regional ties once provided the most important measure of the warmth of the overall
relationship that Australia has with the Pacific islands.
Australia now faces an unusual challenge in its regional role in the Pacific: to make what is a
privileged relationship even more effective.
This report finds that Australia can contribute to its standing in the regional family while
advancing regional security by strengthening the institutional reach and capacity of regional
structures and including more extra-regional interests, including China.
The report recommends that Australia engage more closely with subregional developments
and repairs relations with Fiji. There’s a need to address the economic sources of threat to
the Pacific’s stability and sovereignty, including food and energy security, labour mobility
and disaster recovery. RRP $15.00 Z00 45768 Australia should strength its efforts to secure the foundations of education and health for
the region and build a more effective national base for our Pacific islands policy. November 2011 Richard Herr
Professor Richard Herr has taught at the University of Tasmania for thirty-eight
years and has held a variety of positions including Head of Department. He is
currently the academic coordinator for the Law Faculty’s ‘Parliamentary Law,
Practice and Procedure’ course serving the eleven Parliaments of Australasia.
He has written widely on aspects of Pacific islands affairs, marine resource
policy and parliamentary democracy. He holds non-resident appointments as
an Adjunct Professor in Fiji and in Norway. He has held visiting appointments
in New Caledonia, New Zealand, United States and the USSR. Professor Herr
has served as a consultant to the governments of the Pacific islands region on
a range of organisational issues for nearly three decades and most recently on
the restoration of parliamentary democracy in Fiji and a UNDP review of the
legislative needs of the Samoan Parliament. He was awarded a Medal in the
Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2007 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Professor
Herr received an AusAID Peacebuilder award in 2002 for work in Solomon Islands. ASPI is pleased to acknowledge the support of a number of Corporate Partners. These
organisations have joined with us to help promote better quality strategic decision-making
in Australia by providing financial and other forms of support to ASPI.
Corporate Partners Corporate Associates Anthony Bergin
Dr Anthony Bergin is Director of Research Programs at ASPI. His training is in law,
political science and international relations. Before joining ASPI in 2006 he taught
on the political and legal aspects of marine affairs, specialising on the Pacific, first
at the Royal Australian Naval College and then the University of New South Wales
at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Dr Bergin has been a consultant on
maritime issues to a wide range of public and private sector organisations. He has
published widely on the South Pacific and Australian policy towards the region. About ASPI
ASPI’s aim is to promote Australia’s security by contributing fresh ideas to strategic
decision-making, and by helping to inform public discussion of strategic and defence
issues. ASPI was established, and is partially funded, by the Australian Government as an
independent, non-partisan policy institute. It is incorporated as a company, and is governed
by a Council with broad membership. ASPI’s publications—including this paper—are not
intended in any way to express or reflect the views of the Australian Government.
The opinions and recommendations in this paper are published by ASPI to promote public
debate and understanding of strategic and defence issues. They reflect the personal views
of the author(s) and should not be seen as representing the formal position of ASPI on any
particular issue.
Important disclaimer This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in relation to the
subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in
rendering any form of professional or other advice or services. No person should rely on the contents
of this publication without first obtaining advice from a qualified professional person. Cover image: Interwoven hands © Some previous ASPI publications Our near abroad
Australia and Pacific islands regionalism
Richard Herr
Anthony Bergin © The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited
This publication is subject to copyright. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of it may
in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, microcopying, photocopying, recording or otherwise) be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted without prior written permission. Enquiries should be
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Notwithstanding the above, Educational Institutions (including Schools, Independent Colleges, Universities,
and TAFE’s) are granted permission to make copies of copyrighted works strictly for educational purposes
without explicit permission from ASPI and free of charge.
First published November 2011
Published in Australia by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Level 2, Arts House
40 Macquarie Street
Barton ACT 2600
Tel + 61 2 6270 5100
Fax + 61 2 6273 9566
Email [email protected]
Web Herr, R. A. (Richard Allen), 1946Our near abroad
Australia and
Pacific :islands
and Pacific
/ R.
A. Herr,
Anthony Bergin.
/ R. A. Herr, Anthony Bergin.
ISBN: 9781921302701
(pbk.) : pdf)
Series: Strategy (Australian Strategic Policy Institute)
Notes: Includes bibliographical references.
Regionalism–Pacific Area.
Australia–Foreign relations–Pacific Area.
Pacific Area–Foreign relations–Australia.
Other Authors/Contributors:
Bergin, Anthony, 1954Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
327.116 Contents Contents Executive summary 1 Recommendations 4 Chapter 1 The regional setting 7 Chapter 2 Geopolitics and the region 16 Chapter 3 Security interests and regional structure 29 Chapter 4 Regional security management 44 Chapter 5 A more effective neighbourhood role for Australia 58 Notes 75 References 80 Acronyms and abbreviations 84 ASPI Strategy iii Our near abroad: Australia and Pacific islands regionalism Executive summary The Pacific islands region has been undergoing a substantial and
dynamic change in its geopolitics, with profound consequences for
Australia. The changing tectonics of the Asian century, the dramatic rise
of China and a bitter intra-regional dispute with Fiji are amongst the
most visible developments.
Although Australia is the largest donor in the region as well as its
most influential political actor, these geopolitical shifts have raised
serious questions about the contemporary effectiveness of our
regional relationships.
The Pacific islands region is full of contradictions—vast, yet small;
weak, yet influential; important, yet frequently ignored. Its geopolitical
characteristics are so diverse that commonalties can be difficult to
find. Nevertheless, for more than six decades, Australia has devoted
considerable resources to creating and supporting a regional system
to express the Pacific islands’ common interests.
Historically, the success of the regional approach can’t be questioned.
Regional relationships contributed significantly to the Pacific islands’
peaceful transition to independence. Their collective action has been
responsible for significant achievements in the postcolonial rough and
tumble of resource diplomacy.
Australia isn’t a member of the Pacific islands region by virtue of its
geographic boundaries, but the decision-making scope of the Pacific
Islands Forum makes us the largest and most influential member of the
regional family. This dichotomy has produced a ‘bifocal’ view of Pacific
islands regionalism that was occasionally controversial but generally
regarded as an important source of strength.
The intimacy that Australia enjoys through the regional system hasn’t
been negotiated through treaties. It’s been built by friendship and
maintained by mutual respect. Our regional ties provide the most
important measure of the warmth of the overall relationship that
Australia has with the Pacific islands. ASPI Strategy 1 Our near abroad: Australia and Pacific islands regionalism Some critics have maintained that Australia’s privileged regional position has tended to be
more that of an outsider, rather than an insider. Some of this criticism is due to changes in
the way our neighbours have viewed their place in the world. Other criticisms are based on
perceptions that Australian interests have altered.
Over the two decades since the end of the Cold War, the concept of political alignment has
lost its cogency, diminishing the perceived security benefits of alignment both for the Pacific
islands and for their Western supporters.
Greater exposure to non-aligned interests, coupled with global changes outside the region,
especially the rise of China as a global economic power, has offered the Islands new models
for development as well as outlets for their national economies.
Island concerns over Australia’s bifocal regional perspectives stem in part from a perception
that Australia is a key driver behind current integration processes. Critics have raised doubts
about Australia’s motivation for seeking closer regional relations through the Pacific Plan and
PACER Plus.1
Yet today regional security demands more effective collective action to meet the traditional
and non-traditional security threats facing the Pacific islands. The regional system has been
increasingly occupied with assisting the islands to meet the obligations of statehood, such as
domestic stability, law and order, and the protection of state jurisdiction (especially after the
declaration of exclusive economic zones).
The erosion in Australia’s standing in Pacific regional affairs can be seen in rising
sub-regionalism and faltering support for Australia’s lead on regional initiatives. The islands
are displaying an increasingly independent fascination with Asia. They’re broadening
unconventional diplomatic ties and preferring regional representation at the United Nations
that excludes Australia.
Thus, the coherence and robustness of the regional system are being tested at a time
when it is divided as never before, as regional organisations adapt to a new and diversified
security environment.
The recent Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Auckland clearly demonstrated the value of the
privileged position Australia enjoys in regional affairs. The US sought and secured observer
status for its three territories, as France had done for its territories several years earlier, but
neither is eligible for full membership in its own right.
Moreover, new interests rumoured to be seeking admission as Post-Forum Dialogue partners
included Israel, Turkey, Germany, Russia, Cuba, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. Indeed,
the numbers are so great that this arrangement will have to be more formalised to cope.
There can be no doubt that effective regional relationships remain an important soft power
asset for Australia. The trust that has come with being an accepted member of the regional
family contributes enormously to maintaining that asset.
The Australian Government’s recently announced ‘Asian Century’ white paper review should
find, as this review has, that Asia–Pacific linkages can add value to Australia’s regional ties
with the Pacific islands. 2 ASPI Strategy Executive summary The new Asian interests in the islands pose significant challenges and even risks to the
region. Our island neighbours are encouraging and extending these interests through their
‘look North’ policies. Cultivating these connections could ultimately advantage our own
Asian ambitions.
Conversely, attempting to use Pacific regional agencies to curtail our neighbours’ emerging
Asian ties would damage both our national interests and those of Western allies grappling
with related developments, especially in the Western Pacific.
This report finds five areas where Australia can contribute to its own standing in the regional
family while advancing regional security.
Traditional security concerns can be addressed by improving the institutional reach and
capacity of the existing regional structures. More extra-regional interests—both traditional
(France and the US) and new (China)—should be included.
Australia’s regional posture can be enhanced. Our privileged position in the Pacific islands
regional structure needs to adjust to address recent changes. Engaging more closely with
sub-regional developments and repairing the regional relationship with Fiji are two of the
highest priorities.
Non-traditional threats to security are more significant in this region than anywhere else
because of the extreme vulnerability of most regional states: •
• Economic development remains the primary non-traditional source of threat to their
stability and sovereignty. Amid increasing concerns about food and energy security,
labour mobility and disaster recovery work are areas for development.
Heightened concerns about education and health are having a regional and sub-regional
impact on national development. Finally, Australia needs to build a more effective national base for Pacific islands policy.
The Pacific islands have slipped from Australian public consciousness in recent decades,
reducing the personal base we need to understand our regional family. ASPI Strategy 3 Our near abroad: Australia and Pacific islands regionalism Recommendations Addressing traditional security
1. Reinforce regional security assessment capability • • Australia can help to strengthen the Pacific Islands Forum Regional
Security Committee (FRSC). We should take a lead in developing
the protocols needed to develop and integrate an effective security
classification scheme.
The institutional foundations of regional law enforcement
agencies, such as the Oceania Customs Organisation and the Pacific
Immigration Directors’ Conference, should also be put on a more
secure footing. 2. Strengthen law and order at sea •
• Australia should seek to strengthen the Quadrilateral Defence
Coordination Group arrangement to improve its regional capacity
for maritime surveillance and law enforcement.
ASPI’s earlier proposal for a Regional Maritime Coordination
Centre should be supported to give the Forum island countries
significant decision-making responsibility for a supranational
enforcement capability. 3. Work alongside China in law enforcement • Australia should actively seek appropriate avenues for obtaining
Chinese participation in regional law enforcement processes. Improving Australia’s regional posture
4. Leverage bilateralism to support regionalism • 4 ASPI Strategy Australia should continue to support ongoing work through the
FRSC to develop appropriate security classification protocols to
support reciprocal sharing of sensitive information within the
regional framework on transnational crime. Recommendations 5. Repair the relationship with Fiji •
• The relationship between Australia and Fiji needs to be addressed at the highest level,
not by setting preconditional demands or through intermediaries.
