Big Ideas for the future of aid

09 July 2013

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Stephen Howes is Director of Development Policy Centre at ANU.

Prior to joining the Crawford School in 2009, Stephen was Chief Economist at the Australian Agency for International Development.

In 2008, he worked on the Garnaut Review on Climate Change, where he managed the Review’s international work stream.

He teaches Aid and Development Policy (IDEC8007) and Government, Markets and Global Change (CRWF8000).

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The future and complexity of aid assistance was in the spotlight for a recent collaboratively-driven ABC Big Ideas public forum.

The show tackled the critical topic of ‘Foreign Aid in the Asia-Pacific: Who needs it? Who pays?’, and was produced as part of The Future of International Development in Asia and the Pacific Conference, which was co-organised by a group of partners that included Crawford School’s Development Policy Centre and the HC Coombs Policy Forum.

Virginia Haussegger, presenter of the 7pm ABC Canberra News, moderated the one-hour discussion between five panelists. This panel included Professor Stephen Howes, Director of the Development Policy Centre, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Mr Kazu Sakai, Director General of Strategy and Policy at the Asian Development Bank, Professor Eun Mee Kim of Ewha Woman University, and Dr Alison Evans, former Director of the Overseas Development Institute.

The panellists discussed the thinking behind putting ‘the future of aid to Asia’ on the agenda. Many of the experts commented on how the scale of Asia’s growth over the coming decades will make it the world’s biggest economic zone, increasingly able to address its own poverty challenges.

Professor Howes said that countries like “Vietnam and Indonesia are growing rapidly and addressing poverty”. This is in stark contrast to most countries in the Pacific, where development progress has been much slower and many people still face chronic poverty of opportunity.

Other issues included: the stark contrast in development progress between Asia and the Pacific, rising inequality throughout the region, the changing aid donor/recipient relationship, the role for emerging Asian donors such as China, India and South Korea, the rise of non-traditional non-state donors, the (re)politicisation of aid, and the role which Australia can and should play in the region.

Robin Davies, Associate Director at the Development Policy Centre, said the forum highlighted the importance of continued public discussion on aid.

“Asia’s rise shouldn’t just make us wonder about the future of our aid to Asia, or aid from the Asian giants to other countries,” he said.
“It also poses important questions about how we can use our aid program to support regional and international cooperation on increasingly important transnational challenges, like climate change and infectious diseases. Asia’s growth intensifies these challenges but also creates the potential for it to contribute to collective solutions.”

The Conference and Public Forum were developed through collaboration between the Development Policy Centre and the HC Coombs Policy Forum within Crawford School of Public Policy, and the University of Melbourne’s Nossal Institute for Global Health, the Lowy Institute and the Asia Foundation.

Dr Mark Matthews, Executive Director of the HC Coombs Policy Forum, said the forum showed what can be achieved through collaborative work tackling society’s big questions.

“This is a great example of how prominent institutions can collaborate to achieve the shared goal of contributing to a more considered and useful approach to international development in the region. I very much hope that this type of collaboration can build momentum in future years,” he said.

The ABC Big Ideas Public Forum is available online: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2013/07/0⅓789973.htm

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