How should we define Australia’s national interests in a changing world?
Australian foreign policy has demonstrated genuine care for the well-being of our neighbouring nations. This is constructive and respectful in international relationships and preferable to recent U.S. claims of putting their own country first, insisting on their own trade advantage. Diplomacy, as Ambassador Joe Hockey has suggested, can do better than implying that everyone else is second. Civility and sensitivity enhance Australia’s relations in our region, to our benefit too.
The Australian Council for International Development, ACFID urges: “As a wealthy nation, in a relatively poor region, and as the US withdraws from international leadership, Australia must take a stronger stance in the Asia-Pacific, projecting and setting values which will sure-up [sic, shore up] Australia’s future prosperity and security. We must define our own context, engaging the region in a manner consistent with our values: cooperation, democracy, egalitarianism and a fairgo. As the Minister stated in her speech, Australians help make our region a safer and more prosperous place. Let’s continue that work using the values we hold.”
How should our values underpin Australia’s foreign policy? What should we do differently? How can we do better?
Australian values which should underpin Australia’s foreign policy:
Australia has diverse interests that span the globe
Which countries will matter most to Australia over the next 10 years? Why and in what ways? How should we deepen and diversify key relationships?
Regional countries in the Asia/Pacific sphere are often not on the radar of many major national aid programs. Australia can be aware and sensitive in specifically focusing on our neighbourhood:
Which global trends, such as developments in technology, environmental degradation and the role of non-state actors, are likely to affect Australia’s security and prosperity?
How should Australia respond?
Note: The points made below also go to Issue 5 concerning how Australia should confront a range of strategic, security and transnational issues. Since poverty is a breeding ground for terrorism, addressing poverty through population control has the potential to decelerate the increasing threats from terrorism and reduce pressures associated with increasing demands for economic migration.
Poverty and its consequences are the conditions of a significant proportion of nations until population pressures are reduced. Contraception is a major means of reducing such pressures. Australia can make significant contributions to addressing poverty by assisting with Family Planning for the Human Family.
Provision of reproductive health support, including contraceptive services, as a significant part of overseas aid and development is one of the most strategic interventions possible for addressing the issues of population pressure, poverty, environmental volatility and humanitarian crises.
Where women manage fertility, they gain education, enterprise and contribute in the decision-making process. Girls’ aspirations grow, gender equity increases. The population can stabilise, and health and education services are not rapidly outgrown.
Increasing frequency of humanitarian crises whether from environmental volatility and natural disasters, wars or other sources will inevitably make it more important that women have access to and use long-term (reversible) contraceptive methods such as implants. The Minister’s February announcement of an increase in reproductive health funding in crisis areas is exactly the response needed from Australia to address the particular challenges that arise during humanitarian crises.
Continuing and strengthening Australia’s commitment to providing reproductive health assistance in our region on an ongoing basis as needed and not just for crises is a fundamental way to deepen our engagement and lay the groundwork for maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of other forms of overseas aid such as those relating to health, education and assistance with economic development.
Australia uses a range of assets and capabilities to pursue our national interests.
What assets will we need to advance our foreign policy interests in future years? How can we best use our people and our assets to advance Australia’s economic, security and other interests and respond to external events?
Note: Our comments for Issue 6 are also relevant to Issue 3:Australia is an influential player in regional and international organisations. In our discussion below of NGOs as an important resource we identify some of the regional and global organisations that matter most to us with respect to reproductive health and how we can both support those organisations and maximise our influence.
The Value of NGOs, Universities and Partnerships
There is considerable advantage for the Department of Foreign Affairs in funding through non-government organisations and universities, leveraging on their expertise, on their incountry relationships and program development skills. NGOs have their own support base, and AusAID matched funding and the ANCP system have worked to advantage. Risks of funding shrinking as it descends each level of a complex bureaucratic system are minimised by the experienced negotiations between partners operating at project level.
Universities and NGOs that combine a strategic perspective with local knowledge and networks are valuable for assisting with the design and implementation of programs that will meet Australian Government objectives while respecting the sovereignty of the countries and communities in which they are working.
Women’s Plans Foundation has had much encouraging experience of the advantages of working with highly effective established NGOs and universities:
How can Government work more effectively with non-government sectors, including business, universities and NGOs, to advance Australia’s interests?
Internet and Interagency Opportunities
As DFAT has recently shown, there are new digital opportunities to enhance organisational and program communication, data collection for research and evidence-based planning. The communications world is developing at a rate previously unimaginable, and accelerating. The Gates Foundation, with the capacity of Microsoft, funds technological advances which will enable knowledgeable design and analysis around the world. WomenDeliver demonstrated in its 2016 Conference that combining and sharing resources can be powerful in energising overseas aid efficiencies. Digital media can share views of programs and achievements, attracting the attention of the Australian public so there will be increasing support of constructive foreign policy.
CEO, Marie Stopes International Australia
2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill which revolutionised life for millions of women in Australia and other developed nations, giving them the opportunity to choose when and how many children to have. At Marie Stopes we aim to extend this revolution to the 215 million women in developing countries who want to space and limit the number of children they have but who still do not have access to, or information about contraceptives.
Tonight I would like to tell you a little about our program in Papua New Guinea which was the recipient of the most recent generous donation from Women’s Plans Foundation. Prior to an outreach visit, a Marie Stopes team consisting of a nurse and field educator holds an advocacy meeting with community and church leaders. This is an important process as it is these leaders who are strong gate-keepers in the community; they are credible people; and they are listened to. Following this advocacy meeting is an awareness campaign to let everyone know that the Marie Stopes team is coming, when and where. More often than not, community and church leaders participate by organising the meetings, announcing them during church and fellowships and even house-to-house visits.
For the first visit, Marie Stopes PNG brings a full complement of staff – usually 2 nurses, 1 outreach assistant and 1 field educator. To ensure confidentiality and privacy, the team would normally work in an existing health centre, a home or a community or church hall. In the absence of such, the team brings a 3 room walk-in tent. In many instances power and water are challenges. A full size generator and water in containers are brought in. Each village is visited every 3 months. In each outreach clinic the team sees an average of 30 clients in Port Moresby and 8 clients in the provinces. The majority of women chose three-monthly injections as their preferred methods of contraception but IUDs and other longer term contraceptive methods are growing in popularity.
Outreach is crucial to being able to impact upon so many women’s lives. The women who can now access family planning services that we provide on our outreach trips are so grateful to be able to space their children and decrease the risks of bearing a number of children so close together. I am here tonight to forward their gratitude on their behalf, and that of the Marie Stopes Team in PNG.
Guests at the Annual WPF Cocktail Party and Auction on October 21st appreciated hearing about the work being accomplished as a result of our enjoying a lovely evening fundraising. It was very good of Maria Deveson-Crabbe to come and add this level of enjoyment and meaning.
In developing countries, 225 million women have an unmet need for Family Planning, which causes every year:
74 Million Unplanned Pregnancies,
28 Million Unplanned Births,
and 36 Million Abortions
At a cost of less than $16 per person, we could supply a year’s supply of modern contraceptives to 222 million women.
By 2030 we will require 2 planet earths to meet humanity’s demand for renewable resources - but we have only one earth.