At a minimum, the regional sanctions against Fiji must be lifted to re-engage Australia
and Fiji through the Pacific Islands Forum on a non-prejudicial basis. 6. Strengthen sub-regional integration with the regional system •
• Where appropriate, Australia should engage with the Melanesian Spearhead Group
(MSG) and its projects as supportively as possible. This would include assistance in
funding the MSG Secretariat.
Australia should continue to make important contributions to the South-West Pacific
Dialogue, which could become an even more helpful cross-regional forum in the future,
especially for the dialogue between the MSG and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 7. Refocus on Papua New Guinea •
• Papua New Guinea (PNG) should be treated as a special case when we deal with it either
regionally or sub-regionally.
An Australia–PNG Council should be established under the auspices of the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade to develop closer people-to-people relations, along the lines of
similar arrangements for China and India. 8. Downplay the Pacific Plan • Implementation of the 2005 Pacific Plan has lost momentum. A more low-key approach,
with more emphasis on consolidation through the region’s technical agencies, would
reduce some political concerns over the plan. Strengthening economic security
9. Resolving the labour mobility question: seasonal and permanent • • For a variety of reasons, the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme has operated well
below expectations. To better support the scheme, we need to address bureaucratic
impediments, the lack of employer awareness of the scheme and the use of
unregulated labour.
Australia ought to consider a similar scheme to New Zealand’s Pacific Access Category
scheme for permanent migration from the smaller island states where such an
arrangement would make a significant economic difference. 10. Review regional disaster insurance arrangements • In collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Australia should assess the
practicality of a regional insurance scheme to help the Pacific islands rebound after
natural disasters. 11. Promote the Pacific fisheries sector •
• Australia should fund senior in-country fisheries expertise for those countries wishing to
take up such offers.
The Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme is clearly too limited. It would be desirable to
include fishing in the scheme. ASPI Strategy 5 Our near abroad: Australia and Pacific islands regionalism • The success of Australia’s increased investment in combating illegal, unreported
and unregulated (IUU) fishing in northern Australian waters should now allow us to
move some assets to help combat IUU fishing in the Pacific. This work would be a
complementary component in support of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s
Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance strategy. Advancing social security
12. Address the Millennium Development Goals educational deficit •
• A dedicated teachers’ training facility, possibly under the Australia–Pacific Technical
College (APTC) banner, should be established in Australia to upgrade the skills of those
in the region who train teachers.
Australia should offer a program of scholarships to talented Pacific islander children
to attend high-performing boarding schools in Australia for their final two years of
secondary schooling. 13. Introduce a new Colombo Plan for the Pacific islands •
• The APTC, announced in 2006, has been an important step in the right direction and
merits the $152 million over four years announced at the 2011 Pacific Islands Forum to
support its work.
University-level education will remain a problem for the Melanesian countries; the
number of scholarships to Australian universities made available to Melanesian countries
should be raised. 14. Mobilise volunteer health care • AusAID should actively engage with medical peak professional associations to maximise
the opportunities for greater voluntary medical support to the Pacific islands. Building the national base
15. Improve regional understanding •

• The Melanesian people of the Torres Strait Islands and Norfolk Islanders of Polynesian
ancestry can serve as bridges from Australia into the region.
A dedicated Pacific Islands Studies Institute to cover the politics, economics and cultures
of the region would reinvigorate Pacific islands studies in Australia.
The Australian Government should support the establishment of centres for Australian
studies at the University of the South Pacific and the University of PNG to facilitate and
promote a better understanding of Australia and its ties with the region.
Australia should establish an Office of Sport and Diplomacy within the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade to advance our regional ties through sport. 16. Lift diplomatic capacity • It is highly desirable that recruitment to our diplomatic service require an appropriate
knowledge of the Pacific islands and their relevance to Australia. A Pacific islands posting
should be a routine and expected component of a complete Australian diplomatic career. 6 ASPI Strategy Chapter 1 Chapter 1 THE REGIONAL SETTING
Australia has long enjoyed a privileged place in Pacific islands regional
affairs: it’s been our ‘Near Abroad’. But the changing tectonics of
Asia–Pacific geopolitics and a bitter intra-regional dispute with Fiji,
the Pacific islands’ hub state, have raised serious questions about the
quality of Australia’s regional relationships.
The signs of erosion can be discerned in rising sub-regionalism and
faltering support for regional initiatives. An increasing fascination with
Asia, greater diplomatic risk-taking by island states and new avenues of
representation at the United Nations (UN) mean that regional processes
are less predictable and less supportive of Australia’s regional role.
Australia has devoted considerable financial and diplomatic resources to
maintaining the Pacific islands regional system. A loss in the effectiveness
of the system would seriously undermine its value to Australia.
There’s a qualitative difference between bilateral and regional relations
in the Pacific islands. The intimacy that Australia enjoys through the
regional system can’t be negotiated through formal treaties. It’s been
built by friendship and maintained by mutual respect. Our regional
ties provide the most important measure of the warmth of the overall
relationship that Australia has with the Pacific islands, and are an
important soft power asset for the implementation of our national
interests in, and through, the region. Geography
The geographical quality that unites the Pacific islands as a region
is their insularity. That might be fortunate, since there’s much else
in their geography that divides them. The islands have an array of
physical landforms. Low-lying atolls with vast central lagoons are
typical in Polynesia and Micronesia. Nauru and Niue are raised atolls
with no lagoons. There are high volcanic islands in Polynesia and
Melanesia, and continental islands in Melanesia include Papua New
Guinea (PNG) with its snow-capped mountains.
ASPI Strategy 7 Our near abroad: Australia and Pacific islands regionalism Another inescapable descriptor is the asymmetry of the Pacific islands’ intra-regional and
extra-regional relationships. Uneven, imbalanced associations exemplify virtually every
physical and social metric in the islands, from the region’s geography and natural resources
through to its politics and international relations.
The Pacific islands lie in the midst of the world’s largest ocean but include some of the
world’s smallest countries (Table 1). Indeed, the number of microstates—states with resident
populations of fewer than half a million—is one of the region’s key identifying geopolitical
characteristics.2 There’s no greater concentration of microstates on the planet. The region
also remains the one last bastion of unresolved 19th century colonialism: a third of its polities
remain dependencies.
Table 1: Pacific island countries
Country Capital Land
(sq. km) EEZ
(sq. km) Population
[year] GDP (US$)
[year] Political status American
Samoa Pago Pago 199 404,391 67,242
[2011] 462.2 million
[2005] Dependent
territory Cook Islands Rarotonga 236 1.8 million 13,200
[2009] 206.5 million
[2009] Freely
associated state Federated
States of
Micronesia Pohnpei 702 2.9 million 110,000
[2010] 269.7 million
[2009] Freely...
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The Right to Survive The Right to Survive
The humanitarian challenge for the twenty-first century
Almost 250 million people around the world are affected by climaterelated disasters in a typical year. New research for this report projects
that, by 2015, this number could grow by 50 per cent to an average of
more than 375 million people – as climate change and environmental
mismanagement create a proliferation of droughts, floods, and other
disasters. The predicted scale of humanitarian need by 2015 could
completely overwhelm current capacity to respond to emergencies –
unless the world acknowledges and responds to the growing threat. The humanitarian challenge for the twenty-first century Even in daunting economic times, the world can afford to meet future
humanitarian needs and fulfil the right to survive of vulnerable people.
The skills and resources exist to mitigate the threats from climaterelated catastrophic events. Some countries – rich and poor – have
already demonstrated the political will to do just that. Carlo Heathcote / Oxfam The Right to Survive shows that the humanitarian challenge of the
twenty-first century demands a step-change in the quantity of
resources devoted to saving lives in emergencies and in the quality and
nature of humanitarian response. Whether or not there is sufficient will
to do this will be one of the defining features of our age – and will
dictate whether millions live or die. © Oxfam International 2009
Oxfam International is a confederation of thirteen organisations
working together in more than 100 countries to find lasting
solutions to poverty and injustice: Oxfam America,
Oxfam Australia, Oxfam-in-Belgium, Oxfam Canada,
Oxfam France – Agir ici, Oxfam Germany, Oxfam GB,
Oxfam Hong Kong, Intermón Oxfam (Spain), Oxfam Ireland,
Oxfam New Zealand, Oxfam Novib (Netherlands), and
Oxfam Québec Abbie Trayler-Smith / Oxfam GB The Right to
The humanitarian challenge for
the twenty-first century Acknowledgements
This report was written by Tanja Schuemer-Cross and Ben Heaven Taylor.
Kim Scriven provided principal research assistance, with additional research by
Lucy Gregg and Shamanthy Ganeshan. The report was edited by Jacqueline Smith and
Anna Coryndon and designed by Garth Stewart. The authors wish to thank everyone
who helped in its production, in particular Ed Cairns, Michael Bailey, Jane Beesley,
Nicki Bennett, Wayne Diamond and Oxfam staff in more than 30 counties. First published by Oxfam International in
April 2009.
© Oxfam International 2009
ISBN: 978-0-85598-639-1
A catalogue record for this publication is available
from the British Library.
Published by Oxfam International, Oxfam
International Secretariat, Suite 20, 266 Banbury
Road, Oxford OX2 7DL, United Kingdom.
All rights reserved. This publication is copyright,
but may be reproduced by any method without
fee for advocacy, campaigning, and teaching
purposes, but not for resale. The copyright holder
requests that all such use be registered with them
for impact assessment purposes. For copying in
any other circumstances, or for re-use in other
publications, or for translation or adaptation,
prior written permission must be obtained from
the publisher, and a fee may be payable. Front cover image: Haiti: members of the Civil
Protection Committee of Borgne take part in a
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E-mail: comunicació[email protected] Contents
Summary 2
1 Introduction 13
2 New threats and old 21
3 Responsible governments and active citizens 43
4 Quality, impartiality, and accountability in international
humanitarian aid 55
5 Long-term solutions to long-term problems 77
6 Resourcing humanitarian action in the twenty-first
century 91
7 Building a safer future 112
8 Conclusion 123
Notes 126
Index 138 1 Summary
Each year, on average, almost 250 million people are affected by ‘natural’
disasters.1 In a typical year between 1998 and 2007, 98 per cent of them
suffered from climate-related disasters such as droughts and floods rather
than, for example, devastating but relatively rare events such as
earthquakes. According to new research for this report, by 2015 this could
grow by more than 50 per cent to an average of over 375 million affected
by climate-related disasters each year.2
Any such projection is not an exact science, but it is clear that
substantially more people may be affected by disasters in the very near,
not just distant, future, as climate change and environmental
mismanagement create a proliferation of droughts, landslides, floods and
other local disasters. And more people will be vulnerable to them because
of their poverty and location.3
Some of these environmental changes will also increase the threat of new
conflicts, which will mean more people displaced, and more need for
humanitarian aid. One recent report estimated that 46 countries will face
a ‘high risk of violent conflict’ when climate change exacerbates
traditional security threats.4 Already, there is evidence that the number of
conflicts is again on the rise,5 while the threat of long-running conflicts
creating vast new humanitarian demands was painfully shown by the
upsurge of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008.
