International aid organisation CARE Australia has said that reductions in poverty in the Asia-Pacific region will be a key measure of success for Australia’s economic diplomacy strategy.
Speaking at the Lowy Institute this morning where Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb unveiled Australia’s Economic Diplomacy, CARE Australia CEO Dr Julia Newton-Howes welcomed the government’s policy to leverage Australian resources and know-how for the mutual benefit of countries in our region.
‘The aspirations of this policy are sound, and it is useful to see the Australian Government’s efforts in international affairs, particularly in the year Australia chairs the G20 and has a seat on the United Nations Security Council.’
However, Dr Newton-Howes said a more open trade regime alone would not automatically translate to reducing poverty levels in poor countries on Australia’s doorstep. ‘It is generally acknowledged that economic growth is necessary for developing countries to reduce poverty, but the key challenge is to adopt policies and programs that enable poor people to reap the benefits flowing from that growth. For example, in Papua New Guinea, people’s access to clean water has changed little despite a decade of strong economic growth and PNG does not appear to be on track to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals.’
She said there must also be a strong focus on environmental sustainability if economic growth is to reduce poverty.
‘Our region is highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. According to the United Nations, natural disasters have effected 4.4 billion people and caused $2 trillion in economic losses over the past two decades. The economic cost of disasters is only likely to increase, with a growing share of the world’s population and economic activity concentrated in disaster prone places.
‘Australia stands to benefit from having prosperous and resilient neighbours that we can trade with, invest with and do business with. Ensuring real development outcomes and reductions in poverty from the economic diplomacy agenda should be key measures of its success,’ Dr Newton-Howes added.