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What do Indonesian experts think about Australia’s development program? To find out, the Lab spoke to 40+ top development and foreign policy experts. Here’s what we found.

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What disruptions will have the biggest development impact on your country?

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What disruptions will have the biggest development impact on your country?

There are a number of big disruptions underway, and these will drastically affect development in every country.


You have 100 points. Allocate your points according to which of the below disruptions are most critical to address in your country.

Changing climate and natural environment 

Things like: the impact on livelihoods, infrastructure and people’s quality of life as the climate changes, the global push to reach net zero and beyond, biodiversity health and resource usage, disaster resilience

Geopolitical shifts and tensions 

Things like: competing powers and their impact on things like trade and economic growth.

Digitisation and shifting technologies 

Things like: the rapidly growing digital and data economy, and the rise of artificial intelligence and advanced autonomous systems.

Changes to the collective human experience 

Things like: shifting demographics across age, education and healthcare, and rising inequality, gender equality, disability inclusion.

Shifting economic dimensions 

Things like: rapidly changing markets, trade conditions, stability and resilience to shocks, changing job opportunities and emerging industries.

Changes to state structures and norms 

Things like: shifting international norms and state structures, effective functions of the state, and disruptions to the international rules based order.

Conflict and instability 

Things like: global stability and instability, internal conflict, humanitarian crises, external interference, maritime disputes.

Seen as the driver of many other trends, participants named climate change as the most urgent disruption to address.

Many participants opted to rank these categories based on the immediacy of the risks they posed, and climate was resoundingly the most pressing to address.

“Indonesia's ability to tackle climate change and environmental problems…will determine where Indonesia is headed in the next 10 years and more.”

But for the most part, climate change was voted as most critical to address because of the flow-on effects on things such as agriculture and  livelihoods, food security, public health, growing population numbers, infrastructure, and economic security and prosperity. Agriculture in particular received a lot of commentary: “Indonesia is highly vulnerable to climate change. Extreme events like droughts and floods will without a doubt compromise the entire agricultural sector, threaten the livelihood of millions of farmers, and risk economic growth as a whole.”

Participants also noted the challenge ahead for the government of Indonesia in tackling climate change and the energy transition. Some believe it is on the agenda, yet adequate plans to mitigate its potential impacts on inequality and instability have not been laid.

Extreme events like droughts and floods will without a doubt compromise the entire agricultural sector, threaten the livelihood of millions of farmers, and risk economic growth as a whole.

Digitisation is on the agenda - but whether it is an opportunity or a risk is yet to be determined.

Participants were mixed in their interpretations of this category, seeing rapid digitisation both as a risk to be mitigated, and an opportunity to be seized. Participants saw this as one of the critical categories that will determine prosperity and development gains over the next decade.

Despite the range of positive and negative responses to digitisation, there appeared to be consensus that Indonesia could better prepare for the effects of rapidly changing technology. This included through enhancing public infrastructure, and increasing research and policy to understand or respond to potential impacts on things like the labour market, social media and elections.

I allocated more points towards digitalisation and shifting technologies due to its capacity to progress both positive and negative disruptions.

Despite ranking it lower, participants were clear that shifting economic dimensions have the potential to be destabilising.

Despite not currently being seen as the most urgent disruption coming down the line, participants were keen to express that economic shocks – both global and domestic – have proven incredibly destabilising for Indonesia in the past:

“Historical data showed that shocks in the economy, both global and national, have proven to bring instability in Indonesia, and it has domino effects on the collective human experience and environment.”

Participants saw the need for Indonesia to strengthen its economy to be more resilient to impending shocks and secure against knock-on effects of economic downturn to things like stability and state structures.

Some participants saw the potential for these moments to emerge through other disruptions such as ‘geopolitical shifts’ and ‘digitisation and technologies.’ Another participant observed that climate change is increasingly ‘the great disrupter’ to the economic status quo.

We learned from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis that the inability to properly manage external economic shocks can pose a wide range of ramifications to the country.

Geopolitical shifts ranked low – and there could be a few reasons why.

One participant saw the geopolitical situation in Southeast Asia as “mixed between threats and opportunities”. Others highlighted the potential risks to Indonesia’s economic development at play. Overall, there was little in the qualitative data to indicate why geopolitical shifts and tensions ranked relatively low. An assumption can be made that other categories were simply seen by participants as more critical or appropriate to address, especially by a partner like Australia.

What will best enhance social and economic development in your country?

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What will best enhance social and economic development in your country?

We know that to achieve social and economic development, an effective and accountable state is critical - and this is something that Australia is committed to working with partners on.


