Lowy Institute
  • Last week's budget saw the Government slash the aid budget by 20%. Assistance to Indonesia and Africa was the most affected. Australia now slips to 13th in the OECD rankings of aid donors in the developed world, and 16th in the ratio of ODA to GNI. Read  Alex Oliver's overview of the cuts.
  • Dev Policy breaks down the losers and 'non losers' from the budget.
  • he Pacific and PNG escaped the worst of the aid cuts. Read this Analysis from the Lowy Institute's Jenny Hayward Jones and Philippa Brant.
  • Hamish McDonald, in The Saturday Paper, on why countries that help the Abbott goal of 'stopping the boats' were spared aid cuts. 
  • How will a 40% aid cut (A$220 million) affect Indonesia?  Not much, but it will hit Australian aid companies and consultants, says Don Murat on The Conversation.
  • Anthony Bergin from ASPI argues  for better alignment of Australian aid budget to tackling violent extremism. 
  • Startling graph below from Dev Policy: Official development assistance (ODA) as a percentage of GNI has steadily decreased since 1971, when ODA/GNI ratios began to be recorded. Read Jennifer Fang's post at WhyDev on how aid cuts have historically had bipartisan support. 


On the eve of the 2015-16 Federal Budget, a special edition of Aid & Development Links rounding up commentary on Australia's aid budget.  A reminder that if you have something to contribute to these weekly links, suggestions and comments are welcome. Email: sdunstan@lowyinstitute.org.

  • Child Fund Australia CEO Nigel Spence warns in the SMH that aid cuts will hit vital projects for children in 13 countries.
  • Budget cuts mean that vital training for health workers, sight-saving operations and improved vision for children will not go ahead, say Vision 20 20 members (which includes Fred Hollows Foundation, Royal Australiasian College of Surgeons and more).
  • The speculated budget cuts to Indonesian aid aren't worrying the Indonesian Foreign Minister
  • But the projected cuts will hit projects in Cambodia and Nepal.
  • News that Julie Bishop  has been practising the powers of Elsa, heroine of the hit children’s movie Frozen, to protect her portfolio from cuts in tomorrow’s Budget.
  • In the lead up to the budget, NGO's have been taking a media offensive. Read Ashlee Betterridge's round up of their media blitz.  
  • Before the budget is announced tomorrow evening, it's worth re-reading ACFID's submission to the 2015-2016 Budget, or their more recent press release. Also good is Robin Davies February post predicting the nature of the aid cuts; 
  • On Wednesday 13 May, Stephen Howes, Anthony Swan and CEO of CARE Australia Dr Julia Newton-Howes will unpack the budget implications for Australian aid at at special ANU event from 9am. See website for live streaming details.
  • And finally,  if you haven't already watched, Charlie Pickering's clever satirical take on the state of Australian aid for ABC's The Weekly.
  • President Obama nominates Gayle Smith to lead US AID.
  • India cancels licenses of nearly 9000 charities (including Greenpeace India and the Ford Foundation) for failing to declare details of donations from abroad.
  • Confessions of an aid worker: 'after years in the field, I worry I have lost my compassion.'
  • Iraq now has one of the highest populations of internally displaced people in the world.
  • New report from Devex: what you need to know about emerging donors (China, Brazil, Russia, India, Turkey, UAE, South Africa, South Korea).
  • Confused about aid acronyms and lingo? A handy guide produced by IRIN.
  • With the terrible tragedy in Nepal, a startling graphic below from ODI on how little of the overall international aid budget is spent on #DisasterRiskReduction: 0.4%. 


Today the Lowy Institute launched 'Australia and the 1951 Refugee Convention', a new Analysis paper from international migration expert and Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Dr Khalid Koser. 

Koser argues that the implementation of the 1951 Refugee Convention is failing the interests of both states and refugees, and that Australia is well-placed to lead an international effort for reform, which should include greater accountability for states that cause displacement, measures that reduce the need for long-distance asylum-seeking, and steps to reduce the burden on receiving countries.

You can read or download a copy of the Analysis here. Tomorrow on The Interpreter we will post a response to the paper from Professor Jane McAdam, Director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales.

Photo by REUTERS/stringer.

  • New 2015 edition of World Bank Development indicators shows 25 years of progress, but much left to do.
  • The report includes some good interactives; you can compare country progress on specific MDG goals.
  • Read CARE Australia's submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry on issues facing women and girls in the Asia Pacific.
  • How should aid be spent? Take the Guardian poll
  • Putting need before politics on the post-MDG agenda. World Politics Review post from Sarah Hearn.
  • Aid? What aid? Why neither major party is discussing it during the election campaign.
  • Why Ghana's success story has gone dark. Good post on Ghana's shaky economic success. (Thanks Sam.)
  • The UN appoints actor Daniel Craig as global mine action advocate:

Digital Disruption

The ability of individuals and organisations to access and respond to information instantaneously, via any number of information and communication technologies (ICT), is flipping the switch on international relations. Non-state actors – from businesses to civil society and even terrorist groups – have adapted more quickly to a wired world and are transforming our understanding of global power and influence. State actors are scrambling to catch up, with some doing much better than others. 

Approaches to diplomacy, intelligence, aid and defence policy are changing as countries try to adapt to this 'digital disruption'. The benefits and burdens it brings will prove one of the great challenges of 21st century foreign policy.

Digital Disruption is a special Interpreter series starting this week, in which we will publish posts from a range of Australian and international experts analysing the ground-breaking ways the internet and advancements in ICT are impacting on Australia's place in the world and on international affairs more broadly. From ideas on how to combat ISIS in the cyberworld to a review of diplomats' use of the internet to the growing influence of Chinese-owned search engines, Digital Disruption promises to be an exciting series that we hope will spark an ongoing conversation. 