In short, by 2015, an unprecedented level of need for humanitarian
assistance could overwhelm the world’s current humanitarian capacity.
Already, many governments fail to cope with threats like storms, floods
and earthquakes. They fail to act quickly or effectively enough in response
to these events, or to take preventative action to reduce unnecessary
deaths and suffering. Indeed, the very actions of some governments and
their national elites place marginalised people at risk from disasters by
discriminating against them, like those forced to live in flimsy slum
housing so easily destroyed by floods and landslips.
At the same time, international humanitarian assistance is often too slow
or inappropriate, and the UN-led reforms since 2005 to improve it have
only begun to make a difference. 2 Challenge
The scale of the humanitarian challenge is unprecedented. National and
donor governments, aid agencies, and others must act to improve the
quality and quantity of humanitarian aid. Whether or not there is the
political will to do this will be one of the defining features of our age, and
will dictate whether millions live or die.
Even in daunting economic times, the world can afford to meet the
humanitarian needs of every person struggling to survive a disaster. It is
possible to reduce the threats from climate-related catastrophes. It is
possible for governments to provide good-quality aid to their citizens.
And it will cost a tiny fraction of what rich countries spent on the global
financial crisis since 2008 to provide decent humanitarian assistance to all
those men, women, and children who, by 2015, may need it. If all
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
governments simply gave as much (per head of their population) as the
OECD’s ten most generous countries did in 2006, global humanitarian aid
would increase to a total of $42bn.6 In 2008, European governments found
$2.3 trillion to provide guarantees for their financial sectors: the German
and UK governments alone found $68bn and $40bn to bail out just two
banks, Hypo Real Estate and the Royal Bank of Scotland.7 Decent aid, for
every person in need, would be a bargain by comparison.
Rich governments must also take the lead in mitigating the impact of
climate change, a key factor in driving the increased threat of disaster. In
accordance with their responsibility (for greenhouse gas emissions) and
capability (to mobilise resources), rich countries must cut global
emissions so that global warming stays as far below 2°C as possible, and
provide at least $50bn per year to help poor countries adapt to already
unavoidable climate change.
But the governments of developing countries must also take greater
responsibility for responding to disasters and reducing people’s
vulnerability to them. The growth in localised climate-related shocks will
hit people in developing countries hardest, because their homes and
livelihoods will be most vulnerable. So developing countries will need to
enable regional authorities and civil society to respond effectively. 3 More vulnerable people
For millions of women and men worldwide it is their vulnerability – who
they are, where they live, and how they make a living – and not the threats
they face per se that will determine whether they survive. Vulnerability to
threats such as conflict or environmental hazards like floods and
earthquakes is a direct result of poverty; the political choices, corruption,
and greed that cause it, and the political indifference that allows it to
In 2008, in the devastated Haitian city of Gonaïves, Ogè Léandre, a 45-yearold father of six, had a lucky escape:
The water started to rise, and it did not stop … the water was already so high and
strong that I could not hold on to one of my children and the water swept her
away. Luckily someone was there to grab her. We got to the roof-top of the
[hurricane] shelter, and, about an hour later, watched as our entire house was
washed away.8
The tropical storms of 2008 wreaked havoc in Haiti. In Gonaïves alone, up
to a quarter of the population were forced from their homes, as tens of
thousands of poorly constructed and badly sited slum houses were swept
away.9 Everywhere, poor people are the most vulnerable to being killed or
made destitute by disasters. In rich countries, an average of 23 people die
in any given disaster; in the least-developed countries this is 1,052.10 This
is because poor people like Ogè and his children often live in poorly
constructed homes on land threatened by flooding, drought and
landslips, and in areas without effective health services or infrastructure.
Some groups – women and girls, the chronically sick, the elderly, and
others – are even more vulnerable, their ability to cope limited by
discrimination, inequality, or their physical health. In both conflict and
natural disaster, women’s and girls’ vulnerability to sexual violence and
abuse increases as communities and families are broken up, and local
authorities lose control of law and order.
But for families living in poverty, the cumulative effect of more frequent
disasters will drive them into a vicious cycle of vulnerability to further
shocks. The poorer one is, the less resilient one’s livelihood, the fewer
assets one has to sell to survive a crisis, and the longer it takes to recover. A
2004 study of the impact of instances of low rainfall on subsistence
farmers in Ethiopia found that it often took households years to recover
from such shocks.11 4 Looking to the future, the point is this: for many of the world’s poor people,
vulnerability to disaster may increase, and there are four trends that may
drive this. First, there are far more people living in urban slums built on
precarious land. Second, the increasing pressure on rural productive land,
caused by drought, population density, and increasing demand for meat
and dairy products in emerging economies, means that more people will
find it difficult to get enough to eat. Third, climate change, environmental
degradation and conflict may drive more people from their homes,
stripping them of their livelihoods, assets, and their networks of family and
communities that can support them. Some estimates suggest that up to one
billion people will be forced to move from their homes by 2050.12 Finally, the
global economic crisis that escalated in late 2008 may increase
unemployment and undermine social safety nets which, in some countries,
may contribute to increased humanitarian needs. Choosing to act
There are positive trends as well, and they can be built on. Not everyone
has become more vulnerable to the rising number of disasters. In some
countries, the proportion of people living in poverty has fallen, allowing
more people to have secure homes and livelihoods, and to build up savings
that help them recover from shocks.13 Other countries have a proven
record of saving lives. In many countries, the death toll from disasters has
been drastically reduced, not because there have been fewer disastrous
events, but because governments have taken action to prepare for
disasters and reduce risks. While Cyclone Sidr killed around 3,000 people
in Bangladesh in 2007, this was a tiny fraction of the numbers killed by
Cyclone Bhola in 1972 or even by Cyclone Gorky in 1991, despite the fact
that these storms were similar in strength or weaker. In countries like
India, where the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has created
900 million person-days of employment for rural people living in poverty,
the advent of social protection mechanisms offers at least the hope that
the cycle of disaster and poverty can be broken.14 In Chile in May 2008, the
eruption of Mount Chaitén – the first in recorded history – was met with a
speedy response, including the deployment of civil defence teams and the
evacuation of 8,000 people.15 5 State responsibility
As with any human right, the state is the principal guarantor of its
citizens’ right to life. And the impetus to make the state deliver better lifesaving assistance is often the action of citizens holding their governments
to account. In Indonesia, Oxfam works with Flores Integrated Rural
Development (FIRD), a local organisation working in disaster management
and response. Their mediation between local villages and the district
government has helped to transform the delivery of aid. Dr Syrip Tintin of
FIRD explains:
Before, the district government would have to go and give support [to local
communities] in distributing relief. But now they are the ones who come to the
district government and say ‘we are ready; what can you do next?’. 16
In conflict as well as disasters, civil-society organisations can influence
the way affected people are treated, and support them in demanding that
governments uphold their rights. In August 2008, up to 130,000 people
were displaced in Georgia, in and around the disputed regions of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia. Organisations like the Georgian Young Lawyers
Association played a vital role in ensuring that those affected knew what
help they were entitled to, and that the national authorities provided it.17
Many displaced people do not know how to register, nor do they know of their
rights... We are giving legal aid and providing legal representation to people
Besarion Boxasvili (GYLA)18 But for every government that acts to protect lives in the face of threats
such as storms and conflict, there are far too many that fail. Sometimes
this is because they are simply overwhelmed by the weight of disasters.
Even Cuba, one of the countries best prepared for disasters, failed to
prevent tropical storm-related deaths in 2008, following four successive
hurricanes. But others fail through choice. Governments often blame
their failure to invest in disaster preparedness on economic constraints.
But the fact that some poor states have implemented successful measures
to reduce the risk of disasters shows that this is no adequate excuse.
Some governments actively abuse their own citizens or those of occupied
territories. Others, as well as some non-state actors, are complicit in the
deliberate manipulation and denial of humanitarian aid. In 2007, UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported that conflict was limiting or 6 preventing humanitarian access to over 18 million people in countries like
Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan either due to general insecurity or
deliberate obstruction.19 International assistance
International aid organisations play a crucial role, both in acting directly
to save lives where governments fail, and working to support governments
that choose to act responsibly. Humanitarian organisations, both local
and international, regularly demonstrate enormous skill, commitment
and courage in delivering essential aid to those who need it most, in
countries from Chad to Burma/Myanmar. In 2007, more than 43 million
people benefited from humanitarian assistance provided under UN
appeals.20 In November 2008, Oxfam was directly assisting 3.3 million
people with humanitarian needs.21
In 2007 in Bolivia, Oxfam worked alongside local government agencies to
quickly and effectively respond to serious floods, and to adapt the
agricultural system to cope with regular flooding and drought, to improve
soil fertility, and make the land productive. The construction of elevated
seedbeds, camellones, now prevents seasonal floodwater destroying food
But too often, international humanitarian agencies pay scant regard to
working with national or local governments (or with local civil-society
organisations, such as national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies). In
pursuing the ‘default’ option of providing assistance directly,
international organisations too often give the impression that they are
absolving governments of their obligations and reducing the likelihood of
basic services being restored in the future. That is not to say that
international humanitarian organisations should never act directly to
save lives – rather, that working through government and civil-society
partners is preferable where it is feasible.
Too much humanitarian aid is still inappropriate and poorly targeted. Too
often, humanitarian assistance does not take account of the specific needs
of different groups, like women and men for instance. The vulnerability of
women and girls to sexual violence, for example, may actually be
increased by poorly designed aid projects. Nor is the humanitarian system
well set up to deal with the increasing number of local climate disasters.
In the past, traditional responses to large-scale catastrophes have often 7 been centralised, logistics-heavy interventions. In the future,
humanitarian organisations will need to focus more on building local
capacity to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to this proliferation of
climate-related shocks.
The current level of humanitarian funding is still far too low to meet even
today’s humanitarian needs. The world spent more on video games in 2006
than it did on international humanitarian assistance.23 The significant
amount of aid already coming from non-OECD humanitarian donors, from
the Middle East and elsewhere, should also of course be increased.
The issue is not just one of quantity, however. Too much money, from
OECD and non-OECD donors alike, is allocated according to the political
or security interests of governments – or according to whichever disaster
is on the television screens of each country – rather than impartially on
the basis of humanitarian need. Comparing the global response to the
Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 with the response to the conflict in Chad in
the same year, the 500,000 people assisted after the tsunami received an
average of $1,241 each in official aid, while the 700,000 recipients of aid in
Chad received just $23 each.24 Building a safer future
The humanitarian challenge of the twenty-first century is this: an
increasing total of largely local catastrophic events, increasing numbers of
people vulnerable to them, too many governments failing to prevent or
respond to them, and an international humanitarian system unable to
cope. In the face of that, disaster-affected people need:
• A far greater focus on building national governments’ capacity to
respond to disasters – and, where needed, challenging those
governments to use it;
• A far greater focus on helping people, and national governments, to
become less vulnerable to disasters; and
• An international humanitarian system that acts quickly and
impartially to provide effective and accountable assistance –
complementing national capacity, and sometimes providing the aid
that national governments fail to.
That will require the following: 8 Building state responsibility and empowering affected people
• Governments must reinforce nat...
