12.6 C
Thursday, June 1, 2023
HomeAustraliaAfter years of decline, the budget gives more money for diplomacy and...

After years of decline, the budget gives more money for diplomacy and development capability. What does this mean in practice?


Two weeks ago something special happened: defense recommended more money for diplomacy.

The Defense strategic review – the main defense policy planning document – ​​recommended increased funding for the Department of State and Trade (DFAT).

It said national defense “requires the reversal of a long-standing reduction in diplomatic resources, augmenting our diplomatic efforts in areas of central national interest. Our diplomatic capacity needs to be equipped, focused and focused.”

This is part of one increasing understanding in policy circles defense needs diplomacy and development. This is part of one approximation known as using “all instruments of statesmanship” or “all elements of national power– the various tools and levers by which Australia can exert international influence to its advantage.

Some steps have been taken in this regard in Tuesday’s federal budget with a increase to DFAT funding of $457 million.

After years of criticizing the lack of investment in Australia’s diplomacy and development, it is positive to see some improvement.

What will the funding be used for?

The funding increase will be used for measures such as “maintaining support for an effective foreign service” (code to keep the department running) and increased diplomatic engagement with Southeast Asia. There is also a special measure for “enhanced strategic capability” in line with DFAT’s Capability Review.

The Capability Review was prompted by a sense that DFAT’s instruments of foreign policy were “underfunded and sometimes marginalizedby successive governments over decades, according to one of the experts who led the review, Alan Gyngellwho sadly passed away last week.

While leading the Lowy Institute, he worked with colleagues to map Australia’s diplomatic deficit decay. One of his legacies is a focus on the importance of diplomacy and development as important parts of Australia’s involvement in the world by helping to set up the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy and Defense Dialogue (AP4D). Another is the DFAT Capability Review.

Reports suggest that the review has been recorded recommendations to enhance DFAT’s skills, expertise and craft – including specialist knowledge of emerging areas and the ability to anticipate and prepare for future risks. The goal is to “build the high-performing and influential foreign service Australia needs for the future”, that can “make Australia’s case and try to avert shock or conflict”.

The review appears to have led directly to the budget investment in eliminating DFATs strategic communication ability and improvement of communication networks. I like to think Allan would be happy if the growing recognition turned into a better investment.

Read more: Penny Wong said this week that national power comes from ‘our people’. Are we ignoring this most vital resource?

The budget has also invested specifically in development capacity – the ability to plan, manage and evaluate international development programs. Concerns remain that the amalgamation of Australian independent aid agency AusAID with DFAT in 2013 led to a significant loss of experience. Consultation by the Development intelligence lab think tank found development capability as a major impediment to Australia’s development programme.

This capacity gap will be addressed through four-year funding of $36.8 million for a “Australian development program fit for our timesto strengthen areas such as program design, implementation, evaluation and accountability. It will be used to invest in people, skills and expertise to ensure that Australia’s development program can meet the needs of partner countries’ priorities. This was apparently a major point of discussion on Australia’s new international development policy. Further details will be available when the policy will be released soon.

This balances the news that overseas development aid – na a boost in the October budget – only have one small increase in this budget. With a larger economy, this means Australia’s aid is at a low ebb historically low as a percentage of national income. Australia has now slipped into near the bottom of the ranking of developed countries.

This suggests development should be next in line for some love. Marc Purcell, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development called for “the government to demonstrate that they will rebalance resources for development and diplomacy, to create the prosperous and stable region they say they want to see”.

Read more: Stabilizing the foreign aid budget indicates the government is serious about development

If the budget was $100, Australia would spend $7 for defense, 7 cents for development, and a copper coin for diplomacy. A focus on increasing diplomatic and development capacity is therefore welcome.

In a joint statement on TuesdayForeign Secretary Penny Wong said that “the Albanian government’s approach to the budget will give Australia more leverage in the world, investing in all elements of our statecraft, including diplomatic power, trade and development”.

The heap is that this budget is a step towards the reality of the rhetoric of respecting and providing resources for the various instruments of statesmanship.

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories