February 20th, 2017

Highlights from the Australasian Aid Conference 2017

AVI’s Executive Manager of Programs Mark Deasey attended the Australasian Aid Conference, held on February 15 and 16. These were his highlights.

Momentum has been building around the Australasian Aid Conference since it’s launch four years ago by the Development Policy Centre and the Asia Foundation. This year, seats sold out quickly to the event held on 14 – 15 February. 

The aid and development conference brings together researchers and thought leaders from around the globe to collaborate and share ideas as well as key research. This year, extra early-morning panel sessions were scheduled to accommodate the quality of material submitted. 

Of an exceptionally rich program, I’ve nominated my top three sessions. 

1. Opening address by the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop

This was a clear and compelling presentation of why the aid program is in the national interest. Although the Minister was preaching to the converted in this instance, it was good to hear that the case can be presented as strongly as it needs to be to the broader public. Watch the Minister’s address or read the speech notes.

2. Keynote address: Now for the Hard Part by Michael Woolcock of the World Bank and Harvard

In a nutshell, Woolcock argued that material living standards are now better than they have been at any time in history and that many of the Millennium Development Goals were achieved. Getting to the next stage is going to be much harder, as it involves changing and developing institutions. His “Development is the strange idea that we can do history in a hurry,” rhetoric was popular in coverage on the day and was both optimistic and extremely well presented. 

Watch the stream of this if you have an hour to spare. It is very much worth the effort.

3. The Three-Minute Aid Pitch

Nine leaders in the development sector gave a pitch for three minutes each on how the aid system can be radically improved. The best are very funny as well as astute. Winner Ashlee Betteridge was chosen by popular tweet vote. 

Read the summary of Betteridge’s post here, via Devpolicy or watch the video.

In addition to these three plenary sessions, there were some great panel discussions, including:

  • Gender justice and political thinking sessions, check out the Day Two, Panel 3c presentations. Review the session abstract here.
  • The media representation of the aid program, and of particular note was reflections from Patrick Kilby at ANU on the Pearson and Brandt Commissions. View Patrick’s presentation from Day Two, Panel 5c. Review the session abstract here.

For full coverage of the two-day conference head to ANU’s website where you can listen to audio, watch live-stream replays or download presentations from the program.