USAID: Extreme Possibilities - Partnering To End Extreme Poverty and Achieve the Global Goals

  • Speech, check against delivery

It is great to follow my friend and co-collaborator, Justine Greening.

Let me first do some scene setting, put some things in context.

The internet has driven many changes in society and business, and it has most certainly democratised the development and spread of ideas.

Today, if you have a good idea, a modicum of entrepreneurialism and a degree of luck, our modern age can offer the opportunity for that idea to go viral and embrace the global limelight.

For the vast bulk of human history, it was the case that in order to change the world, it wasn't enough to have a good idea, or even be extraordinarily talented.

The gene-pool of power – the ability to make good ideas come to fruition – was limited to a minute group of people.

First and foremost among them were those who happened to be in government – people who held political power.

The nation-state has been the repository of such power for at least 400 years – and nation-states largely held a monopoly on political, economic and military power.

States changed the world by the actions of those who ran them.

When considering the most influential people of any century prior to our own, political and military leaders always loom large.

Secondly there was the private sector – people with capital.

The corporation was a form of economic power; economic power that could be put towards one means or another; economic power that could, and did, change the world.

From those two primary sources of power came the ideas that shaped the modern world.

Governments shaped the geopolitical landscape, as well as the economic.

Governments made the physical, structural changes that no-one else could make – electrification, mass transport, implementing the ideas and inventions that shaped the human environment.

The private sector is the powerful engine of change, the inventors and innovators - Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs - as they so amply demonstrate.

While governments and those who control capital remain powerful, the internet and global economic convergence increasingly disrupts that power.

This time, our time, is clearly marked by the diffusion of power.

While economic growth has lifted living standards and freedom in the developing world towards that of the developed world, the internet, mobile phones and social media have levelled the playing field exponentially.

This realisation is as true when it comes to global efforts to end extreme poverty as it is to other fields of human endeavour.

No longer are governments the primary drivers in foreign aid, no longer are development relationships characterised by a donor/recipient paradigm.

No longer is the state the only provider of the means to combat poverty.

Over the past 2 decades, more than a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty because of economic growth.

Countries that were once recipients of aid have become financial powerhouses through the opening up of their economies and liberating trade.

China and Korea, for example, are today providers of significant development funds.

In many of the most difficult development contexts, in the most desperate of circumstances, it is civil society organisations – not states – that have provided much needed humanitarian and development assistance.

In this globalised world, with multiple actors and a diffusion of power and resources, we now look beyond state actors, to create effective partnerships for change.

The 2030 Agenda, which takes into account the views and experience of 193 UN member states, civil society, NGOs, philanthropics and the private sector, is unparalleled in its international scope.

Australia is pleased that the 2030 Agenda is firmly anchored in a more contemporary, innovative view of the development environment.

The 2030 Agenda recognises the centrality of economic growth and good governance to all that we wish to achieve; the importance of harnessing all sources of finance, public and private, and with a focus on empowering women, which is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do.

These are issues to which Australia is wholeheartedly committed.

It has become increasingly clear that delivering development funds and programs in isolation from the private sector and civil society is not only counterintuitive – it is counterproductive.

The 2030 Agenda will be realised through global partnership between all sectors.

It makes sense that states should look to the private sector and philanthropic organisations for innovative ideas, for advice – and for partnerships – in what is a new age for development.

By partnering with experts, specialists, innovators and risk-takers, we will achieve much more to enable the SDGs.

Let me turn to Australia's experience.

The goal of traditional diplomacy is peace. The goal of economic diplomacy is prosperity.

Economic diplomacy is now a cornerstone of Australian foreign policy.

Economic diplomacy involves working collaboratively with Australia's business community, our think tanks, our NGOs and our broader community to achieve strong economic outcomes for Australia and other nations, particularly those in our region – the Indian Ocean Asia Pacific.

Our efforts focus on liberalising trade, supporting economic growth, encouraging investment, assisting business and promoting opportunities.

Last month, I launched a new strategy for the Australian aid program to strengthen our engagement with the private sector.

I recognise that the private sector provides more than 90 per cent of the world's jobs and 80 per cent of capital flows.

Private sector investment is growing.

Remittances from Australia, for example, to the Pacific far exceed our aid funds.

The private sector is a core part of our foreign aid policy.

The private sector brings know-how, ideas and innovation. It demonstrates how to be nimble, flexible, and take manageable risks in order to achieve our development aims.

Earlier this year, I established, what we call, the innovationXchange within the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The innovationXchange brings together our best and most innovative thinkers, seconded from the private sector, and challenges them to come up with creative ways to solve seemingly intractable development challenges in our region.

We have a high-level international reference group that includes Michael Bloomberg; Sanjay Reddy from India; Veronika Lukito from Indonesia; Sally Osberg from the Skoll Foundation; Bjorn Lomborg from the Copenhagen Consensus Centre; Ryan Stokes, the CEO of 7 West Media in Australia; Samantha Mostyn, an Australian business women who is also the Chair of the Australia Council for International Development; and others.

Our goal is to identify sustainable and scaleable development solutions in our region that are cheaper, faster or more effective than existing approaches.

Collaboration, new partnerships and learning are at the centre of our approach.

By making the private sector a partner in our development programs, we are opening up a world of new possibilities and opportunities.

A vibrant private sector cannot emerge in developing nations without adequate access to finance.

I am pleased to announce today that Australia is partnering with the Asian Development Bank to help small and medium sized enterprises in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia gain access to a range of financial products.

This $3.5 million partnership will enable SMEs in these developing countries to grow their business, employ more people and contribute to economic growth.

Private financing can also deliver development outcomes to scale in a way public resources never can.

For example, we are providing $3 million to the World Bank to work with developing countries to improve investment regulations so they can attract and retain foreign investment.

This program is designed to bring more foreign investment.

Thus economic growth and development in those countries – a win for them and for investors.

In Papua New Guinea and Fiji, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has established partnerships with major Australian banks, Westpac and ANZ, to improve access to finance.

The banks are rolling out financial services across the Pacific via mobile phones and making a real difference to the lives of farmers and small business owners in particular.

We have partnered with leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies, philanthropic organisations and medical consortia to find new treatments to combat malaria and TB.

This investment is contributing to the important progress being made in the development of much needed TB medications for children.

We are also in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. We've contributed $20 million, Michael Bloomberg has contributed about $80 million – that's the kind of leverage I like. Data for Health – this initiative will use the latest technologies to collect and use data to inform and improve health sector policy in developing countries.

In a significant number of countries, there is a dearth of relevant health data – births are not recorded, neither is cause of death – which exposes the obvious dilemma – how do you implement policies to decrease mortality if there is no data on what is causing deaths?

By collecting this data through the use of the latest technology we will help governments make better, evidence-based decisions about health services and priorities.

I think this partnership also provides the opportunity for broader application of the approach beyond health in the future, for example addressing domestic violence

Innovation also means using twenty-first century scientific knowledge, combined with traditional materials and know-how, to come up with sustainable solutions.

In conclusion, in this age of instant information and the democratisation of ideas, there are boundless opportunities.

The challenge is to ensure that we're sharing those ideas and working collaboratively to end world poverty and lift standards of living.

Indeed, the 2030 Agenda can only ever be just that – an agenda – unless there is sustained collaboration by all partners to address economic growth, governance, domestic resource mobilisation, women's empowerment, health and innovation.

These are high expectations but the 2030 Agenda can be a reality.

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