By Danielle Cave, Editorial team, Interpreting the Aid Review
In January, with support from the Myer Foundation and AusAID, the Lowy Institute launched a new aid blog - ‘Interpreting the aid review’.
Since its launch, Interpreting the aid review has been blogging daily alongside The Interpreter (the Lowy Institute’s prolific and internationally regarded foreign policy blog). With the aid review set to conclude in early April, so too will this dedicated Australian-based aid & development blog.
With one month to go, we hope even more individuals and organisations will reach out and contribute to this unique discussion on the future of Australia’s aid program, (the budget of which is set to double to $8-9 billion by 2015-16). 2011 has already proved a rather fascinating time for development assistance worldwide and this has been reflected in a range of blog posts published on the Lowy aid blog.
A diverse range of topics have found their way onto our blog, from geo-coding, Asia’s strategic shocks, the involvement of civil society & the role of women in development, Australia’s disaster relief capabilities, to Australia’s global policy challenges for 2011 and much more.
The geographic direction of Australia’s aid program has thus far stimulated the most debate (evident here, here, here, here and yesterday here). There have been regular and insightful comparisons with the United States, UK and Canadian aid programs. In depth that I believe the mainstream Australian media failed to achieve, we tackled the question, 'does charity begin at home?'.
It has been fantastic to have so many international institutions come forward and contribute their opinions and expertise, including the Asia Foundation (which runs a very good Asia-focused blog), UNICEF, the Center for Global Development (US development think-tank) and The Royal Bank of Scotland to name just a few.
We poached Bob McMullan’s blog post which outlined ‘3 big picture challenges’ for the aid review panel and Rowan Callick’s blog essay ‘Sinophillia or Sinophobia? Either way, the Chinese are coming’, which looked at Chinese aid in the Pacific. More on this topic will follow in the coming weeks.
The aid review word cloud created quite the stir and we have briefly heard from the very busy aid review panel, I, for one, would like to hear more. We have also published posts from a handful of NGOs and policy think-tanks (here, here, here and here).
We even acquired an exclusive from UK Foreign Secretary William Hague (well, sort of).
Looking at blog traffic, the majority of visitors (now averaging approximately 1000 per weekday, a little less over the weekends) are Australian-based (having deleted, of course, any traffic from blog admin staff, spam and anything slightly suspicious). However, it’s interesting to note that approximately 15% of all traffic is coming from the United States, 5% from Indonesia, 5% from China, with the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Thailand, India, New Zealand, Philippines and the Netherlands rounding out the top dozen overseas visitors.
Interested in which blog posts have recorded the highest readership? So far, the most popular have been: 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and the most read - 1. Obviously this ranking favours the older posts (and I think readership will vary greatly over this last month), doesn’t take into account the blog posts that people have sent around via email and can't measure whether a reader actually enjoyed or agreed with what they were reading – although, of course, you do have the option to voice your opinion via a comment or three.
With one more month to go we would like to build on and enhance the discussion thus far. There are a number of topics, themes and countries which, I believe, need more coverage including, for example, the Pacific Island region (PNG & the Solomon Islands are the 2nd and 3rd largest recipients of Australian aid), the value (or not) of providing aid to Indonesia (arguably one of Australia's most important bilateral relationships and largest aid recipient), transparency in aid spending, global discussions around aid effectiveness, the links between national security and aid, the role of multilateral institutions in delivering aid and engaging with new aid donors (Brazil and India, for example). There are obviously many more topics that bloggers could explore and I encourage you to use the comment section to voice your opinion on what you would like to read.
In addition, it would be valuable to see more contributions from the large international NGOs (all of whom put in submissions to the aid review), Australian government officials (we know you are reading, Canberra is our top traffic city followed by Sydney, Seattle and Beijing), the multilateral banks (both the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have offices in Australia and are well across all relevant topics) and it would be great to hear more from the private sector, which do so much in the area of development (both directly and indirectly) but has thus far failed to aggregate and communicate these activities to the Australian public (beyond a corporate social responsibility webpage).
The development community in Australia is small. The section of Australia’s development community who choose to take part in the public discussion on Australia’s aid program is an alarmingly tiny portion of this already small community. The objective of this Lowy aid blog is to provide a public forum for ideas, opinions, information and research to be discussed and debated by anyone and everyone who harbours an interest in Australia’s doubling foreign aid program. If you are reading this – that means you.
Image by Flickr user wwarby.