You have 100 points. Allocate your points according to where you would focus efforts to enhance social and economic development in your country, using the State Effectiveness Framework.

Market engagement 

For example, commercial policy, private sector development, intervention by the state when the market experiences failure or crisis.


For example, a balanced security environment, when police, military and other security institutions are bound by the law and guidelines.


For example, public utilities - including water, electricity and roads.

Rule of law 

For example, strong adherence to both formal and informal rules, high levels of predictability and stability of the enforcement of rules, and governance arrangements.

Human capital 

For example, investment in the citizens of a state through education and public health.

Public financial management 

For example, strong and transparent forms of public financial management, effective public borrowing, and fiscal management.

Citizen engagement 

For example, addressing barriers to equal opportunities through citizens rights which cut across gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class and location.

Asset management 

For example, state assets (including natural resources [water, land, the environment, extractives] and other intangible benefits [licenses and permits]).

Disaster resilience 

For example, preparedness for disasters, state resiliency against crises such as drought, famine, and catastrophic weather.


For example, public sector management, uniform rules and guidelines, strong reforms to prevent corruption.

Lowering corruption within systems of governance is seen as priority number one.

Governance topped the list of areas experts would tackle in order to enhance social and economic development, with a large number of respondents viewing it as a proxy for tackling corruption:

“...biggest problems for Indonesia’s socio-economic development are surrounding its unreliable rule of law and rampant corruption”

Many participants stressed that a focus on addressing corruption, transparency, and accountability was crucial for the social and economic dividends it would produce.

Good governance is essential to making decisions that are critical in addressing climate crisis, inequalities, and pressing development priorities in the country.

Long-term investments in human capital are also non-negotiable.

Our cohort saw human capital as the second most vital element of state effectiveness on which to focus efforts. Almost all participants allocated points to this category, and while some spoke to the quality of education and health services as being critical for sustained development, others emphasised the importance of Indonesia building a competitive workforce internationally, citing this as “important to supporting and sustaining an open market economy” and crucial for both “economic and political development”. Despite coming a close second, there was less commentary overall on this particular category than for governance.

Human capital is very important to enable Indonesia to compete in international fora.

Participants called for reliable and transparent rule of law - but the role for Australia is unclear.

Much like with governance, participants were keen to see rule of law strengthened as they regarded it as the key to unlocking better outcomes across the other nine categories. For example, one participant felt that addressing “irregularity of judicial decisions” and “legal ambiguity” is foundational for ensuring Indonesia can grow stronger markets.

While participants ranked rule of law as the third most critical aspect for enhancing state effectiveness, there was little commentary on what Australia’s role should be in this space.

Unreliable rule of law costs Indonesia its competitiveness and credibility in the eyes of foreign investors.

Asset management, disaster resilience, and public financial management are not seen as relative priorities.

While there was little commentary on factors like asset management and PFM, some participants connected these to points they allocated for governance, indicating that efforts there would give rise to better PFM. While experts considered climate change to be a critical disruption, it was curious that disaster resilience did not feature higher here. One explanation is that, again, many saw improving governance as a necessary catalyst.

How can Australia best connect with your country through development?

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How can Australia best connect with your country through development?

Australia's new development policy wants to foster connection between your country and ours. How is this best done within development?


You have 100 points. Allocate your points according to where you think efforts are best placed to bring our countries together through development cooperation.

Connection for social capital

Support from Australia to back your country's aspirations on things like gender equality, health assistance, rural development and education.

Connection for investment

Support from Australia to back your country's aspirations on things like trade, market growth, regulatory reform, small-to-medium enterprise (SME) development and development finance.

Connection for stability and security

Support from Australia to back your country's aspirations on things like peace and security, effective governance, food security, digital and cyber security, law and justice.

Connection for livelihood

Support from Australia to back your country's aspirations on things like remittances, labour mobility, job creation, social and economic policy reform.

Connection for knowledge sharing

Support from Australia to back your country's aspirations on things like scholarships, policy dialogue, cultural exchange and institutional partnerships.

Connection for shared challenges

Support from Australia to back your country's aspirations on things like climate adaptation and mitigation, global health crises, transnational crime, joint cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, unregulated migration flows and major demographic changes.

Australia should pursue connection through social capital initiatives.

Many respondents agreed that Australia has a decent track record connecting for better ‘social capital’, particularly in health and education. There was emphasis on maintaining this support, but it’s clear there’s further to go. For some, this meant looking for better ways to cooperate on gender equality, social exclusion, human rights, and rural-urban inequality.

