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Australia’s Global Leadership and Foreign Policy 2017–2027

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Summary of key points and recommendations

Strategic Priority 1: Values-based diplomacy and Australia’s aid and development

Key points

1. There is a set of resilient, Australian values that will resonate with the majority of Australians and will motivate Australian society to see itself as having an open-minded, generous, outward-facing approach to the world. Australia’s foreign policy will have the support of the public when it reflects and projects those values.

2. Using a values-based approach helps us avoid short-termism and transactional approaches to foreign affairs. This is important if we are to navigate the uncertainty of rising isolationism, populism, nationalism and a multi-polar world order, and meet our goals.

3. Australian Aid is a key tool in both reflecting and projecting Australian values.

Strategic Priority 2: Increase peace and human security

Key points

1. The challenges we face are no longer those that can be avoided by strengthening borders and militaries. In facing challenges to security posed by climate change, pandemics and disease threats, humanitarian conflicts, people movement and migration, we need to broaden our concept of security.

2. The security of States increasingly relies on the security of individuals within States and the extent to which they live free from fear and violence, and free to live life with dignity. Addressing the insecurity of individuals requires a human security approach that can tackle major, external threats to security while also looking at structural insecurities and the ways to address them.

  1. A human security approach would have the advantage of providing a conceptual frame to maximise the potential of the integrated Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), bringing coherence and clarity to the mutually-reinforcing nature of the work being done within diplomacy, development and trade.

Strategic Priority 3: Deliver sustainable and inclusive growth

Key points

1. Current pursuits of growth, with little attention to the distribution of growth’s benefits or the impacts on the earth’s support systems and finite resources, have led to a situation of inequality where our actions are acting as a brake on growth. Consolidating wealth and power in the hands of very few people, as opposed to increasing the growth for the poorest 20 per cent, is halting growth.

2. The economic impact of more frequent natural disasters, and the structural exclusion of women, people with a disability, old and young people, and those from sexual, ethnic, religious or racial minority groups is crippling the growth potential of the world economy.

3. An inability to shift to growth models that preserve the safe-operating space within our planetary boundaries and manage our demand on finite resources will quickly erode the prospect of ongoing prosperity into the future, with greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation also acting as drivers of insecurity.

Strategic Priority 4: Promoting multilateralism and human rights

Key points

1. These mutually reinforcing challenges to security and prosperity are not challenges that are unique to Australia, nor are they problems that can be solved by any one nation alone. A collective failure to adequately address these concerns has also driven a rise in the populist narratives of disempowerment and resentment with deeply xenophobic and ‘me first’ approaches promoted as the solution.

2. We must actively resist that direction, and bolster our pursuits for security and prosperity with collaborative and multilateral approaches. Australia is not a nation that will benefit from competitions of strength and ‘winner takes all’ mindsets.

3. Our power as an honest and neutral broker, able to speak into multiple audiences of traditional allies and trading partners, is also premised on our normative position in the world. As a liberal democratic nation we believe in, and uphold, human rights as central organising principles of our society. Civil society is a fundamental component of democratic societies and an embodiment of human rights principles.

4. In championing the application and upholding of human rights around the world, Australia should make a special priority of championing the role of civil society and the necessary legal, normative, social and political protections that enable vibrant civil societies.

Strategic Priority 5: Better communication of Australian foreign policy

Key points

1. The ways in which we currently communicate to the Australian public about Australian foreign policy are out of date and no longer hold meaning for most people. We need to remove the jargon from our communication – rules-based order; middle power punching above our weight; globalisation and free trade – and instead draw on the strength of widely shared values.

2. In using our values – cooperative, democratic, egalitarian, desirous of peaceful social and political order, a fair go – we can shape a plain-English statement of our purpose and objectives that will resonate and gain the support of most Australians.

3. The Aid Program is one of the most tangible ways that we both embody our values in practice, and achieve our key security and prosperity goals in the long term. We can do more to communicate the value of the aid program.