Lowy Institute

On 5 April, the Solomon Islands was hit by extreme flooding, killing 23 people and leaving an estimated 50,000–60,000 people homeless.

Lowy Institute Melanesia experts Jenny Hayward Jones and Tess Newton-Cain got together earlier this week to discuss the impact of Australia's $3 million assistance package and the relief response of the Solomon Islands government. Jenny and Tess examine the opportunities for Solomon Islands to rebuild key infrastructure (2.08), Solomon Islands preparedness to face future disasters (3.00) and the worrying signs of political interference in aid assistance (3.26).

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Launched last week, Anthony Bubalo's Next –gen Jihad in the Middle East has attracted much media attention for its argument that current conditions in the Middle East are worse than those that saw the emergence of al Qaeda. 

As Lateline quipped, Syria could be the new Afghanistan. Listen to this ‘quick comment’ podcast with Anthony, where he discusses the resurgence of jihadist groups in Syria (0.20) and Egypt (1.55), how Obama's reluctance to intervene in the Middle East affects the emergence of these radical groups (3.46), and the concern this next-gen of jihadists may cause for Australia (5.56).

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  • Bad news on global warming last week, with the latest IPCC report concluding that global warming is depleting fresh water and crops, destroying coral reefs and melting the Arctic.  See here eight stark graphs from the report . US Secretary of State John Kerry’s  response to the report was strong.
  • The UK meets its pledge to spend 0.7% of GNI on development assistance.
  • USAID launches the Gloval Development Lab.  It focuses on six thematic areas: food security and nutrition, maternal and child survival, energy access, sustainable water solutions, child literacy, and connected technologies. It aims to 'take game-changing solutions to more than 200 million people'.
  • Tackling HIV/AIDS in West Papua.
  • Record economic growth predicted for PNG next year but will it have the much needed development impact?
  • Flood crisis in Solomon Islands testing aid agencies.
  • Beautifully shot FT video on Myanmar's mobile phone revolution.
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  • The UN announced it will launch an inquiry into war crimes committed by Sri Lankan state forces and Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka. The move was not supported by Australia. The vote count for UN #HRC25 was 23 votes in favour; 12 against; 12 abstentions.
  • The impact of climate change on development in five visual facts.
  • Illicit financial flows have drained more than a trillion dollars from Africa since 1980. Alex Cobham explains what steps are being taken and what needs to happen next.
  • Also  from Africa, terrifying news that the deadly Ebola virus is in parts of West Africa.
  • As Mongolia's economy booms and rural-urban migration increases, 'ger districts' have sprouted up in Ulan Bator. A community mapping project puts the ger population at 57% amid concerns they are already rivaling the infamous urban slums of Mumbai and Dhaka.
  • World Vision changed its policy to allow for hiring of aid workers who are in same sex marriages, then two days later reversed the decision following a backlash and threats to withhold financial support.
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This week the Lowy Institute welcomed Aaron L Connelly as a research fellow in the East Asia Program. Aaron's research will focus on Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia.

Prior to joining the Lowy Institute Aaron worked at Albright Stonebridge Group, a commercial diplomacy consultancy and CSIS in Washington and Jakarta. Aaron's appointment is part of the Lowy Institute's Engaging Asia Project, which was established with the financial support of the Australian Government.

In Aaron's first week, we sat down with him to record a short podcast. In a wide ranging discussion, Aaron touches on why he become an Indonesia expert, how the US views Indonesia, his research focus at the Lowy Institute and the forthcoming Indonesia election. Listen in:

Keep an eye out for Aaron's work on the Interpreter and follow him on Twitter. You can also contact Aaron via email: AConnelly@lowyinstitute.org.

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In a new Lowy Institute Analysis paper launched today, Dr Dave McRae argues that Indonesia is unlikely to become a significantly more influential international actor in the medium term, despite its size, strategic location and economic potential.

Titled More Talk than Walk: Indonesia as a Foreign Policy Actor, McRae identifies four features that will define Indonesia's foreign policy: it will project the image of a great power despite its middle power abilities; it will remain non-aligned but lean towards the US; ASEAN will continue to be a key platform for Indonesia's regional and international aspirations; and it will take up Muslim concerns rather than having a distinctly Islamic foreign policy.

Despite rising tensions between Australia and Indonesia, McRae says it is unlikely Indonesia's relationship with Australia will become a key feature of Indonesian foreign policy in coming years. 'Outside of periodic bilateral spats, Australia can appear invisible in Indonesia's foreign policy discussions', said McRae.

Photo by Flickr user adiputraryan.

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  • Where's the Australian aid program heading? Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop offered the clearest articulation to date of her vision at the Australasian Aid and International Development Policy workshop in Canberra last week.
  • Does foreign aid really work? Roger Riddell's updated paper provides a breakdown of the question and an excellent survey of the evidence; shorter blog post here.
  • Are donors exploiting rules to inflate their aid numbers? This issue has surfaced over the last few years in Australia in light of aid budgets being used to fund costs associated with asylum seekers. But it extends further than that. The Guardian Development blog takes us through the politics and the mathematics of aid figures.
  • Nigeria is badly run, but its biggest city, Lagos, has turned a corner partly because the local government is raising more taxes. The case for devolving power to cities.
  • Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was appointed to lead the Global Partnership for Education, which is working to help get some 57 million children into schools.
  • Nepal introduces new policy for accepting aid: it will be centralised through a government channel, a move which is likely to hurt NGOs.
  • UNICEF's public health campaign to reduce open defecation in India has a catchy YouTube clip:

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  • Why Aid Fails, from the authors of the best selling book Why Nations Fail.
  • Does India have more polluted air than China? And why is there not the uproar in Delhi like there is in Beijing? Interesting pieces in the NY Times and Bloomberg Businessweek.
  • Relatedly, the 2014 Environmental Performance Index ranks countries on nine environmental issues. India comes in at 155 out of 178 (compared to China at number 118). But when ranked just on the air quality, India (174) and China (176) are right at the bottom.
  • Iran's president calls the country's water shortage a national security issue.
  • Saudi women's workforce participation has doubled over the last six years.
  • UNDP's annual Equator Prize, which recognises local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities in developing countries,  is open for nominations.
  • UNICEF has released its latest State of the World's Children report. (H/t UN Tribune.)
  • It's a new Hans Rosling video! In his typically deft manner, Hans unpacks a misconception: will saving poor people result in overpopulation?

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