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Policy Forum’s top 10 of 2020

13 January 2021

Kickstart the new year by revisiting the most popular pieces of 2020, write the Policy Forum team.

Already powered through your summer reading list? Or perhaps you got distracted by Netflix or the test cricket and your stack still looms large? Never fear, you can still start the working year feeling virtuous by diving back into some of Policy Forum’s most popular pieces from the last 12 months.

From China’s engagement with the Pacific to feminist research during COVID-19 to improving Australian migration policy, we look back at the articles you liked most throughout the ‘year like no other’.

10. China’s military engagement with Pacific Island countries by Denghua Zhang (17 August 2020)

2020 saw tensions rise between China and a number of countries, including the United States and Australia. One of the causes of concern for Washington and Canberra has been Beijing’s increased military engagement with Pacific Island countries.

In this article from August ranked 10th, Denghua Zhang from The Australian National University (ANU) shed light on Chinese military modernisation and what it means for the Indo-Pacific.

9. China’s foreign direct investment flows by Chunlai Chen and Christopher Findlay (10 June 2020)

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, foreign direct investment (FDI) took a hit in China, falling by 13 per cent. But with China successfullly suppressing the coronavirus, investment bounced back quickly in April, rising 8.6 per cent as compared to the previous month.

In this piece coming in ninth on our list, ANU Crawford School’s Chunlai Chen and Christopher Findlay examioned data on FDI in China and changing investment patterns to challenge the view that businesses would withdraw from China in the wake of the pandemic.

8. Conducting feminist research during lockdown by Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Arnab Chakraborty, and Sourav Bag (9 June 2020)

The global pandemic has left no one untouched, but its impact differs greatly depending on a number of factors, including race/ethnicity, gender, and age.

In this June article, Crawford School’s Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, and Arnab Chakraborty and Sourav Bag from Professorial Assistance for Development Action, discussed what qualitative researchers can do to engage with research participants in remote communities in times when international travel restrictions prevent researchers from travelling. They reported on their research using the Rapid Phone Appraisal tool in a remote community in India to find out how COVID-19 has affected women and their livelihoods.

7. Freedom of navigation and the Law of the Sea by Sam Bateman (21 January 2020)

The South China Sea remained a regional hotspot in 2020, and our readers were keen to hear more about it. This this piece by Sam Bateman from the University of Wollongong was the seventh most popular article on Policy Forum in 2020.

Sam examined the terms ‘freedom of navigation’ and ‘international waters’, what they actually mean in the context of the South China Sea, and why the law of the sea is notoriously complex and often misused.

6. Mapping the Pacific COVID-19 response (18 June 2020)

Issues in the Pacific Island region are often underreported and misunderstood. Amidst the great uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis, ANU Department of Pacific Affairs, the Australia Pacific Security College and ANU CartoGIS developed the Pacific COVID-19 response map. The map provided an accessible way for researchers and the general public to get up-to-date data on the ongoing response to COVID-19 in the Pacific region.

Published as part of the Pacific: In Focus section and becoming our sixth most popular post in 2020, the map has been a fantastic tool, providing a snapshot of case numbers, local response measures, and what they mean on the ground.

5. Sums, germs, and fear by Quentin Grafton and Tom Kompas (30 March 2020)

Back in March, the first, deadly waves of COVID-19 were causing havoc in countries such as Italy and the United States, showing how infection numbers could get out of hand quickly if not countered by appropriate and fast public health measures. Australia, too, was seeing increased numbers back then, with experts worried that the situation could also get out of control. As a result, many were wondering: Is strictly physical distancing a price worth paying?

In this piece coming fifth in our ranking, Crawford’s Quentin Grafton and Tom Kompas from the University of Melbourne used data to explain what Australia might expect, and discuss some of the costs and benefits of strong physical distancing measures.

4. Crimes against women in Pakistan by Tahmina Rashid (3 December 2019)

This piece by Tahmina Rashid from December 2019 discussing crimes against women in Pakistan snuck into this year’s top 10.

Ranked fourth, the article took a closer look at new laws for the protection of women, but also at the many shortfalls the country is still facing in this space, from the low status of women to violence.

3. The opportunities and risks of taking education online by Shreya Upadhyay (30 March 2020)

In March, COVID-19 was surging around the world and with it came a rise in remote learning. At this time, more than 100 countries had closed their educational institutions, impacting half of the world’s student population, forcing them to stay at home and in many cases attend online classrooms.

Our third most popular piece of 2020 was by Shreya Upadhyay from Jawarharlal Nehru University, who examined the opportunities and challenges for digital learning, from advances in technology to issues around access in less developed countries.

2. The impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods in Papua New Guinea by Elizabeth Kopel (12 June 2020)

In June, Papua New Guinea had so far avoided the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, though concerns grew throughout the year as confirmed case numbers climbed. The country reacted swiftly, but the harsh lockdown measures came at a price, particularly for the poor.

Our readers were particularly interested in this piece by Elizabeth Kopel discussing the impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods in Papua New Guinea, which suggested six strategies to tackle negative outcomes.

1. Improving Australian migration policy in the COVID-19 crisis by Marianne Dickie (21 May 2020)

In March 2020, Australia closed its borders to everyone but citizens and residents. As travel bans came into effect, many people who had been granted a visa to enter Australia but had not finalised their travel were left to navigate a complex process.

In our most popular piece of 2020, Marianne Dickie proposed some simple fixes to Australian migration policy in light of COVID-19.

What issues would you like to see covered on Policy Forum in 2021? Leave us a comment below or share your thoughts via Twitter.

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