Friday 15 Nov 2019 | 15:35 | SYDNEY
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Mapping aid and influence in the Pacific Islands


The Pacific Islands region has vaulted back to the centre of Australian foreign policy thinking. Prime Minister Morrison has positioned Australia’s “step up” in the region as his signature foreign-policy initiative. Other governments have responded with their own “redial”, “pivot”, “uplift”, and “elevation” plans.

Much of this reaction is being driven by China’s rise, with analysts fearing China will try to leverage its influence – be it debt, diplomacy, or trade – to achieve strategic outcomes, including setting up a military base. Great power competition has returned to the Pacific.

Foreign aid is often the first tool used by nations to engage in this vulnerable region. Each year, more than US$2 billion in foreign aid is invested in the Pacific from more than 60 donors. But aid is often opaque and hard to trace, lacks detail, and is difficult to access. The Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map fills this gap, providing an analytical too that collates and analyses data on all aid projects in the Pacific.

This event launched the second-year update of the map, which incorporates new data and new functionality, and presented new analysis of Chinese debt diplomacy and its impact on debt sustainability in the Pacific.

Lowy Institute researchers discussed what’s new in the Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map, and what it can tell us about the broader geopolitical developments playing out in Australia’s immediate region.

Jonathan Pryke is Director of the Lowy Institute Pacific Islands Program. Alexandre Dayant is a Research Fellow in the Lowy Institute Pacific Islands Program, and lead researcher of the Pacific Aid Map. Roland Rajah is Director of the Lowy Institute International Economy Program. The discussion was moderated by Lowy Institute Research Fellow Natasha Kassam.

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