Others called on Australia to catch up by complementing its traditional support to civil society organisations with more investment in the already “thriving” local, social entrepreneurship space.

These are the areas where Australia can make a significant contribution on Indonesia's development.

Participants are calling for more sophisticated knowledge exchange.

Despite coming in second, knowledge sharing had a lot of interest, the key message being: let’s exchange expertise on some of the major issues both our countries need to face. This was seen, by some, as yet another way in which Australia could play its role well as a true “neighbour”.

While a handful of participants backed knowledge sharing through scholarships and policy dialogues, more were interested in where Australia and Indonesia could benefit from trading niche expertise and best practice, and adapting these to different development contexts and challenges. This was seen as “essential” for the “benefit [of] both” and instrumental to“bring our countries together”.

But, when engaging in government-to-government knowledge sharing, one participant was explicit: “[the Government of Indonesia] does not seem to like being lectured”. How Australia goes about these exchanges can matter just as much as what’s being exchanged.

By sharing knowledge, challenges, and success, we could discuss how different situations affect people in both countries.

Connecting for investment and for livelihoods is seen as mutually beneficial.

Despite landing at the bottom of the pack, connecting for ‘livelihood’ had a few staunch supporters who saw tackling livelihood and greater investment as inter-connected means to drive economic development. Some participants who allocated points here called for greater Australian private sector engagement to encourage a move away from “top-down state-driven approaches” and for working together on environmental, social and governance compliance. Others emphasised “balanc[ing] bilateral trade more equitably”.

According to one respondent, backing economic growth – alongside social capital initiatives - could be a way for Australia to “play its ‘neighbour’ role much more effectively”.

Connection in investment and in livelihoods will lead to higher economic growth.

In what areas would you like to see Australia assist your country through development?

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In what areas would you like to see Australia assist your country through development?

Australia works with your country through development cooperation in a variety of ways. What would you like to see here?


Australia's bilateral ODA allocation to Indonesia for FY 2023-2024 is $326.1 million. You have 100 points. How would you re-allocate Australia's bilateral funding to Indonesia across these categories using your 100 points?

Economic services 

Including policy and research to support economic growth, emerging industries and job markets, banking and financial services.


Including transport and storage, larger water, communications.

Agriculture and production services 

Including agriculture, fisheries and forestry, industry and mining and mineral resources.


Including policy and enabling markets.

Governance, civil society and social protection services 

Including governance programming, policy reforms, civil society strengthening, social protection measure and infrastructure.

Gender equality and disability inclusion

Including support for feminist organisations and movements, support for disability organisations and services.


Including basic, secondary and higher education and scholarships.


Including basic health, infrastructure and basic water and sanitation.

Climate adaptation, energy and environmental protection 

Including climate mitigation and adaptation, energy infrastructure, environmental protection and management.


Including emergency response, disaster prevention and preparedness .

Participants would allocate the bulk of Australian ODA to governance, civil society engagement, and social protection.

This cohort of Indonesian participants backed Australia directing the greatest proportion of its bilateral ODA towards governance assistance. Whilst in Question Two, many participants saw governance as a proxy for tackling corruption (as a means to secure a more effective state), in this question participants gave a more detailed indication of how they saw Australia playing a role in supporting governance. The recurring message here? Strengthen engagement between government and civil society at all levels of government, and across Indonesia’s diverse regions. It wasn’t just members of civil society organisations calling for this, but a mix of consultants, contractors, academics and policy experts.

“With good governance system and strong engagement from civil society, basic services delivery for the poor will improve."

“Australia has a good track record on empowering civil societies and grassroot communities. It's also on the right track of supporting local governance structures in Indonesia.”

While many participants were keen to see greater support for civic space, a small number of participants saw Australia’s role in the governance space differently, advising that Australia could play a “pivotal” role in backing Indonesia’s “aspiration to become an OECD member.”

What needs to be improved is to expand coverage in Eastern Indonesia.

Gender equality and disability inclusion, and education, effectively tie for second.

On gender equality and disability inclusion, a number of participants stressed that more policy alone is not the answer, but better support for the implementation of existing policies is.

A number of participants were keen to see disability exclusion and gender bias tackled as a way to drive greater formal workforce participation and economic growth. Others were focused on the importance of directing limited resources to the most vulnerable members of society, ensuring that safety nets are in place, and that actors working in this space are “empowered” to work alongside government.

One participant warned that foreign donors engaging in gender discourse can be “sensitive” and Australian development actors would do well to be guided by local experts in this space.

