Breaking down silos across defence, diplomacy and development

By Melissa Conley Tyler

Monday September 13, 2021

Funded by the Australian Civil-Military Centre, the program will bring together experts across the three communities to identify focus areas and develop solutions
Funded by the Australian Civil-Military Centre, the program will bring together experts across the three communities to identify focus areas and develop solutions. (acmc)

Australia’s international policy community comes in three flavours: national security, diplomacy and international aid. A new initiative aims to bridge this divide.

The Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D) has backing from senior figures from each community who believe that Australia needs to combine the elements of its statecraft more effectively to have influence in a contested world. The initiative has received encouraging responses from ministers, suggesting there is demand for more integrated thinking.

Australia is following international leads in bringing diplomacy, development and defence together. In the US, a “3D” approach to international engagement was promoted by secretary of state Hillary Clinton and secretary of defense Bob Gates. Most recently, president Biden appointed Samantha Power as USAID administrator and elevated the role to the National Security Council “to ensure our development agenda is a core pillar of our foreign policy”.

In the UK the 3D approach has progressed to the point that the government produces an Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy rather than separate white papers.

In Australia an integrated approach is still in its nascency. This gives Australia the chance to go beyond what’s been done to date and add a further dimension to the existing 3D approach. The AP4D initiative adds a new element: a fourth D of dialogue based on mutual respect between the communities.

It is perhaps not surprising that there is enthusiasm in the development and diplomacy communities, which often feel sidelined by hard security approaches. But there is also support among those in the national security community who don’t want defence to be made responsible for anything and everything – and recognise the important role that development and diplomacy play in preventing costly conflict.

Shaping Australia’s strategic environment is a job for all three elements of statecraft. Each has a distinct and complementary role to play, applying the right resources in the right combination to be most effective.

For proof of concept, AP4D will be working for the next year on a program on how Australia can increase its influence in two key parts of the region: Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Funded by the Australian Civil-Military Centre, the program will bring together experts across the three communities to identify focus areas and develop solutions to present to decision-makers. In doing so, it will build connections across the communities to help them amplify their impact.

To give just one example, COVID-19 vaccine access in Southeast Asia and the Pacific is an issue where all three communities can and should be involved. There are security elements (e.g. supply chain security, logistics), diplomatic elements (vaccine diplomacy, countering misinformation) and development (public health systems, community partnering). Utilising what each offers gives a greater toolkit – and helps understand the issue from more than one perspective.

The ministers for foreign affairs and defence are currently travelling together to Jakarta, New Delhi, Seoul, Washington and New York to advance Australia’s relationships with friends and strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific. What better symbol of Australia’s development, diplomacy and defence working together?


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