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Does Foreign Aid Really Work? Roger C. Riddell Keynote address to the Australasian Aid and International Development Workshop, Canberra 13th February 2014 Introduction and overview I have worked on aid and development issues for some 40 years and have tried to engage as a “critical friend” of aid, perhaps -­‐ inevitably – drawing fire from both aid’s supporters and aid’s critics. And it is from this perspective that I approach the subject today. My presentation this morning is based on a longer paper that I have prepared for this Workshop. There are some important themes relevant to a full analysis of aid impact in the paper which there is no time to discuss here at all – such as aid and corruption – and most of the issues raised here are treated in far more detailed and referenced in my paper. The title of my talk today is the beguilingly simple one – Does Foreign Aid Really Work? Some might say that the fact that we are still asking this most basic question about aid over 60 years since official aid started to flow in the late 1940s is an indication of how little we still seem to know about aid’s impact and influence. My own view is that robust and reliable information on aid’s impact certainly remains a significant problem. However there are two other reasons why the question continues to be asked. The first is that aid has been constantly changing: it has been provided in different forms to address a succession of different problems or to fill different gaps seen as critical at particular points of time. In the 1950s, it was physical infrastructure and technical skills; in the 1960s, it was the savings and investment gaps; in the 1970s, meeting basic needs, in the 1980s, the productive sector; in the 1990s governance, human rights and human development; and today (not unlike the 1970s), assistance targeted on the achievement of key Millennium Development Goals. 1 The second reason why we are still asking whether aid works is that the question Does Foreign Aid Work? has been understood differently at different periods of times. Broadly speaking, there are three ways that the question has been interpreted. • Thus 30 years ago, when most people asked whether aid works they principally wanted to know if different aid projects met their immediate objectives – were the schools that aid funded actually built, the children immunised, the roads built and the teachers trained. • More recently in asking the question Does Aid Work?, most people have wanted answers to the broader and more general questions of whether aid makes a lasting difference to the lives, incomes and well-­‐being of poor people and helps to lift them out of poverty -­‐ and if so how much aid is needed to lift everyone out of poverty -­‐ and whether aid makes a significant difference to a recipient country’s growth and development path. • Today, a significant and growing number of people have begun to raise an even more challenging question – not whether aid projects achieve their immediate objectives, nor whether aid makes a tangible and lasting difference to poor people and a significant difference to the goal of ridding the world of extreme poverty, but whether poor country economies are better off with the aid they receive than they would be without such aid. For years, aid’s critics have argued that poverty falls faster and economic growth and development rises more rapidly without aid, then on this basis aid is judged not to have “worked”. Today it is not only aid’s critics but by aid scholars and officials within donor agencies who are also seeing the merits in seeking answers to such questions. One way this question is now being approached is by looking more closely at the systemic and long-­‐term effects of donors providing aid focused increasingly on addressing immediate short-­‐term poverty problems. More specifically does the way aid is currently given, with more and more donors funding more and more projects aimed at maximising immediate and visible benefits – expanded school places and immunisation programmes; greater 2 access to clean water and sanitation; more bed-­‐nets and anti-­‐retroviral drugs – result in holding back the long-­‐term development prospects of recipient country economies by failing to address underlying development problems, or even by actually creating new obstacles? If the answer is “yes” then in this sense aid could be said not to be working. Which is the right question to ask? My own view is that all are important in coming to a judgement about aid. But beyond my own value judgements, the strongest case for aid will be made if all three can be answered affirmatively: if aid projects achieve their immediate objectives and these can be sustained; if aid contributes to an aggregate fall in poverty levels, and to faster growth and sustained development; and if aid-­‐giving rather than adding to the systemic problems which constrain a recipient’s long-­‐term development prospects, helps to reduce them. Many of you may be surprised to know that for the first 30 years of official aid-­‐giving no one really much bothered with trying to answer the question Does Aid Work? This is because trying to help address the needs and solve the most pressing problems of poor countries was seen as a sufficient justification in itself for providing aid. And in its 25 year review of the official aid system published in 1985, the OECD/DAC was confident enough to champion official aid-­‐giving when stating boldly that “the most troubling shortcoming of development aid has been its limited measurable contribution to the reduction of extreme poverty…”1 Today in sharp contrast, demonstrating that aid does have a positive impact is quite widely seen as providing the (sole) ground for determining whether aid should be given. Viewed from an historical perspective, it would seem that donors have been painting themselves into a corner from which they need to escape. With this background, I will now look at some of the evidence to try to answer the question Does Foreign Aid Really Work? from these three different perspectives. 11 OECD (1985) Twenty Five Years of Development Cooperation: A Review. Paris: OECD, p. 18. 3 Aid’s critics and emergency aid Though it might strike you as rather odd, the first thing I want to discuss is the issue of emergency or humanitarian aid. Why? -­‐ Because the most prominent public debates around the question Does Aid Work? have been focused almost entirely on development aid: most vehement critics, such as Peter Bauer in the 1970s and 1980s, and Dambisa Moyo more recently, have gone out of their way to say that their criticisms of aid are not aimed at emergency aid which, at least in some forms, they appear to support, even its expansion. Is this because emergency aid works and development aid doesn’t? Seemingly not because, as discussed in my paper, while the information we have of the impact of humanitarian aid remains poor and patchy, the evidence we do have indicates a range of problems, some quite serious. In spite of these problems and even evidence of emergency aid “going astray”, public support for emergency aid remains strong spurred on by media. Another reason for raising the issue of emergency aid is that the historical distinction between emergency aid and development is nowhere near as clear-­‐cut as it was. Increasingly in recent years a growing amount of emergency aid has been is used not to save lives nor respond to the immediate aftermaths of a disaster but to help to rebuild the lives and restore the livelihoods of those affected by emergencies. At the same time, billions of dollars of “development aid” is now regularly channelled into immediate-­‐life-­‐saving initiatives by providing clean water, through mass immunisation programmes, by supplying anti-­‐malarial bed-­‐nets or distributing anti-­‐retroviral drugs to those who are HIV+. An important reason why people are so supportive of emergency aid is because it perceived as the aid which “saves lives”. It is clearly still not sufficiently well known that for every person who dies as a result of a natural disaster, 200 people die from diseases of poverty. Thus, in short, the public remains a strong supporter of emergency aid when there is firm evidence to suggest significant impact problems and critics of development aid laud emergency aid for saving lives when a growing amount of development aid is doing precisely that. 4 Development aid projects and programme aid Development aid is still predominantly provided in the form of discrete projects. In spite of a steady expansion in the numbers of projects assessed and an increase in analytic rigour, most projects are still not evaluated, and only a small proportion of projects (considerably less than 1%) are the focus of any in-­‐depth evaluation. Even today, few official agencies and no NGOs undertake aid impact assessment in a systematic way. Against this backdrop what is the evidence of project aid impact? The most common way of judging success is still probably whether aid projects achieve their immediate objectives, such as funding schools and school-­‐places, building clinics and supplying drugs, building roads. Most donors record such “success” rates in excess of 75 percent for their projects. Even allowing for an upward bias in these results (many if not most are based on internal assessments) the results indicate that most aid projects “work”. Furthermore, both historical and more recent data indicate the reported rate of success of projects across the leading agencies has continued to improve over time: there has been a steady rise in the proportion of aid projects which have succeeded in meeting their immediate objectives. At one level this is an important and positive finding and there have been some truly amazing individual success stories such as the global eradication of smallpox which aid played a crucial part in achieving. There have also been failures. Overall donor data suggest that between 10% and 25% of projects have failed to meet their immediate objectives, have had extremely limited success, or else that the data on the projects have been so poor that it has not been possible to form a judgement on project performance. Importantly, too, some types of aid have been less successful than others. For example, transport projects have been less successful, as have agricultural aid projects implemented in particular regions or countries, notably within sub-­‐Saharan Africa. Additionally, immediate project success (the most common focus of such studies) doesn’t necessarily mean permanent success, and mid-­‐2000s data suggest that when looked at over time project success rates could fall below 60%, though most evidence suggests that a rising proportion of projects are achieving positive scores in relation to their sustainability. 5 A major component of aid is provided as “technical assistance” (TA). Assessments of the impact of these forms of assistance suggest that in spite of most TA filling knowledge gaps and training local personnel, such aid generally has not been at all successful in sustainable capacity development including the retention of high level skills and the strengthening of public institutions. NGO aid projects Assessment of the impact of NGOs projects is often more challenging as most NGOs view the aid they give in terms of the tangible outputs they seek to deliver – health services and schooling, rural development, income generation and micro-­‐credit projects and programmes – as only part of a wider purpose of seeking to empower beneficiaries to be better able to shape their own lives in the future. Nonetheless, against this backdrop, recent evidence is broadly consistent with the early donor-­‐based surveys of impact, though with a broader spread of successful projects than for official aid projects – from a low of 60% to highs of 90% -­‐ and with often more challenging sustainability problems, with projects typically requiring continued external financial support. Programme aid Most assessments of sectoral support, including SWAps, have focussed on the performance of aid given by particular donors or groups of donors rather than on its overall impact. Those that have attempted an overall assessment have suggested that these “new aid modalities” have usually worked “reasonably effectively” especially after some initial teething problems, resulting in both a significant extension of activities funded as well as greater abilities to manage funds and more complex programmes. Assessments of budget support as an aid modality have also been mixed. One early large cross-­‐country study, though reluctant to make an overall judgement, reported more successes than failures. Subsequent studies have been more positive. However, in spite of donor commitments to increase programme aid, its popularity in the early 2000s and the positive outcomes in many contexts, there has been a fall in the share of aid channelled to budget support in recent years. 6 Some people today are quite happy to look at aid projects and if the majority achieve their immediate objectives (as they undoubtedly do) conclude that “aid works”. However this has never satisfied aid’s critics and, as discussed earlier, more and more people today are more concerned to know whether aid – overall – works. What does the evidence tells us? Aid and growth There has been a long tradition of academic studies which have analysed the aggregate relationship between official aid and economic growth and which continues to this day. Almost as much ink has been spilt in discussing the methods these studies used as on their findings. As discussed in my book and, for more recent studies in my paper, most studies have suggested that aid has made a positive contribution to growth though perhaps the more interesting recent finding is that the impact of aid on growth has been comparatively small: a sustained contribution of aid of about 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) raises GDP levels by only about 1%. Aid and the reduction in poverty For many, the key question that needs to be answered is what the overall contribution of aid is to poverty reduction. The aid-­‐poverty relationship is particularly important in contemporary aid discourse because of the number of large donors who have linked their recent and current aid-­‐giving to help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Far fewer studies have been conducted which examine the aggregate relationship across countries between aid and poverty reduction compared with the aid and growth studies. These almost all suggest that aid does “work” in helping to reduce the numbers living in poverty, though quite a common finding is that aid has not been so successful in reaching and assisting the poorest and most marginalised. Analysing the impact of aid on the MDGs is challenging because of a number of methodological and data problems. For example, in March 2007, the Director of the United Nations Statistics Division acknowledged the seriousness of these problems, noting that only 17 out of 163 developing countries had trend data to assess progress for less than half the MDG indicators. All else was effectively based on guess-­‐work. 7 Against this backdrop of uncertainty and lack of conceptual clarity, has aid helped to achieve the MDGs and further reduce poverty? The authors of one major study which looked at this issue said that there was insufficient evidence to enable them to say whether the MDGs had contributed to poverty reduction, so it was thus not surprising that they were even more cautious in the conclusions they drew about the role of aid in helping to achieve the MDGs, suggesting merely that “aid may have had some role in improving outcomes”. While their cross-­‐country analyses showed that poverty rates fell faster in the last ten years than in earlier periods, a time when aid levels were rising, they warned against necessarily attributing this fall to the increased aid provided. Aid at the country level For more than two decades, donors have also conducted or commissioned numerous country studies on aid impact. However these studies have predominantly been assessments of the impact of their aid interventions at the country-­‐wide level and not of all aid. What is more, to this day, individual bilateral donors, in particular, are still unable to produce robust and unambiguous evidence to document the direct contribution their own aid is making to aggregate growth and poverty reduction, still less of all aid provided. Indeed, a common thread running through the most rigorous of these country evaluations has been the reluctance of evaluators to be drawn into making firm conclusions about the direct link between the aid provided and wider outcomes. Two reasons are most commonly cited: the lack of information and hard data upon which to track the narrow impact of the aid provided, and the knowledge that a range of influences other than the aid provided was also influencing outcomes at the sectoral or national levels. Surprisingly, exceptionally few studies of the overall impact of all aid to particular countries have been undertaken jointly or commissioned by either all donors or the leading donors to a particular country. A number of studies have been undertaken by individual donors whose own aid dominates total official aid flows, such as studies of the impact of Australian aid to Papua New Guinea which many of you I am sure are familiar with, and which I discuss briefly in my paper. 