There were fewer comments on education, but participants who did allocate it significant points spoke to the importance of Indonesia and Australia working collaboratively on knowledge and best-practice exchange. Participants also placed a strong emphasis on the importance of improving the quality of education services being delivered across Indonesia.

Others, looking ahead, were concerned with Indonesia increasing its “competitive human resources” internationally, and ensuring there is sufficient policy and research on “emerging industries and job markets”.

If development is dedicated to people with disabilities as the most marginalised groups, we are sure it will be beneficial for all.

Participants gave climate adaptation the fourth highest allocation, but were divided about Australia’s role.

At fourth highest, there’s undoubtedly support for a decent allocation of ODA to address climate change adaptation. Some saw this as a clear entry point for Australia, calling for collaboration on things like adaptation and mitigation but so too on navigating the blue economy, aquaculture and food security, the energy transition, disease prevention, and disaster relief.

But while some judged Australia as capable in managing environment and climate issues, some were sceptical, judging it as “undeniably crucial” but “not Australia's comparative advantage”.

If there is one area that Australia wants to get better at in supporting Indonesia, this should be it.

Australia isn’t seen as competitive on infrastructure.

Not only did participants want to avoid much – if any – of Australia’s limited ODA budget being allocated to infrastructure, but many were also explicit as to why Australia doesn’t have a comparative advantage there. Some cited the significant advantage that multilaterals like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have. Others felt that while infrastructure is important, it is squarely prioritised by the Government of Indonesia, and Australia can add value by instead directing support towards more overlooked development challenges.

How can Australia be a valuable development partner in your country?

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How can Australia be a valuable development partner in your country?

Alongside what is included in Australia's development cooperation with your country, we're interested in your views on how Australia delivers assistance.


You have 100 points. Allocate your points according to where you think Australia should focus to become a great development partner to your country.

Australia: The Focused and Niche Partner 

Working in selective sectors where Australia can best assist your country, and doing it well. Perhaps operating in a less visible way, and much more impact-oriented.

Australia: The Modern Development Leader 

Working at the forefront of development challenges and working with partners to get ahead of big, new challenges to development. Developing specific capabilities in response to development disruptions decades ahead.

Australia: The Technical Experts 

Working with partners to leverage Australian expertise, and knowledge, and working with your country's knowledge ecosystem to solve the most difficult development challenges.

Australia: The People Partner 

Connected to your communities, not just your Government. Australia as a whole-of-nation partner that connects across different levels: for example universities, businesses, and organisations. Squarely focused on delivering development outcomes for people and communities.

Australia: The Regional Architecture Supporter 

Working to back Australia's development partner's aspirations through things like ASEAN, multilateral arenas, and through bilateral arrangements.

Participants want Australia to be a People Partner.

Participants allocated the highest amount of points in favour of Australia being The People Partner. Many participants saw the importance of Australia remaining focused on people and communities as distinct from delivering on the priorities of the Government of Indonesia – at times at odds with one another - and more often critical to achieving results and progress.

Other participants emphasised that this model of behaviour allows for exposure to “best practice and ideas”, builds trust across the country and ultimately delivers of Australia’s ambitions of true partnership.

“Being The People Partner will increase trust for long term collaboration and equal partnership between Australia and Indonesia.”

The People Partner is most appropriate for genuinely treating other countries, like Indonesia, as partners.

In a crowded donor space, Australian support should stay focused and niche.

Many participants saw The People Partner model operating in tandem with being focused and niche. This was seen as a way for Australia to be guided by people and communities to identify the few, most critical development challenges to tackle in partnership.

Participants commented that Australia’s niche strengths were, in fact, working with communities and local leaders, and on issues that affect many communities - such as gender equality. Others saw this as a smart play, particularly in a country where Australia is not the biggest development partner.

Some participants also saw the inherent practicalities for Australia in doing so – to meet the need for “value for money”, for “added value”, and to achieve greater development impact.

Becoming The Focused and Niche partner will provide Australia with a secure place in an overcrowded geopolitical environment in Southeast Asia.

Few participants wanted to see Australia adopt a bigger regional supporter role.

Participants did not see The Regional Architecture Supporter as an effective model for Australia to adopt. But with that said there was little qualitative evidence to show that participants were against the idea – rather, they saw significantly more value in other models.

Some who supported it saw this model as a sensible way for Australia to achieve its development policy ambitions through regional fora. Others hoped this approach could see Australia lay a foundation for more concerted future engagement on democratic structures and norms within ASEAN.

At the regional level, there is still a big question regarding Australia's preference to work with neighbouring countries vis-a-vis its attachment to the United States which often complicates its policy choices.
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