Elizabeth Godo | Palladium - Aug 08 2023
Australia's New Development Policy "Reflects Who We Are"

For the first time in almost a decade, the Australian Government has released a new international development policy. The policy sets as its main objective “a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” but what’s more, it builds on the heart and soul of Australia’s leadership in the region with a principled approach that rises to meet some of the world’s most profound challenges.

The Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Hon. Pat Conroy highlights that the policy adopts five core principles: transparency; having no strings attached; only funding high quality projects; focusing on local priorities; and working with local contractors and suppliers.

“We are responding to the priorities of our partner countries and helping to lift people out of poverty, building resilience and strengthening relationships in our region,” says Conroy. “We will invest in local solutions that deliver a double dividend – creating local jobs and delivering direct economic benefits on the ground, while also improving the development impact of Australia’s investments.”

According to Bernadette Howlett, Palladium co-CEO based in Sydney, this approach is novel. “Other countries of course have International Development Policies but have not approached it from this core principles perspective,” she says, “so Australia is breaking new ground.”

Locally-Led Development

The policy’s focus on locally-led development principles is both welcome and consistent with what development practitioners know works.

“Localisation has been called many things in the nearly six decades Palladium has been working in development, but it’s always been the only way to create real, tangible, sustainable impact,” says David Travers, Palladium Managing Partner for APAC. “You simply have to work directly with communities – supporting local leadership and local actors.”

Travers is also grateful to see the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, a DFAT-funded program implemented by Palladium, featured as a case study in the policy itself. “This was a vote of confidence and a nudge for us to double down on what we believe.”

Private Finance

The new policy also puts a significant emphasis on the need for private investment, aiming to “boost the Government’s partnerships with impact investors and philanthropists, encouraging greater flows of private finance toward development outcomes,” according to Conroy.

This will be achieved through a new vehicle called Australian Development Investments, which will provide up to $250 million as a catalyst for private impact investment in the Indo-Pacific.

“For years, experts have been estimating a funding gap in the trillions between current levels and what it will take to accomplish the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” explains Travers. “The need for funding is real, and the capital exists to meet the challenge, but it’s not currently deployed to do so. This new vehicle will be music to the ears of the community organisations driving development outcomes on the ground, every day.”

Climate and Gender

Bringing Australia in line with counterparts in the UK and US, new rules require both climate and gender objectives for all international development projects worth more than $3 million.

“We’re seeing here a much greater emphasis on generating collective action on common threats and challenges,” says Travers. “This is especially true—and especially effective—when it comes to adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change and crucial social issues such as gender equality.”

“To us, this is about shared purpose.”

Australia’s new policy comes at a time when Palladium, too, is breaking new ground, having recently introduced a team of four co-CEOs to lead its global business. “We’re very much looking forward to reconnecting with our roots – with the core of who we are and what we bring to our clients and the communities with which we work,” says Howlett.

“The new policy tells us that DFAT is listening – listening and aligning with what matters most to our local partners and with what is going to drive positive impact. I want DFAT to know that we’re listening, too, and we’re excited to align together.”

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