8 In terms of overall aid impact, the conclusions emerging from these country case studies are mixed: in most countries aid frequently has had a positive overall impact in some time periods, but in some countries it has had a negative impact. In short, aid at the country level has sometimes “worked” and sometimes it hasn’t in some countries and at different periods of time. Recent research suggests that although aid projects tend to work better in countries with a supportive policy and institution environment, project success seems to vary more within than between countries. Importantly, no rigorous study has ever suggested that aid has never ever worked in any aid-­‐recipient country. What is more, aid’s strongest critics have never published rigorous long-­‐term assessments of aid at the country level. In recent years, greater attention has been focused on the role of NGOs in aid-­‐giving. Too little is still known, however, about the wider and longer-­‐term contribution that aid channelled to and through CSOs makes to development and poverty reduction. To begin to try to address this knowledge gap the Norwegian aid agency Norad set up a Civil Society Panel in 2012 to undertake a pilot study to assess the overall impact of CSO/NGO activities in four countries: Malawi, Nepal, Ethiopia and Vietnam – all of which were funded by public and private aid money. I took part in the Asian parts of this study. The Panel’s assessment is unequivocal: in all four countries, aid channelled to and through CSOs/NGOs works: it makes a significant contribution to development in a number of different ways, the most important being through the combined contribution that different CSOs make to the national provision of education and health services. Even in inhospitable contexts, where states impose severe limitations on civil society organisations, CSOs have contributed to poverty reduction. Interestingly, the study argued that the wider and longer-­‐term impact of CSOs on development and poverty reduction could be far greater if agencies took a more strategic approach to their work instead of focusing narrowly, as most still do, on their individual projects and trying to ensure that these “work”. 9 Problems and inefficiencies in aid-­‐giving So it seems that on balance the vast majority of aid projects “work” in the sense of achieving their near-­‐term objectives and that, though the evidence is far less robust, aid has probably made a positive contribution to poverty reduction and broader development. What is therefore of particular interest is the large and growing literature which shows that aid-­‐giving and the aid relationship – the interaction between donors and recipients – is characterised by a range of problems which taken together seriously undermine the development impact of aid and create a very significant gap between what aid currently achieve and what it could do if changes to the aid relationship were implemented. Interestingly, while donors are loathe to admit their aid is not working, they are far more ready to acknowledge that current ways of aid-­‐giving are riddled with inefficiencies and that there is an urgent need to address them. I will now look briefly at some of these. The first problem concerns the way official aid is allocated and the mis-­‐match between who gets aid and who needs it. Historically, the decisions that the largest donor countries have made have always been influenced by their own national and short-­‐term political interests as well as development and poverty considerations. But if you believe poverty should determine the allocation of aid, difficult – but crucial – questions remain. Should aid go to the poorest countries (currently less than half all official aid does so), or should it go to the countries where most of the poorest people live? This question has become increasingly important as a number of countries containing large numbers of poor people (such as India and Nigeria) which were once classified as low-­‐income countries have been reclassified as middle-­‐income countries. Today over 80% of the world’s poorest people now live in middle-­‐
income countries. For some donors, commercial interests, for example through aid tying, have also played an important role in determining aid flows. As much as 50% of all ODA (including technical assistance) is tied in some form. Aid tying increases the cost of aid by between 15-­‐30%. 10 Another major problem besides the way it is allocated is aid’s volatility and unpredictability: many recipients don’t know from one year to the next how much aid they are likely to receive so they are unable to plan how to use aid resources efficiently. This reduces the effective value of official aid by between 8 and 20 percent. Further inefficiencies result from the way donors actually provide and deliver aid. Official aid-­‐giving is characterised by an ever-­‐increasing number of donors overseeing a growing number of discrete projects, creating an ever-­‐more complex web of transactions and parallel management systems, many replicating and duplicating each other, and creating growing demands on recipients. Individual donors often provide aid that is not harmonised with other donors’ aid and not integrated with recipient country plans and priorities, as much aid is managed by donors not recipients. A number of studies have tried to quantify the overall costs of these inefficiencies. For instance, a report for the European Union, which accounts for about 65% of all ODA, suggests that the inefficiencies -­‐ in terms of donor proliferation and the fragmentation of aid -­‐ add between €2 billion and €5 billion to the costs of providing aid, adding to the evidence of the current inefficiencies of official aid. If the costs to recipient countries are added, the overall figures would be far higher. Almost ten years ago, in 2005, the main donors signed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness: ownership, harmonisation, alignment, results and mutual accountability. This has rightly been seen as an historically important document as, in signing the Declaration, the donors were implicitly acknowledging that the way they were currently giving aid was characterised by a succession of practices and processes that were already highly inefficient and becoming increasingly unworkable. The Declaration committed the donors to do the following by the year 2010: reduce the numbers of donors each recipient had to work with; minimise overlap in their programmes and duplication of their parallel aid efforts; harmonise their different aid initiatives more closely together; provide more aid through recipient government channels; align their aid more closely to recipient priorities; work together to help and strengthen recipient government institutions, in part, in order that recipients rather than donors would lead in the coordination of all aid efforts. Relatedly, donors pledged to increase the total amounts of aid they provide to estimated funding gaps. 11 What happened? Although some donors have made progress in some areas, in aggregate they failed to meet all but one of the targets set, while In relation to the aid they said they would provide, only half the increases were forthcoming. The gap between rhetoric and reality has remained almost as wide as it ever was in spite of the analysis of and commitment to address many of the critical...
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Special report
March 2011 — Issue 38 A better fit National security and Australia’s
aid program Report of an Independent Task Force
Chairs’ introduction
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute and
the Foundation for Development Cooperation
recently convened an independent task
force to consider the relationship between
Australia’s national security and our official
development assistance.
The Australian Government is committed to
increasing the aid program until it reaches
0.5% of gross national income by 2015–16.
That’s likely to double our spending on aid.
AusAID will be one of our biggest spending
government agencies.
How this large increase in development
assistance advances our national security
should be an important matter for debate.
Our foreign aid should contribute to regional
stability and be part of our strategy to
address problems that might cause Australia
security concern.
Aid, by promoting prosperity, can assist
regional states to become our trading
partners. Aid helps countries whose interests
align with Australia’s to increase their national
capacities in key areas, such as human
security. In that sense, our aid’s a strategic
investment; it strengthens our security by
assisting friendly states that we believe are
important to us. How far the Australian Government should
use our aid to pursue security interests was a
key issue examined by the task force. There’s
certainly scope for greater integration of the
work of the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade, the Department of Defence, the
Australian Federal Police and AusAID when it
comes to aid for priority countries.
We hope that this report will better inform
our official aid planners and national security
decision-makers on how best to leverage aid
to advance Australia’s security interests.
We would like to thank the task force
members for their constructive input and
dedication; the principal project manager,
Anthony Bergin from ASPI; and the rapporteur
for the group’s work, Stewart Firth. Professor
Firth produced an excellent preliminary
discussion paper that informed the task
force’s deliberations. The names of all
members of the task force are at the end of
this report.
Peter Abigail, Executive Director, ASPI and
Sean Rooney, Executive Director, FDC
Task Force Chairs 2 Special Report Executive summary
A new international consensus is emerging
on the place of aid and development in the
national security of major OECD donors. The
key elements of the new consensus are:
• making the promotion of development a
more important foreign policy objective
• identifying national security more closely
with increasing aid, encouraging global
development and bringing security to
fragile states
• giving aid agencies more say in decisions
about national security
• boosting civilian–military cooperation and
integration in delivering aid and security. quadrennial diplomacy and development
review, as the US has done
• give official development assistance a
ministerial portfolio of its own within the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
• maintain the new focus on aid to Africa,
but in the context of a heightened
awareness of security issues
• recognise the importance of Australia’s
strategic interests in Papua New Guinea
and the South Pacific
• recognise climate change affecting
neighbouring countries as a potential
national security problem for Australia
• consider creating a separate security sector
in the aid budget Australia has in some respects anticipated
this new approach, especially in civil–military
cooperation in delivering aid to fragile states
and in humanitarian emergencies. This
report acknowledges Australia’s good record
of achievement in the field, but we need to
do more. • develop a coherent strategy for
whole‑of‑government delivery of
aid in permissive and non-permissive
environments, given the extent to which
effective cooperation between different
government agencies remains problematic. The governments of Britain and the US
are already moving to integrate aid and
security. The United Kingdom’s 2010 National
Security Strategy and President Obama’s
recent presidential policy directive on global
development both recognise the need to see
aid through the prism of security, and vice
versa. USAID, Washington’s equivalent of our
AusAID, has a seat on the US’s National Security
Council when security and aid concerns
are intertwined. Background The report recommends that Australia should:
• maintain the official objective of the
aid program, but put more effort into
explaining how Australia’s aid contributes
to national security
• increase the accountability of the aid
program, for example by giving AusAID’s
Office of Development Effectiveness
a statutory role and by instituting a A new international consensus is emerging
on the place of aid and development in the
national security of major Organisation for
Economic Co‑operation and Development
(OECD) donors and on the agenda of
international organisations, such as the UN
Security Council and the World Bank.
For Australia, this new policy agenda
may be described as ‘securing aid’. Its key
elements are:
• to make the promotion of development a
more important foreign policy objective
• to identify national security more closely
with increasing aid, encouraging global
development and, where necessary,
bringing security to fragile states
by humanitarian and longer term
development intervention A better fit: National security and Australia’s aid program • to give aid agencies more say in decisions
about national security
• to boost civilian–military cooperation and
integration in delivering aid and security
• to research an evidence-based framework
for, and to institutionalise, civilian–military
• to recognise the complexity of fragile
situations in foreign states and the shared
challenges to genuinely empower local
authorities and build sustainable and
constructive partnerships with fragile and
conflict-affected countries.
