Today’s release of the Turnbull Government’s Foreign Policy White Paper further diminishes Australia’s commitment to international development.
Some attention has been given to the Sustainable Development Goals but the Government’s continued failure to articulate how the SDGs will be implemented in Australia’s approach to international development in the Indo-Pacific is disappointing.
For a Government that claims to place a focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, the White Paper does little more than signpost it as an issue.
If this Government was serious about achieving gender equality in our region, the White Paper needed to provide a true vision for addressing gender equality beyond the silo of program funding.
Gender equality should have permeated across the paper in areas of regional security, climate change, soft power and trade.
If Australia is to take a leading role in delivering gender equality both at home and across the region we must be brave enough to work with our neighbours in the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
We must challenge the structural barriers that allow continued gender inequality to manifest, particularly given the unpardonable rate of domestic violence in our region.
The White Paper places a clear emphasis on engaging with the private sector to deliver economic opportunities for those in the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
What is not clear is how the Government will ensure its increasing role in engaging the private sector is done in a manner that is sensitive to structural inequalities.
Aid effectiveness and poverty reduction must be core principals of Australia’s international development program.