Monday, October 31, 2016

Australia-Indonesia Science Diplomacy: R&D collaboration on common problems

Australia's science, research and innovation collaboration with Indonesia has been managed by a multitude of institutions and universities, often with a long-standing presence in Indonesia. Now, writes Prof Cheryl Praeger AM FAA, foreign secretary of the Australian Academy of Science, efforts to address bilateral scientific opportunities across many sectors should be accompanied by "science diplomacy" to foster sustained and long-term interconnections and networks.
 

The  Australian Academy of Science hosted an Indonesia–Australia Science Collaboration Forum in June, providing an opportunity for Australian government departments, funding agencies, learned academies in Australia, universities, and agencies such as CSIRO and ACIAR, together with Indonesian counterparts, to discuss ways to continue to strengthen the science, technology and innovation relationship between the two countries. Source: AAS

GLOBAL INVESTMENT IN research and development has almost doubled since 2000. This doubling of investment has been mirrored by growth in the importance of international engagement. International collaborations are now more important than ever for finding solutions to major global problems and enhancing economic productivity and competitiveness through innovation.

Australia produces 3% of the world’s research and development (R&D) but needs to access the other 97%. The country gains this access in a variety of ways including substantial international collaboration by the Australian scientific community at a number of levels and scales. These collaborations are supported by the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. They are also facilitated through bilateral Australian government research programs with China and India, by other bodies such as the CSIRO and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and through approximately 30 Commonwealth international science and technology treaties, agreements or memoranda of understanding.

The Australian Academy of Science also engages actively in promoting international collaborations, and in August 2016 the Academy participated in the 3rd Indonesia-Australia Dialogue held in Yogyakarta. The session explored the potential for cooperation in areas such as food and agriculture, energy and information technology.

"Imperative for Australian industry and businesses to continue engaging with and investing in Indonesian companies"

Agriculture, food and energy security are priority areas for both Indonesia and Australia. Information communication sciences and technology (ICT) can provide benefits to both countries, for example in improving health services and also through precision farming — harnessing ICT to enable farmers to do their work more smartly and efficiently.

In the area of emerging technologies related to energy, Australia is doing important work in solar photovoltaics, wind, ocean and bioenergy. CSIRO has an interest in renewable energy sources to assist people in Indonesia’s rural areas that may not have access to the grid. Small solar-powered generators, enough to power small villages, might be something that both countries could explore.

The Australia-Indonesia Centre is building strong bilateral links in the areas of energy, food and agriculture, health and infrastructure. In the field of medical research there has been strong collaborations between the Melbourne-based Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and the Eijkman Institute in Jakarta related to malaria and molecular biology programs targeting drug resistance and cerebral pathogenesis.

Australian research institutions, such as the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and a number of universities, have a presence in Indonesia and have long-standing research collaborations with their Indonesian colleagues.

These examples illustrate a level of effective research cooperation between our two countries, but Australia needs to identify new opportunities to strengthen our international linkages with Indonesia. In this way we increase our level of global engagement in science and technology, and this is in the national interest. For example, we need to have strong scientific collaboration with Indonesia in the area of biotechnology for the detection, diagnosis and surveillance of animal and human emerging diseases. Partnerships with Indonesia and others in the region will minimise the health and economic risks for Australia.

Australia and Indonesia signed an agreement on science and technology in 2005, and the Australian government has recently launched a National Innovation Science Agenda which includes a Global Innovation Strategy to improve Australia’s science, research and innovation collaboration. However, at this time Indonesia is not one of the 17 priority economies identified in this strategy.

Indonesia is predicted to be the 5th largest economy in the world by 2030 and this means a potential, and indeed an imperative, for Australian industry and businesses to continue engaging with and investing in Indonesian companies.

The Australian Council of Learned Academies 2015 report, Smart Engagement with Asia: leveraging language, research and culture, made several significant evidenced-based findings to guide and strengthen international engagement. These included the finding that deepening cultural relations between Australia and Asia requires patient relationship building to foster sustained and long-term interconnections and networks. Moreover, the report found that both science diplomacy and cultural diplomacy are an increasingly important dimension of public diplomacy, but that there is a lack of clarity and consensus about policy making in these areas.