In some respects, Australia has anticipated
this new policy approach: first, in the
way we’ve responded to security crises
and development challenges in regional
states since 1997; and second, in fostering
cooperation between AusAID, the Australian
Defence Force (ADF) and the Australian
Federal Police (AFP) in regional states and in
humanitarian emergencies. The international context
Many Western governments recognise the
need for closer coordination of diplomatic
and developmental strategies in a world filled
with new threats, new players and new ways
of engaging with friends and foes. Globally,
the costs of conflict, crisis and state weakness
continue to deprive many nations of stability
and prosperity. Military and civilian missions
are increasingly overlapping in response
to these and other issues, particularly to
acute natural disasters and humanitarian
emergencies. As a result, government
agencies that once had an exclusively
domestic focus are now working abroad.
The British and American governments
have recently produced important policy
documents that aim to address this shifting
context. Of particular interest is the US, where
major policy reforms have been earmarked 3 for the way foreign policy and development
interact. These debates about policy have
been mirrored elsewhere, notably in the
United Kingdom, where policymakers have
focused on the consequences of orienting
development programs to achieve ‘maximum
possible contributions’ for national security. The United Kingdom
The UK’s 2010 National Security Strategy calls
for a ‘radical transformation in the way we
think about national security and organise
ourselves to protect it’. The strategy argues
that, while some developing countries such as
China and India will lift millions out of poverty
by achieving economic growth in the coming
decades, fragile states will benefit much less
from future growth:
The world’s poorest people live on less
than $1000 a year. Around half currently
live in Asia and half in Africa but by
2030 the clear majority of those living
on less than $3 a day will be in Africa.
Compounded by other drivers such as
climate change and resource scarcity,
this increases the likelihood of conflict,
instability and state failure.
Britain’s response to this will be a wholeof-government approach ‘based on a
concept of security that goes beyond
military effects’ and on tackling ‘the causes
of instability overseas in order to prevent
risks from manifesting themselves in the
UK’. For that reason, it envisages British
development professionals working with
diplomats and intelligence agencies to
stabilise fragile states, and foresees ‘occasions
when it is in our interests to take part in
humanitarian interventions’.
At the centre of the new British approach is
the recently established National Security
Council, which brings together key ministers
and military intelligence chiefs for regular
meetings (Australia’s had such an institution 4 Special Report since 1996). And to implement the National
Security Strategy the British Government
will establish a ‘cross-departmental
Implementation Board chaired by the
Cabinet Office and attended by lead officials’.
The board—the equivalent of a high‑level
interdepartmental committee in the
Australian system—will report to the Prime
Minister and the National Security Council.
The International Development Secretary,
who now sits on the National Security
Council, participated in the formulation of the
National Security Strategy.1 The United States
In 2010, the Obama administration
made explicit its view that international
development is partly an instrument of US
national security, as well as being a strategic,
economic and moral imperative. Two policy
documents were inaugurated:
• the Presidential policy directive on global
development, released in September
• the Quadrennial diplomacy and
development review (QDDR), a major policy
blueprint released in December after a
number of delays.
This paragraph from the presidential policy
directive is emblematic of current US
Government thinking:
Development is … indispensable in the
forward defense of America’s interests
in a world shaped by growing economic
integration and fragmenting political
power; by the rise of emerging powers and
the persistent weakness of fragile states;
by the potential of globalisation and risks
from transnational threats; and by the
challenges of hunger, poverty, disease,
and global climate change. The successful
pursuit of development is essential to
advancing our national security objectives:
security, prosperity, respect for universal
values, and a just and sustainable
international order. Flowing from this conviction is an intention
expressed in both policy documents to
elevate development to become a core pillar
of US foreign policy and to amplify the voice
of the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) through greater
representation in interagency policymaking
processes. The presidential policy directive
foreshadows a number of changes to
both US strategy and the management of
international development:
• The Administrator of USAID will be
included in meetings of the National
Security Council where appropriate.
• An Interagency Policy Committee will
be established, to be led by the national
security staff and responsible to National
Security Council deputies and principals.
• A US Global Development Strategy will
be submitted to the President every
four years.
• A US Global Development Council
will be created, consisting of experts
from the private sector, academia and
other parts of civil society. The council
will provide high‑level input on US
development policies.
• Greater attention will be given to
balancing civilian and military power
in conflict and humanitarian crises and
the importance of linking short‑term
investments in those contexts with
long‑term development strategies.
The QDDR outlines an ambitious reform
agenda, emphasising systematic change
within USAID rather than simply reviewing
service delivery. It places high value on
transparency, innovation, monitoring and
evaluation, multi‑year planning in close
coordination with recipient states and
rebuilding the core capacity of USAID. It also
determines that USAID should take the lead
on presidential initiatives related to food
security and global health. A better fit: National security and Australia’s aid program In the area of national security, the QDDR
signals closer strategic planning between
the State Department and USAID, and the
potential creation of a unified national
security budget. It states that both
organisations should ‘both rationalize and
improve’ planning and budgeting processes,
referring to the need to develop a joint USAID
– State Department strategic plan through
collaboration between the two organisations’
policy planning offices. The joint strategic
plan will aid chiefs of missions—the principal
officers in charge of US diplomatic missions
and US offices abroad, which the Secretary
of State has designated as diplomatic in
nature—in putting together integrated
country strategies, which will be the basis for
mission and bureau budget requests. Figure 1
is reproduced from the QDDR. 5 The USAID workforce looks set to grow in
the coming years, with the creation of new
expert positions and a tripling of mid‑level
hires in its Development Leadership Initiative,
from 30 to 95 per year. The QDDR underlines
the need to draw upon in‑house expertise
before turning to specialised contractors for
diplomacy and development initiatives. And,
to enhance competition for contracts, USAID
will make ‘smaller and more targeted awards’.
The agency will also promote increased use of
local partner country systems.
The document highlights innovation as
a driver of sustainable development and
calls for the establishment of Development
Innovation Ventures. Borrowing from the
private venture capital model, Development
Innovation Ventures seek ideas from inside
and outside USAID to invest resources in 6 Special Report promising high‑risk, high‑return projects.
One such project already underway in India
supports women in rural areas who act
as health educators in their communities.
A Massachusetts-based company, DigiMac,
has spent the past two and a half years
developing a software platform for mobile
phones to allow health-care workers to collect
data, monitor the health of new mothers and
log household visits.
The QDDR also recommends that USAID
expand its fellowship program (including by
the creation of an Innovation Fellowship) to
attract professionals from leading academic
institutions, social entrepreneurial ventures
and the private sector to work with the
agency. In an effort to increase government
transparency, the government will create
a new internet-based ‘dashboard’ that will
publish data on State Department and USAID
foreign assistance. Australia’s aid–security model
A consideration of the relationship between
Australia’s aid program and our national
security must take into account both the
nature of the nexus between the two and the
historical evolution of cooperation between
Australian security and aid agencies. The dimensions of the aid–security
There are four dimensions to the aid–security
• national security motivation
• civil–military cooperation in aid delivery to
fragile states
• civil–military cooperation in humanitarian
• a security-oriented development
partnership between Australia and fragile
states following intervention. National security motivation
Typically, donor states expect their aid
programs to produce not just development
but also the political stability that comes with
development; and political stability, especially
in nearby states, is reckoned to increase the
donor state’s national security. In Australia’s
case, the Colombo Plan pioneered by Sir Percy
Spender in the 1950s was still paying security
dividends for Australia forty years later at the
time of the Asian financial crisis, the end of
the Soeharto era and the tension in relations
with Indonesia that followed the intervention
in Timor‑Leste in 1999. Effective aid programs
underpin the national security of donor states.
This broad link between development and
Australia’s national security underlies the
entire aid program, most of which isn’t
characterised by direct connections between
aid and security. AusAID operates largely
without the assistance of the military forces
or the police in most of the countries that
receive Australian development assistance.
A random survey of recent aid would reveal
projects supporting Indonesia’s program
to improve maternal and neonatal health
in Nusa Tenggara Timur province; assisting
Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga
in reducing their vulnerability to climate
change by funding the replanting of coastal
mangroves and strengthening disaster
preparedness; assisting Cambodia to
rehabilitate people injured by landmines;
and working with Electricity of Vietnam to
increase the capacity of electricity distribution
in that country. None of those projects
requires the assistance of the ADF or the AFP,
and they’re more typical of Australian aid than
those that do.
Situations where aid–security cooperation
predominates in Australia’s aid program are
confined to those where states are weak and
conflict has occurred, or to cases of natural
disaster and humanitarian emergency. A better fit: National security and Australia’s aid program Civil–military cooperation in aid delivery
to fragile states states and maintaining stability through
development assistance. This dimension arises from the special
circumstances of international relations in our
era. The aid relationship between donors and
recipients has been extended since the 1990s
to encompass military intervention and state
building in fragile and post‑conflict situations,
and that’s happened principally because, in an
age of terrorism and unregulated movements
of people across national borders, weak and
fragile states are seen as potential threats
to global, regional and national security. The
focus is on making development possible by
‘securing development’. The 2008 National Security Statement
argued that: Australia’s approach to ‘securing
development’ has been crafted in accordance
with the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid
Effectiveness and the 2008 Accra Agenda
for Action, which commit us to the principle
of country ownership of aid programs and
to strengthening the capacity of developing
countries to lead and manage development,
while reducing the fragmentation of
aid. Australia has also accepted the 2007
OECD Principles for Good International
Engagement in Fragile States and Situations,
which call upon donor states to recognise
the links between political, security and
development objectives.
In cases where Australia is securing
development, the aid program serves the
national security both of fragile states
and of Australia. This second dimension
of the aid–security nexus gives rise to a
policy equation accepted by Australian
governments for the past two decades.
Governments from Hawke and Keating
(Cambodia) to Howard (Timor‑Leste, Iraq,
Solomon Islands and Afghanistan) and Rudd
and Gillard (Timor‑Leste, Solomon Islands
and Afghanistan) have believed that Australia
enhances its national security by addressing
conflicts, building capacity in fragile 7 Australia has made major long term
commitments to help resolve conflict in
Solomon Islands and Timor‑Leste. But the
risk of fragile states disrupting stability
and prosperity in our region is an ongoing
challenge. The humanitarian implications
for the people affected in these conflicts
are also of concern to Australia’s national
security and foreign policy interests. We
expect to make practical contributions
in times of crisis, commensurate with
our role in the international community.
Failure to do so at source also runs the
risk of refugee outflows to neighbouring
states, including Australia.2
Critics have raised doubts about civil–military
cooperation in aid delivery. Sharar
Hameiri from Murdoch University’s Asia
Research Centre points out that the AFP
has become important in both designing
and implementing Australia’s regional
interventions. He sees what Australia is
doing in Timor‑Leste and Solomon Islands
as undermining their sovereignty and
interfering in their politics while engaging
in an unwarranted extension of Australian
influence beyond our borders.3 Sinclair Dinnen,
senior fellow with the State, Society and
Governance in Melanesia Program at the
Australian National University, focuses on
the practical difficulties of state building,
and points to ‘the very real dilemma of
how donors can engage in state building in
fragile environments without simultaneously
“crowding out” or marginalising local actors
who ultimately will have to take responsibility
for running the state.’4
On the other hand, regional leaders have
generally welcomed the Australian aid and
security presence. The Solomons prime 8 Special Report minister from 2007 to 2010, Derek Sikua,
consistently supported the Australian-led
regional mission to his country. The President
of Timor‑Leste, José Ramos-Horta, told
Australian journalists in 2010 that his
country’s recovery from instability was ‘in
large measure … thanks to the contribution of
Australian Army, New Zealand, as well as AFP
work, together with other members of the
international community’.5 Civil–military cooperation in
humanitarian emergencies
Aid–security cooperation is a natural fit for
disaster relief. When a tsunami struck in the
Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, Australia
responded with a cooperative effort that
brought together the ADF, AusAID and
Emergency Management Australia. The ADF
quickly established a water purification plant
in Banda Aceh, together with a field hospital
jointly operated with the New Zealand
Defence Force. HMAS Kanimbla lay offshore
as a floating support base for the operation.
Australia’s extensive reconstruction and
medical assistance helped to restore good
relations with Indonesia after a period of
bilateral tension. The Samoa tsunami of
September 2009 brought a prompt response
from Australia involving the ADF, the AFP,
AusAID and Emergency Management
Australia. The RAAF and the RAN delivered
relief supplies, while medical personnel
performed numerous surgical operations
and treatments. AusAID later supported the
non‑government organisation (NGO), Caritas,
in rebuilding homes for those whose coastal
villages were devastated. A security-oriented development
partnership between Australia and fragile
states following intervention
When security is restored, Australia needs to
engage in a policy dialogue with the partner
governments on their security expectations, the role of their security sectors, financing
issues and civilian oversight. Any project or
program is meaningless if it isn’t requested
and part of a wider development strategy.
Resources are stretched and developing
countries have to make drastic choices on
their budget allocations based on their needs,
weaknesses and strengths. With relevant
advice, they can also prioritise the sectors
that will trigger private sector development,
capacity enhancement and effectiveness. The evolution of Australian
aid–security cooperation
Australia draws upon more than a decade
of experience in whole-of-government
responses to intervention and development
in fragile states: AusAID’s been called upon
many times to participate in complex
international operations involving extensive
military–police–civilian cooperation.
Experience in Bougainville, Timor‑Leste,
Solomon Islands, Afghanistan and Iraq
has refined cooperation between the ADF,
the AFP and AusAID, as well as between
them and other agencies of government
such as the Australian Customs and Border
Protection Service, the Australian Maritime
Safety Authority and Austrac, Australia’s
anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism
financing regulator. What the World Bank calls
‘accidental partners’—that is, development
and security actors working together in
post-conflict situations—aren’t accidental in
Australia but reflect a consciously planned
response by government.
The 2009 Defence White Paper captured the
essence of the Australian approach:
[S]ecurity objectives in intra-state
conflict situations are increasingly
interdependent with broader political,
humanitarian, economic and development
goals. These operations require a
‘whole‑of‑government’ response on the A better fit: National security and Australia’s aid program part of military and civilian agencies,
extending beyond individual agency
operations, and integrating security and
other objectives into comprehensive
political–military strategies. The ADF’s
capacity to deploy rapidly and establish
a basic level of security at the outset
of a crisis situation will often be an
essential element of any comprehensive
approach—but it will, in nearly all cases,
not be a sufficient response in itself.6 Cambodia
The origins of Australia’s aid–security
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WP 2014_4 Firth.pdf
SSGM Working Paper Series
Number 2014/4 Opening Up to Our Pacific Neighbours
Stewart Firth State Society and Governance in Melanesia Program - Working Paper Series The State, Society & Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM) Working Paper series
provides academics, policy-makers, development practitioners and others interested in
issues in contemporary Melanesia, Timor-Leste, and the broader Pacific with access to
current research and analysis on contemporary issues facing the region in a timely fashion. Items in the Working Paper Series are typically based on current events and/or issues and
may include conference proceedings, speaking notes, early research findings, reports from
the field, and work-in-progress papers. Items in the series are not subject to peer review or
editorial work. For submission to the Working Paper Series contact SSGM Publications Editor
[email protected]
Disclaimer: The views, findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in this
publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the State, Society and
Governance in Melanesia Program. The Government of Australia, as represented by the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), does not guarantee, and accepts no legal
liability whatsoever arising from or connected to, the accuracy, reliability, currency or
completeness of any material on this website or on any linked site. The material, which may
include the views or recommendations of third parties, has been created independently of
DFAT and is not intended to be nor should it be viewed as reflecting the views of DFAT, or
indicative of its commitment to a particular course(s) of action. State Society and Governance in Melanesia Program
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200
Tel: +61 2 6125 8394
Email: [email protected] 2 Opening Up to Our Pacific Neighbours
Keynote Presentation delivered at the 2014 Australian Association for Pacific Studies
Conference, University of Sydney
22 April 2014 A conference of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies seems a good place to
say something about Australia and the Pacific Islands, and that is what I will be doing
in this lecture. I will begin by taking us back half a century to see how Australia
regarded the Pacific in the 1960s, and then I want to move to the 1990s and ask the
same question. After that I would like us to consider the present situation in the
Pacific compared with 20 years ago. And finally I would like to suggest how
Australia‟s Pacific policy should be changed.
As the diplomatic historian Chris Waters has shown, Australia had imperialist
ambitions in the Pacific in the 1950s, with proposals going to the Menzies Cabinet for
Australia to take over the Solomon Islands from the British, and for Vanuatu – then
called the New Hebrides – to be divided, with Australia taking half of that as well.
Australia at that stage favoured the idea of a Melanesian federation, which would
encompass West New Guinea, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
By the early 1960s Australia was part of an ANZUS study group on the future of the
Pacific where the main concern, as the US Secretary of State Dean Rusk said at the
time, was that „not one wave of the Pacific should fall under Communist influence‟.
The thinking in Canberra at the time was that very few of the Pacific Island nations
should be given independence. Samoa had jumped the gun by declaring
independence in 1962, but after that the only countries suitable for independence, it
was thought, were Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea with the Solomon Islands
added on.1
What is striking about all this, from the perspective of 2014, is the assumption in
Canberra that Australia would be making the key decisions about the future of the
1 Christopher Waters ‘Against the Tide: Australian Government Attitudes to Decolonisation in the South
Pacific, 1962–1972’, The Journal of Pacific History, 48:2, 2013: 194-208
3 region. By 1980, of course, almost all the former British, New Zealand and Australian
territories in the Pacific were independent, including Papua New Guinea, and
Australia itself had changed.
While Australian official views about the Pacific‟s future offer one way of
understanding Australia and the Pacific at that time, another is the status of the
indigenous people of the Papua, which was part of Australia 1906-1975. Those
people were Australian citizens, but as indigenous ones from that territory, they were
not free to move around the rest of Australia or live there. The White Australia policy
was dismantled in the early 1970s, but not, it might be argued, in relation to the
people of Papua, and my argument is that some of that ancient thinking lives on in
contemporary Australia.
Jack Corbett has recently argued that observers of Pacific Islands democracy veer
between a crisis narrative and a persistence narrative. In other words, some
observers tend to see the region as always, or potentially, in crisis, and to define the
Pacific Islands in terms of their perceived deficits in development, good governance,
service delivery and so on. Others are more optimistic, and point to the persistence
and health of democracy, advances in development, a cultural renaissance in the
contemporary Pacific and so on.2
Official Australia has mostly been attracted to the crisis way of looking at the Pacific.
In 1993 the National Centre for Development Studies at the Australian National
University produced an influential report called Pacific 2010: Challenging the Future.
The report reflected government thinking about the Pacific at that time, and it was
deeply pessimistic. It predicted a nightmare future for the people of the Pacific
Islands unless their governments did what Australia was doing – reduced their public
sectors, cut tariffs, encouraged private enterprise and allowed maximum freedom to
foreign investors. If these measures were not adopted, the report warned, rapid
population growth in the Pacific would mean falling living standards, decaying
schools, urban squalor and unemployment.3 The New Zealand view tended to be
different. Reviewing the Pacific 2010 report in 1995, Peter Pirie reached the opposite
2 Jack Corbett, ‘Between crisis and persistence: Interpreting democracy narratives in the Pacific Islands’,
Political Science, vol. 65, no. 2, 2013: 198-215
R.V. Cole, Pacific 2010: Challenging the Future, National Centre for Development Studies, ANU, Canberra,
4 conclusion. Far from going backwards under the pressure of rising populations, the
Pacific Island countries, he wrote, „are not about to join the fourth world. The year
2010 should see most of them at the top end of what remains of the “developing
world” or out of it altogether‟. He thought „the possibilities are there and the present
trends are positive‟.4
Taken as a whole, the Pacific Islands has experienced both crisis and advancement
in the last twenty years, not only in the condition of its democracies, but more
generally. There have political, economic and development crises at various times in
Bougainville, Solomon Islands and Nauru; political crises in Fiji; ongoing underperformance of development in Papua New Guinea (PNG); and yet also a
persistence of democratic forms of government everywhere outside Fiji, mostly
accompanied by tolerable improvement in living standards. The nightmare scenario
has not eventuated, but neither has its opposite. Instead, Pacific Island countries
have muddled through to a variety of development outcomes, none outstanding but
none catastrophic. PNG comes closest to fulfilling the predictions of Pacific 2010,
with a population that has grown fast from 2.7 million at independence to an
estimated 7.8 million last year. And the PNG government is the certainly the least
effective of Pacific governments in delivering services. But mentioning PNG reminds
us we that we should question the very idea of the Pacific Islands as a single region
about which useful generalisations can be made. It goes without saying that life is
very different for people in some parts of the Pacific than in others.
Twenty years on from the appearance of the Pacific Islands‟ best-known crisis
narrative, the region has defied predictions by earning a good report card on
democracy and a middling one on economic growth and development. Pacific Democracy
Democracy in the formal sense, defined as a constitutional system of government
with regular elections and popularly mandated changes of government, has been the
norm in the Pacific Islands since independence. A predictable cycle of Pacific
elections takes place and new governments are formed democratically. Samoa and
4 Peter Pirie, review of Pacific 2010: Challenging the Future, The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 7, no. 1,
Spring 1995: 190.
5 Marshall Islands, for example, held elections in 2011; Kiribati, Vanuatu, Palau and
PNG in 2012; Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia in 2013. Solomon
Islands, Tonga, Niue and Fiji are due to hold elections this year. Perhaps more
importantly, constitutionalism has been maintained everywhere except Fiji. Words
like „democracy‟ and „constitutionalism‟ may sound boringly familiar, not to say overused. But the fact is that the lives Pacific people lead are intimately affected by them
„Democracy‟ defined more exactingly as a responsive system of government largely
free of corruption is less common. The 2012 PNG elections revealed the dominance
of money politics in determining electoral outcomes. All over the country the
elections were bought, with politicians paying voters on a differential scale for first-,
second- and third-preference votes. Frequent changes of government characterise
a number of Pacific polities, not only in Melanesia, where political parties are weak
but also in Polynesia and Micronesia and in the territories as well as the independent
states. But frequently changing governments are not necessarily unresponsive ones,
nor do they point to state incapacity. Nevertheless, democracy has failed in one Pacific country, Fiji. Nowhere else in the
region is a military force the central player in national politics, and nowhere else,
with the exception of New Caledonia, has racial division been so central to politics.
Uniquely in the Pacific, Fiji‟s post-independence political history has been
punctuated by military coups and abrupt abrogations of the constitution, leading to a
succession of political and legal orders that have undermined the faith of the people
of Fiji in the ability of their leaders to create a lasting stability. As constitutions have
come and gone, the very idea that a constitution is a permanent and hallowed set of
fundamental rules has withered. And after 2009, the last time a constitution was
abrogated, Fiji lost media freedom, key civil liberties and judicial independence,
which were replaced by the oppressions of military government and a succession of
decrees until the liberalisation that began in 2012.
