Pulse Check | 2022 Development Strategy

First Impressions

After surveying 50+ development experts in Australia and 50+ in the region, we got a lot of views on where Australia's development priorities should be. Here's what's on the Lab's mind as the results come in ...

Our Australian experts see the Australian approach to partnerships, relationships, and cooperation as a key strength. The region? They’re far less sure and more focused on the quality of our assistance. Perhaps we shouldn’t trust our own self-perception.



Our Australian experts were convinced that geopolitical shifts and China (PRC) will shape development in our region. But when forced to make a choice, they didn’t select this as the top priority for Australia to address through its development program. There’s a lot more to unpack here …



The strongest consensus finding between Australian and regional experts is that Australian action on climate change is fundamental to the development program and our role in the region. There are high expectations for Government to meet here.



The overwhelming majority named security and regional stability as a key national interest the development program serves. But when pushed, it looks like the development program is better positioned to advance Australia’s interests in things like democracy, open societies and regional relationships instead.



Our regional experts said good governance, and national leadership, will make or break development outcomes in their countries. Our Australian experts echo that focusing on good governance, and tackling democratic decline, are critical. This will be a fine line for Australia to walk.



Our Australian experts were aware of the way technology will change the face of our region - but fairly unprepared when it comes to how the Australian development program should respond. Meanwhile, our regional experts’ attention was squarely on access to electricity and telecommunications.Will we see a shift in focus here?



Asked to prioritise where Australia’s bilateral spending should go, it seems our Australian experts follow Australia’s current focus on the Indo-Pacific. We’ll be looking into this.



Decolonisation and localisation were top of mind for both Australian and regional experts when it comes to generating effective partnerships. But our Australian experts seem divided on whether Australia can or should prioritise its efforts here above all else.



DFAT capability is holding back the potential of Australian development, according to both our Australian and regional experts. This is sounding like something beyond thematic expertise - more like the systems, values, management, and leadership of Australian development.



When it comes to generating a more transparent and accountable development culture, there’s one reform that is a clear winner with Australian experts: establishing an independent evaluation mechanism. We’ll be digging into what the experts envisage.

Of all of the issues facing our region, climate change and governance/democratic decline are equally serious.

Climate is the killer. Human development and gender equity go hand in hand. Then localisation follows.

Security is a consequence of a well-managed and cooperative regional system. Transparency and democracy are key tools. Economic prosperity flows from all that.

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