In 2010, Dr Bruce Alberts, a renowned biochemist and former president of the US National Academy of Sciences, was appointed as one of President Barack Obama’s first science envoys to engage Indonesia and other countries through science and technology partnerships. Dr Alberts has continually encouraged the Australian Academy of Science to engage with Indonesia in the area of science and technology, particularly in the area of science education.

Over the years we have done so in partnership with the Indonesian Academy of Sciences. The Australian and Indonesian academies, with support from the Knowledge Sector Initiative, are now organising a series of science events in Canberra over the course of four days in late November. This will include workshops in agriculture, health, marine sciences and big data. Early and mid-career researchers from both countries will be taking the lead in many of these events.

In the area of science diplomacy, Australia should place a high priority on working with Indonesia to develop and strengthen research collaborations to solve common problems. Science will provide a common language to build bridges between our two cultures in times of serious diplomatic issues.


Professor Cheryl Praeger is the foreign secretary of the Australian Academy of Science. Cheryl is a professor of mathematics. She is a former Australian Research Council Federation Fellow. First published by Australian Outlook.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Imperative for Australia to adjust to a new relationship with ever-stronger Indonesia

Since 2011, Indonesia has transformed from a regional leader to a global influencer; it has strengthened economically and gained stability from the consolidation of its democracy. However, Australian perceptions of Indonesia have not changed to reflect these shifts. Former Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, John McCarthy and National Executive Director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Melissa Conley Tyler, review the Third Indonesia-Australia Dialogue and observe: for the bilateral relationship to achieve its promise, leaders in each sector need to take ownership and act as role models to drive positive action.
John McCarthy at the Third Indonesia-Australia Dialogue in Yogyakarta

HAVING BEEN involved since the first Indonesia-Australia Dialogue was announced as a prime ministerial/presidential initiative to build better relations during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to Australia, it is interesting to reflect on what has changed in relations between the two countries since 2011. This period has seen significant shifts each making it imperative for Australia to adjust to a new relationship with its ever-stronger neighbour.
In the third Indonesia-Australia Dialogue in Yogyakarta last month, there was broad agreement on the importance of the bilateral relationship and acknowledgement that it cannot afford long periods of crisis. From the Australian perspective, there was a sense of urgency regarding the relationship: there is a window for Australia to engage with a rising Indonesia, its closest powerful partner; if it fails to engage, it is Australia that will suffer. Australia has to adjust to a new relationship with Indonesia based on three shifts: economic, geopolitical and political.
First, there has been a significant economic shift which is still underappreciated by many Australians. The old stereotypes of Australia as a rich country and Indonesia as a poor one have been changed by a shift in the relative importance of the economies. After 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth, Australia now has to deal with a downturn. By contrast, there is a sense of optimism in Indonesia built on economic growth. Indonesia is projected to rise to as high as a top 4 economy; by contrast Australia may remain top 20 or slip to top 30.
Second, there is a larger geopolitical shift with the gradual decline of the United States in political and economic strength. In Indonesia, Australia is seen primarily as a part of a West, now in decline. Indonesia, which historically has had a lower profile in foreign policy, has transformed from a regional leader to a global influencer; it has become a nation ready to play a role in the new world order. Indonesia has much to offer as member of the G20, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, leading member of ASEAN and founding member of the non-aligned movement.
Third, in parallel there has been a political shift where the two countries have swapped positions: Indonesia has gained stability from the consolidation of its democracy while Australia has experienced a period of volatility and now has a more confused political situation where Australian political debate may become more erratic and unpredictable. While not as pronounced as in some other Western countries, there is the pull of populism in Australia from groups in society that feel left behind.
These shifts will require leadership from both countries. Australia needs leaders at national level who are not frightened by the changes and see these as an opportunity. According to the ANU’s Greg Fealy at the Third Indonesia-Australia Dialogue, “We need politicians who are informed about Indonesia beyond the next deal.” There is also the need for second-track and grassroots support.
There remains a significant issue of perceptions between the countries. There are problems in the way that Australians see Indonesia, particularly given declining levels of Indonesia literacy in Australia. The New Colombo Plan is an example of building understanding through people-to-people contact. Digital communication is a key to influence.

