By Georgina Pickers
NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser
International Relations and Peace and Human Rights coexist – one dependant on the other. Like the biblical Ten Commandments, the H.R. conventions should be at the foundation of our thoughts, words and actions.
The UN estimates the current global population at 7.2 billion, and like Australia’s, it is increasing annually. Population pressures; climate change; and dysfunctional or corrupt governments will be major factors affecting future peace and security. At present the world is relative peaceful given the recent hopeful signs in relation to the Korean Peninsula, but on-going conflicts such as those in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sudan continue.
UNHCR currently reports an estimate of 25.4 million refugees, 16 million stateless persons and 65.4 million forcibly displaced worldwide. These figures are staggering especially when added to incalculable numbers of economic refugees now contributing to the mass movement of people. The potential tensions and reactionary measures that may be triggered are a cause for concern.
The perceived ‘wealthy’ governments of the developed world will be greatly challenged in balancing the demands of population growth and maintaining social harmony. Improving the economy and governance of countries helps stem the flow of economic refugees seeking a better life. Australia’s foreign aid and trade agreements will assist.
While Australia’s defence budget has increased (34.5 billion dollars in 2017-2018 and $150 billion over the Forward Estimates – growing to .2% of GDP by 2020-21) Taking into account domestic economic pressures, Australia’s aid budget has been reduced in the last budget (it does not reach the UN recommended aid budget target of .07% ODI/GNI Overseas Development Assistance to Gross National Income), it does substantially focus on important areas. One aspect targets provision for awarding scholarships, fellowships and short courses to individuals from over 60 countries; with the objectives to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance stability. The 2018-19 aid budget of $4.2 billion allocated $1.2 billion to the Pacific region and $55 million to gender equality. Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and her department must be acknowledged for favouring the empowerment of women and girls. This is particularly important in countries where better women’s health, higher education, greater economic opportunity and participation in the decision-making process are critical to development and beneficial to the entire community.
In the past security and defence pacts were foundations of bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships. Today trade agreements are becoming more prominent. Traditional allies such as the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand will always remain, but Australia could be well served in looking at wider ties with established and developing nations within the Indo/Asia Pacific regions.
Expansionist strategies such as have occurred in the South China Sea, are a risk. It would be chaotic for the world should other countries assert similar ambitions in expanding their territorial waters, then restricting the passage of shipping and aircraft.