August 29, 2019

Ep. 27: Clare Walsh, DFAT Deputy Secretary on multilateralism, aid and development

In the final of our recent series of interviews recorded in July, we speak to Clare Walsh, Deputy Secretary for the Global Cooperation, Development and Partnerships Group with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Clare’s large portfolio covers Australia’s global engagement, in particular our multilateral diplomacy, foreign aid program and thematic issues as diverse as infrastructure, climate change and gender.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Clare begins the interview by explaining her background: how she went from working in local government in Western Australia early in her career to the highest-profile international issues today. Allan then asks Clare to give her assessment on how “shaky” the international order is at present, invoking his fixation with the US’ threatened withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union! Darren follows up by asking how Australia conducts diplomacy within the order: how do we convince others to work inside the order to reform it, rather than walking away, and how do we engage with countries on areas of mutual interest when we might have major disagreements on other issues? 

The conversation shifts to human rights and development. What does it mean to “take up” a human rights issue, what’s the multilateral / bilateral balance in Australian diplomacy, and how useful are the large multilateral forums like the Human Rights Council? Does Australia’s involvement in infrastructure programs represent a broadening of what “development” means in 2019 and what aid programs are asked to do? What about working with partners who are relatively wealthier—how do Australia's development assistance programs differ? And how has the entry of new funders—whether other governments or non-government actors—change the landscape for Australia?

The conversation finishes up by zooming out. Allan asks what is distinct about what DFAT does (“what’s point of DFAT?”), while Darren asks about the securitisation of development and parallels to the familiar “economics vs security” debate.

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: australia.world.pod@gmail.com We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

Our thanks go to outgoing AIIA intern Charlie Henshall for his help with audio editing, Rory Stenning for composing our theme music, and Martyn Pearce for technical assistance in studio. 

Relevant links

Clare Walsh’s biography: https://dfat.gov.au/about-us/our-people/executive/Pages/biography-of-clare-walsh.aspx

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