The series supplements the Digital Asia links produced every Friday on The Interpreter by Danielle Cave, and complements the Lowy Institute's existing library of research papers, including Digital Islands: How the Pacific's ICT Revolution is Transforming the Region and Revolution@State: The Spread of e-Diplomacy.

If you would like to submit an idea for a post, or have any feedback on the series, please email sdunstan@lowyinstitute.org.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Trey Ratcliff.


In a new Lowy Institute Analysis launched today, Monash University academic Andrew Zammit argues that Australians fighting in Iraq and Syria pose a serious national security threat for Australia. He examines the options for responding to that threat, including through non-coercive means. The Australian Government has described the foreign fighter threat as its 'number-one national security priority' and raised the National Terrorism Public Alert from medium to high in September 2014.

Australian foreign fighters: Risks and Responses argues that non-coercive elements have played a role in Australia’s counter-terrorism approach for several years, but past measures are not suited to the current environment:

Returned foreign fighters have been involved in many of the most serious jihadist plots in the West, including in Australia. Returnees from Syria have already engaged in terrorist plots in Europe, and the large number of Australians involved with groups such as IS and Jabhat al-Nusra raises well-founded fears of an increased threat at home.

Zammit concludes that Australia can learn much from European countries, which have extensive experience applying non-coercive measures to radicalised individuals, including foreign fighters. However, he warns that any Australian approach must be carefully calibrated for the local context.

Download and read the full paper on the Lowy Institute website.

Photo by REUTERS/Stringer.


  • Why is Australian aid funding so frequently in the cross-hairs? Kylie Bourne on why we need to talk about aid.
  • Bled dry: an ICRC report on how war in the Middle East is bringing the region's water supplies to breaking point.
  • Bill Gates reviews the world's response to Ebola and what might be the next global epidemic.
  • New report from the OECD on the world's 50 most vulnerable countries.  
  • UN backs out of deal with Uber due to concerns over female driver protection.
  • Roads are a key aspect of the development agenda, but at what environmental cost?
  • The Economist reviews the four big meetings to occur in 2015 that will decide global governance outcomes.
  • Startling graph below from CARE Australia: Australian foreign aid as a percentage of national income.


In a new Lowy Institute Analysis paper released today, Howard Bamsey and Kath Rowley argue that a failure to pay high-level attention to international climate change negotiations raises several risks to the national interest. Australia and Climate Change Negotiations: At the Table, or on the Menu? argues that climate change negotiations are changing the global economy in ways that matter to Australia. Strong, constructive engagement in those negotiations by Australia would serve climate, economic and other national goals.

'As one of the world's biggest fossil fuel producers and exporters, Australia has an important stake in when and how the world pursues emissions reductions,' say Bamsey and Rowley.

Climate change negotiations will create new norms, standards, rules and laws. These developments create challenges and opportunities for Australian businesses and individuals. Bamsey and Rowley argue that ministerial leadership, a strong negotiating team, and active support for preparations for the Paris conference in December would return much needed momentum to Australia's negotiating effort.

Read or download the Analysis from the Lowy Institute website.

Photo by Flickr user The Danish Wind Industry.

  • Germany announces record boost to aid budget to €7.4 billion, though still far from the 0.7% target.
  • Apart from making pretty visualisations on maps, what can  geo-coding, add to  aid delivery?
  • Does America's diplomatic failure on the Asian Infrastructure Bank symbolise US decline?
  • Coaxing the dragon: why China should join the aid debate in Africa.
  • A crisis of anxiety :  a NY Times op-ed on high rates of mental illness among aid workers.
  • Great overview on aid commitments to  Cylone Pam from Lowy Institute staff, including a piece on how to rebuild paradise.
  • UN Social 500: index of social media influencers working for the UN.
  •  ICYMI: Great documentary from SBS Dateline on Australian aid worker Jo Dunlop's work in Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone.

  • Are digital currencies a plus for poor countries? A podcast from The Guardian discusses how the rise of virtual currencies are helping people embrace e-commerce without the need for centralised banking structures.
  • Four years into the Syrian conflict, hundreds of local and diaspora groups are successfully negotiating access and delivering aid to civilians in areas that international agencies are struggling to reach, says a new report from ODI
  • A new essay from LSE anthropologist Jason Hikel on the death of international development.
  • These 12 journalists covering aid and development are ones to watch.
  • An interesting poll on how much of their budget Americans think is going towards foreign aid.
  • Watch this Hans Rosling  presentation to the Clinton Global Initiative University on preconceived notions regarding population growth and international development:


In a new Lowy Institute Analysis launched today, Nonresident Fellow Professor Alan Dupont argues that successive Australian governments have failed to clearly define the nation's defence strategy.

Full Spectrum Defence: Re-thinking the fundamentals of Australian defence strategy argues that Australia needs a defence strategy that counters threats across multiple domains, is based on more diverse regional defence relationships and is underpinned by better risk assessments and defence acquisition processes.

'Australia's inability to clearly and succinctly define its defence strategy is a perennial failing. Recent defence white papers are part of the problem: they have lacked coherence, their messaging has been poor, and many of their underlying assumptions and planning practices are questionable,' Dupont said.

Key points of the Analysis include:

  • Australia's current defence strategy suffers from six major defects.
  • The forthcoming Defence White Paper is an opportunity for the Government to produce a clear statement of Australia's defence and military strategies and their principal objectives.
  • Australia needs an ADF that is more versatile, can counter threats across all domains, including space and cyber space, has more diverse defence relationships, and has better processes for risk management, defence acquisition and mobilisation.

The Analysis is already being widely reported in The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald. It is available on the Lowy Institute website. Stay tuned to The Interpreter for comments from some of Australia's leading defence and national security analysts. 

Photo courtesy of Australian Defence Image Library.