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  1. Jo Spratt
    Jo Spratt October 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks Jack and Sinclair – a great post. What has gone before is always highly relevant in what exists now, and what comes next. As you point out, it is a long-standing tussle. I wanted to add it is not one confined to Australia. Many donor governments have chopped and changed their aid programme structure. Owen Barder gives a great history of UK’s aid programme in his ‘Reforming Development Assistance: Lessons from the UK Experience’, showing a remarkable degree of structural change over a period of decades, up until the relative stability today with DfiD. The Netherlands also restructured their aid programme repetitively for a period of time.

    One other point. I think the concept of ‘national interest could be defined more precisely. Sometimes the concept is used to mean that a donor country’s national interest equates entirely with its self-focused, shorter-term economic or geopolitical interest. This seems to be the approach you take (please correct me if I am wrong). Yet there is also another way of looking at national interest: it is in every state’s ‘national interests’ to ensure that their state is part of a healthy, safe and prosperous world. Development-focused aid and some diplomacy is consistent with this definition.

    Consecutive Australian governments may well have defined national interest in the more self-focused terms (I’d be interested to know if this is the case) but that is not the only way it is defined. Also, in reality, the different definitions of national interest exist along a continuum, and states’ foreign policy speaks to points along this continuum at different times. I think it is important to be precise so that it is clear what specific interests are being referred to when the concept ‘national interest’ is used, particularly when different policies are enacted in the name of this concept.

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