How many Australians with extraordinary business experience on the ground in Indonesia participated in the Third Indonesia-Australia Dialogue? Delegates include John McCarthy (former Ambassador), John Anderson (former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party), Stephen Smith (former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Australian Labor Party), Greg Earl (former Asia-Pacific Editor, Australian Financial Review), David Uren (Economics Editor, The Australian), Lynley Marshall (CEO, ABC International), Christine Holgate (CEO, Blackmores), Chris Sargent (QBE Insurance), Astrid Vasile (CEO, GV Construction), Rohini Kappadath (Chair of Multicultural Ministerial Business Advisory Council), Paul Ramadge (Director, Australia-Indonesia Centre), Tim Lindsey (Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne), Caroline McMillen (Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle), Cheryl Praeger (University of Western Australia), Bill Farmer (former Ambassador), Greg Fealy (Australian National University), Michael Abbott (Chairiman of Board of Art Gallery of South Australia), Joseph Mitchell (Director, Oz Asia Festival), Holly Ransom (Emergent Solutions).

FOR BUSINESS, there is untapped potential. Because of Indonesia’s economic trajectory, Indonesian businesspeople haven’t had to look outside Indonesia to grow. At the same time Australian businesspeople have not always seen the opportunities: only 2-3 per cent of the countries’ trade is with each other. Australia invests more in New Zealand than Indonesia. 
As both countries shift from being fundamentally exporters of commodities there will be more opportunities for complementarity: whether in agriculture, food, health, education and financial services or investment by Australian superannuation funds. 
According to Blackmores CEO Christine Holgate at the dialogue, “It’s such a big opportunity on our doorstep”. There needs to be a willingness to take risk by Australian and Indonesian companies to achieve significant returns. Successful conclusion of negotiations for the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IACEPA) will assist in harnessing this potential.
In innovation, science and technology, there is real potential. International scientific collaboration can help enhance prosperity and solve global problems, whether through university consortiums, cooperative research centre partnerships or the new Indonesia Australia Science Innovation Fund. High end science and technology can help break down the old images of Australia.
Both the media and the social and cultural realm were identified as areas of great potential, especially in promoting greater understanding. Australia and Indonesia have shared values of pluralistic democracy. People-to-people contact is positive and can be deepened; in times of natural disaster Australian and Indonesian citizens have recognised their shared humanity and offered support.
On regional and global issues, there is significant potential for tangible collaboration between Indonesia and Australia, for example in the G20, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, through the Bali Process, in the South Pacific and in responding to the changing role of China in the region and how it impacts on both countries. While the two countries’ thinking has been shaped by different strategic perspectives, the established schedule of annual leaders’ meetings, meetings of foreign and defence ministers and trilateral dialogues with other countries mean there are many opportunities to discuss what Australia and Indonesia can do together in the region and in global economic and strategic policy.
Australia and Indonesia will always have a bilateral relationship. The issue is going to be to engage in friendship for mutual benefit. As Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi stated at the dialogue, “Australia and Indonesia are neighbours by destiny; we hope to be good neighbours”.
For the bilateral relationship to achieve its promise, people in each sector will need to take ownership and act as role models to try to drive action. We hope that processes such as the Indonesia-Australia Dialogue will continue to assist in this process.

John McCarthy AO FAIIA is immediate past national president of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia. Melissa Conley Tyler is the National Executive Director of the AIIA. John McCarthy has been the co-chair of the last three Indonesia-Australia Dialogues for which the AIIA has acted as secretariat with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and, most recently, the Australia Indonesia Centre. This article is published under a Creative Commons Licence and was first published by Australian Outlook