Lowy Institute
  • 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.


A special 'International Women's Day' themed edition of Aid & Development Links. 

  • Australia used International Women's Day to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and launched a new publication, Empowering Women: Australia's support for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The report showcases the extraordinary stories of some of the many women who have been supported by Australia's diplomatic, economic and foreign aid programs around the world.
  • UNDP's first female Administrator, Helen Clark, called for increased female participation in modern development challenges such as climate change, peace and security, and crisis response. 
  • The US State Department celebrated International Women's Day with their annual International Women of Courage Award.
  • Women's Rights: how far have we come? The Guardian has an analysis on achievements in gender equality since the 1995 Beijing Declaration. Also this good infographic from UN Women.
  • Foreign Policy Interrupted amplifies female voices in all areas of foreign policy. Be sure to sign up for their Friday email of female authored foreign policy analysis. 
  • India clearly has a long way to go when it comes to the status of women, as demonstrated by this chilling BBC interview with one of the men convicted for the infamous 2012 Delhi bus rape. Indian authorities tried to ban the BBC's film, India's Daughter.
  • The Lowy Institute will be holding an International Women's Day themed all-women panel event on Thursday evening. It's sold out, but look out for the podcast Friday. It should be a great discussion on the challenges facing women globally, with human rights campaigner Elaine Pearson, journalist Lauren Williams and Melanesia expert Jenny Hayward-Jones. Moderated by ABC's Geraldine Doogue.
  • Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja has released a message commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women:

  • Curious about how much Chinese aid in spent in the Pacific? Check out  Mapping Chinese Aid in the Pacific, by Dr Philippa Brant. It's the first comprehensive survey of Chinese-funded aid projects in the Pacific Islands region, presented as an interactive map.
  • Aid data has the potential to radically alter the way development is delivered, but will donors recognise the benefits of investing in it?  'How to Fund a Data Revolution', by Claire Melamed (ODI) and Grant Cameron (World Bank).
  • Only when Ebola was framed as a security problem did it prompt global action.
  • Real World Development Indicators: suggests helpful indicators such as 'Probability that Prime Minister/President seeks medical treatment in their own country'. (Thanks Sam.)
  • The International Criminal Court is in crisis, and it always has been.
  • The value of remittances: Westpac will shut down accounts that use money transfer organisations to send money abroad.  Will this affect Australians' ability to provide direct cash injections to friends and family in developing countries? 
  • Why a 'social progress index' is a better benchmark than GDP. Interesting TED talk from social progress expert Michael Green:



Mapping Chinese aid in the Pacific, an interactive map launched by the Lowy Institute today, is the first comprehensive survey of Chinese-funded aid projects in the Pacific Islands region.

Lowy Institute Research Associate Dr Philippa Brant drew on over 500 sources including budgets, tender documents, government statements as well as interviews and site visits to create this map. It is the first time this data has been systemically collected, verified, analysed and mapped for Chinese aid projects from 2006 onwards. Users can search via country, year and sector, as well as compare Chinese aid with other aid donors in the region.

Key findings include:

  • Since 2006, China has provided US$1.4 billion in foreign aid to Pacific Island countries.
  • China is on track to overtake Japan as the third largest donor in the region. But at a regional level, Australia is and will remain the most significant external actor.
  • In some countries however, Chinese aid amounts are rivaling that of traditional partners.

Jump in by pressing 'Explore Now' button, or visit the full-screen version on the Lowy Institute website. And note that the interactive can be  embedded on other websites too. Just click the 'Share' button to copy the code:


  • 5 lessons for aid and development from departing US AID Administrator Rajiv Shah (thanks Danielle).
  • New UN figures show Afghan civilian casualties hit record highs in 2014.
  • Australian aid to Indonesia enters the death-penalty debate - media overview from Dev Blog's Ashlee Betterridge.
  • The hashtag says it all: #humanitarianStarWars.
  • Why is Waleed Aly so scandalised by the idea of 'conditional' foreign aid? The Lowy Institute's Sam Roggeveen picks a fight.
  • Does aid in conflict zones promote peace or war?
  • ' 5 reasons why everyone should work for a large organisation at some point in their international development careers', from @aidnography.
  • Is the World Health Organization on the cusp of a post-Ebola reformation?
  • The aid industry: what journalists really think. Interesting new report from the International Broadcasting Trust.
  • Global Peace Index 2015: Which country is the world's most peaceful?  (Australia doesn't rank as high as you would think!) Check out the interactive (screen capture below).