Fiji‟s new constitution is imposed from above and designed to preserve the dominant
position of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces in the country‟s political affairs. The
constitution makes one overdue reform long promised by Bainimarama. The new
voting system – open list proportional representation for a parliament of 50 seats – at
6 last breaks from the communal voting systems which have institutionalised racial
division and race-based political representation since before independence. Yet as
Anthony Regan points out, few other features of the new constitution would be
welcomed by those seeking a true democracy in Fiji: „The concentration of power in
the hands of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General is remarkable. They
effectively control appointments of all judges and all constitutional office-holders and
Commissions. The PM can appoint as many MPs as he/she wishes to the Cabinet.
Decrees can continue to be made by the current government until Parliament meets
after the election, and all Decrees are superior to the Constitution.‟5 Nevertheless, Bainimarama has stood down as military commander, he will stand for
the elections as a civilian and the elections will go ahead later this year. Fiji will
emerge not exactly as a democratic state, but as a more democratic one that it has
been since 2006. Pacific Development and Pacific Economic Growth
Twenty years after Pacific 2010, most of the Pacific is in better shape than the
pessimists predicted it would be by now but in worse shape than the optimistic ones
predicted. Even in PNG – the region‟s least effective state – economic growth,
though not development (these are two different things), has surpassed
expectations. Why, in the face of such doom-saying, have things turned out this
way? With the wisdom of hindsight, we can now see that the Australian experts of the early
1990s made a number of mistakes:
(i) under-estimated the positive economic impact of remittance flows on
Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Niue and Cook Islands. This
is a major theme in the situation of the contemporary Pacific, as we shall
see from the Populations on the Move session on Wednesday. 5 Anthony Regan, ‘The Fiji Constitution, September 2013: A Critical Analysis of Process, Content and Prospects’,
Pacific Matters Seminar, ANU, 23 October 2013. 7 (ii) They placed excessive faith in good governance to produce economic
growth. It may be a good thing but it is only weakly related to economic
growth. (iii) They could not foresee that trouble in the region – in the context of 9/11
and the Bali bombings - would boost development assistance and elicit a
decade-long regional intervention in Solomon Islands. (iv) And although the Chinese economy was growing, they did not expect
China and East Asia more generally to become so central to the economic
and aid prospects of the Pacific Islands. Let us consider these issues one by one, beginning with remittances and looking
back with the benefit of 20 years‟ hindsight. Continuing emigration and a flow of
remittances has helped to confound the Australian predictions of the 1990s that the
region would now be over-populated and impoverished. The importance of
remittances for Pacific countries has grown since the 1990s, and Fiji has joined
Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu and the Federated States of
Micronesia as an economy deriving foreign income from remittances in notable
amounts. Remittances are worth about 5% of Fiji‟s GDP and somewhat more as a
proportion of GDP in Tuvalu, Kiribati and the FSM. In Samoa and Tonga they are
worth about 25% of GDP, and although Cook Islands keeps no record of them, their
value might be even more in that country. Contrary to expectations the flow of
remittances – while interrupted by the global financial crisis – has not diminished
over time and in fact it was increasing to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, the largest
recipients, in the first half of 2013. We should keep this in mind when we think about
what kind of Pacific policy Australia should have, and the issue of Australia‟s
openness to some of its closest neighbours. The second issue is good governance. The relationship between good governance
and economic growth is less straightforward than many have assumed. Good
governance may not characterise the political systems of PNG and Solomon Islands,
but they are both experiencing economic growth. The Asian Development Bank
predicts 6% growth for PNG and 4% for Solomon Islands in 2014, the two highest 8 rates in the region apart from the artificial case of Nauru, where „growth is driven by
the expansion of the Australian Regional Processing Centre‟.6 Their success comes from external circumstances in the form of demand for
minerals, energy and raw materials. And that raises the third issue, the rise of China
and the prosperity of East Asia. These, not the state of governance, have been the
key factors behind recent economic growth in PNG and Solomon Islands.
Conversely, Samoa, which has done much of what was asked of it by the free
market and governance experts, has struggled to grow fast. Good governance, it
seems, has only a weak relationship with economic growth.7 East Asia is central to
the prospects of the Pacific. The long term customers for PNG‟s LNG, once it starts
flowing in 2014, are from China (Sinopec), Taiwan (CPC Corporation) and Japan
(Osaka Gas Company Limited and TEPCO), energy suppliers in the fastest growing
region of the global economy, East Asia. Resource security is central to China‟s
interest in the Pacific Islands as in other parts of the developing world. East Asia has the energy and minerals markets that not only sustain a huge mining
industry in Australia but are the force behind the growing predominance of mining in
the Pacific Islands. The economic state of the Pacific, especially in western
Melanesia but potentially everywhere because of what lies on the floor of the Pacific
Ocean, is being increasingly determined by mining. Mines are hardly new in the
Pacific, but mining is now on a vastly larger scale than a century ago. Since
independence Papua New Guinea has become a mining economy par excellence –
largely dependent at least for the modern sector of the economy on gold, copper,
nickel and other minerals together with oil and gas.
Solomon Islands has one mine – Gold Ridge, a gold mine that closed during the
tensions more than a decade ago and reopened in 2010 – and is promised another
one, this time reckoned to be as much as ten times the size of Gold Ridge. Fiji‟s
mines, old and new, are coming under Chinese ownership. Vatukoula Gold Mines,
6 ADB Pacific Economic Monitor, Dec. 2013, pp.2 and 8.
Jome Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury, eds, Is Good Governance Good for Development? Bloomsbury
Academic, London, 2012. 9 which has been operating in Fiji almost continuously since the 1930s, is majorityowned by Zhongrun International Mining Company Limited, based in Jinan,
Shandong Province and the bauxite mine at Nawailevu, Vanua Levu, is owned by
the Australian-based Chinese company Xinfa Aurum Exploration, which had shipped
350,000 tonnes of bauxite to China by early 2013.8
The most transformative Pacific mining investment, however, may still be to come.
The Canadian company Nautilus Minerals, which has been exploring the seabed off
Papua New Guinea since 1997, plans to begin mining copper, gold and silver there
in 2014. Nautilus holds tenements for possible future mining in the exclusive
economic zones of Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand, and
was one of the companies to gain special prospecting licences for the Fiji seabed
region in 2013.9
Pacific Islanders have objected to seabed mining and its potentially destructive
impact on the marine environment. A group of NGOs including „Stop Experimental
Seabed Mining in the Pacific‟ took the PNG government to court in 2013 in an
attempt to prevent Nautilus from proceeding.10 Pacific governments, on the other
hand, welcome the possible wealth that might come from seabed mining. Pacific
Island countries, some of which combine tiny land areas with the largest maritime
exclusive zones in the world, see seabed mining as a quick development solution
and they are being encouraged to do this by the European Union and the SPC.
According to the Tongan delegate to the 2013 meeting of the International Seabed
Authority in Jamaica, „our economy, our country, our people are searching for ways
in which we may be able to improve our livelihood through better social and
economic circumstances‟. In this pro-seabed mining spirit, Fiji has issued an
International Seabed Minerals Management Decree aimed at regulating seabed
mining, Cook Islands plans to open its seabed for tender this year, and Bluewater 8 ‘Mining headway’, Fiji Times Online, 21 Feb. 2013.; ‘18 Deep-Sea Mining Prospecting Licenses Approved By Fiji.
Exploration could lead to ways to mine safely: official’, Fiji Times 12 Dec. 2013.
‘Civil society groups take PNG government to court over Nautilus seabed mining project’. Radio Australia, 11
Nov. 2013.
9 10 Metals has been granted licences to explore the seabed in Temotu Province,
Solomon Islands, for copper and gold.11
Fourth, let us consider the developments that boosted the flow of development
assistance to the Pacific Islands in the last decade. Trouble in the Pacific generates
aid to the Pacific, especially from Australia, which has a strategic interest is the
security, stability and cohesion of its immediate neighbourhood. That neighbourhood
in the Pacific consists of small, developing states – some so small as to be ongoing
experiments in sovereignty – and the Australian strategic calculation since the 1970s
has been that Australia should do all it can to enhance the development and
economic growth of Pacific Island countries, and in this way ensure that they are
politically stable and friendly. In this way, Australian development assistance has
been a security instrument as well as a mechanism intended to improve
development outcomes in a region that will always matter to Australia.
The decision by the Howard government to establish the Regional Assistance
Mission to Solomon Islands was driven by the perception that 9/11 and the Bali
bombings had changed the strategic outlook for Australia by rendering small, weak
states potential security risks. Trouble in the Solomons, which took the form of the
„tensions‟ that afflicted that country for more than five years, suddenly assumed a
new, strategic significance that attracted the attention of the defence and national
security communities in Canberra and Wellington. And when the Howard
government sent Australian troops and police to Guadalcanal to lead the regional
mission in 2003, it saw the intervention as part of a wider Pacific recommitment that
would also boost aid spending elsewhere in the region, especially in PNG. The result
was that Australia doubled its development assistance to the region in 2004-05 and
increased its aid to PNG by a third, beginning a process that continued under the
Rudd government elected in 2007. 12 That surge in Australian aid, beginning with the government of John Howard
and sustained by those of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, is now over. Trouble in the
11 The Prospect: News from the Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project, Issue 2, Sept. 2013.
Stewart Firth, ‘Australia, the Pacific Islands and Timor Leste’, in James Cotton and John Ravenhill, eds.,
Middle Power Dreaming: Australia in World Affairs 2006-2010, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2011, pp.
12 11 Pacific has receded, so aid has receded, and the Abbott government is in a mood of
retrenchment. The government has abolished AusAID as a separate agency,
incorporating it into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and made large
cuts to the aid budget, exempting only PNG and Nauru, the two Pacific countries
with detention centres for refugees who attempted to get to Australia by boat. Aid
cuts applied to all other Pacific countries and to Pacific regional programs. As if to symbolise the shift of the Pacific towards Asia, China increased
assistance to the Pacific just as Australia reduced its own. At the China-Pacific
Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum in Guangzhou in
2013, attended by representatives from Micronesia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea,
Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue and Fiji, China offered them a new soft loan
facility of $US1 billion for use on roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure, plus
another $US1 billion on commercial terms. The rest of the world is more interested in the Pacific than it used to be, a
situation that is producing a new confidence in Pacific leaders. PNG is contemplating
setting up new diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv, Shanghai and Paris to expand its
present network, which includes not only Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the
USA and a number of Pacific countries, but also Singapore, Japan, South Korea,
China, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, the UK and Belgium.13 PNG leaders have
even talked of their country becoming an aid donor to their Pacific neighbours and
have promised to help pay for the expense of the 2014 Fiji elections. Fiji is also diversifying its diplomatic connections. In the last few years new Fiji
missions have appeared in Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, North
Korea and the UAE, and Fiji joined the G77+China, becoming its chair for 2013. At
the same time, Fiji has supported and created regional organisations that owe
nothing to the Pacific Islands Forum or to Australia and New Zealand. Fiji‟s central
aim has been to reduce the influence of Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific
Islands while building its own. The Melanesian Spearhead Group is more active
politically than at any time since its formation in the 1980s, and Bainimarama‟s
13 ‘PN...
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