Past Events

This page provides a list of archived events we have held, including video recordings, related blogs, and (more recently) audio podcasts: Devpolicy Talks.

State fragility and how to escape it
4.30–6pm 29 November 2019
Dr Nematullah Bizhan, Ms Saku Akmeemana, and Dr Bilal Malaeb

A public panel discussion, ‘State fragility and how to escape it’, was held on Friday 29 November 4:30-6pm, at Acton Theatre, Crawford School of Public Policy

About half of the world’s poor live in fragile and conflict-affected states. The governments in these countries lack the legitimacy and capacity to provide protection and deliver the jobs, public services, and opportunities their people need. The perils of state fragility are not constrained to national boundaries. It also drives mass migration, trafficking and terrorism. However, despite increasing attention by domestic and international actors, the outcomes of interventions in addressing fragility have been mixed and often counterproductive.

By building on seven in-depth country case studies (Afghanistan, Burundi, Lebanon, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea) and recent developments in the field, this panel discussed dimensions of state fragility and pathways that can help to escape fragility. This event was part of an ongoing research project on state fragility at the Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU. It also built on a previous initiative on state fragility undertaken by the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University and International Growth Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Dr Nematullah Bizhan is a Lecturer at the Development Policy Centre, ANU, a Senior Research Associate with the Global Economic Governance Program, Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, and a Visiting Lecturer at the School of Business and Public Policy, University of Papua New Guinea. In 2017 and 2018, Nematullah was a Research Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government undertaking research on state fragility and international policy in association with the Oxford-LSE Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development. Previously as a senior public servant, Nematullah contributed to development programs and reforms that helped Afghanistan’s immediate post-2001 recovery.

Saku Akmeemana joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2017 as its Principal Specialist for Governance, and is responsible for shaping the Department’s approach to governance and political economy in its development program, including in fragile and conflict-affected states. She has worked for both the United Nations in peacekeeping, humanitarian and political operations, and for more than a decade at the World Bank, where her work focused on the political dynamics of institutional change, political economy and governance in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence.

Dr Bilal Malaeb is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His research focus is on the integration of Syrian refugees in frontier countries in the Middle East. Formerly, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, and has consulted with the UN and World Bank on a number of projects. Bilal’s expertise is in microeconometrics and development economics, and his research interests are in migration, poverty, and labour market issues.

The panel was chaired by Professor Stephen Howes, Professor of Economics and Director of the Development Policy Centre, ANU.

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Men’s perspectives on addressing family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea
12.30–1.30pm 12 November 2019
Mr Joshua Goa and Mr Dunstan Lawihin

A public seminar, ‘Men’s perspectives on addressing family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea’, was held on Tuesday 12 November 12:30-1:30pm, at Hedley Bull Theatre 2.

Download the slides here

Access the recording of this seminar here

Family is the basic foundation for social and economic development across the world, and particularly in Papua New Guinea (PNG) as it is a communal society. However, this foundation is often challenged by multiple issues of which family and sexual violence (FSV) is one. FSV is widespread in Lae, a large city in PNG, where the research this seminar is based upon was conducted. Among other negative impacts, FSV threatens the fundamentals of community and family.

In order to better understand and support policymaking that fosters healthy, safe and secure families, collaborative (ANU, PNG University of Technology, and University of PNG) research was conducted from 2018 to 2019 to understand men’s and women’s perspectives on FSV in Lae. This study has explored the ability of families to address FSV in their lives, including a focus on how families keep their children in school when experiencing FSV. The PNG Government has identified FSV as a development priority and in recent years, with support from development partners, services to support families to deal with some of these impacts of FSV has improved. This has especially been the case in terms of police, case management and court support. Non-state support offered through churches, family and community networks remain valuable and the most immediate for families to access.

This seminar discussed research findings into the key differences between men’s and women’s perspectives of, and responses to, FSV. Men’s and women’s access and responses to recently established services and laws differ. For example, women refrain from going to the police because they are concerned about the violence getting worse, or losing income, or because they lack trust in the system to work. On the other hand, many men are not aware of the available FSV support services and their locations even within their own communities. Even when men do know about these services, they avoid seeking support from them for themselves or their partners because they feel that the law and services are designed in favor of women. This prevalent male attitude towards available FSV support services is read in the light of the recent and growing emphasis on the empowerment of women, girls and children through government policies and regulations. It is also discussed in light of one of the emerging findings from the research with men, which is that perceptions of power imbalance and adherence to cultural and social norms related to male dominance within the family are often at the root of FSV.


Joshua Goa is a Tutor at the University of Papua New Guinea Social Work Strand. Joshua holds a Graduate Certificate in Education (Academic Practice) at the James Cook University in Australia and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Social Work at University of Papua New Guinea.

Dunstan Lawihin has a Master of Social Work (by research) from Monash University, Australia, and is a Lecturer in Social Work and Coordinator of Field Education at the University of Papua New Guinea, with over 11 years of teaching and 7 years of research experience in social work and community development.

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The internal brain drain: foreign aid, hiring practices, and international migration
12.30–1.30pm 16 October 2019
Dr Nicolas Lemay-Hébert

The internal brain drain phenomenon―the poaching of local skilled workers from the public sector by international non‐governmental organisations (INGOs) or international organisations (IOs) in developing countries―is an area of concern for humanitarian and development organisations.

Building on empirical material gathered in Haiti, this research advances a new and innovative understanding of the trend by conceptualising it as an equilibrium composed of two sets of tensions: those between the salary conditions in the public sector and the salary conditions offered to local staff working for IOs and INGOs; and the tensions inherent in the dual salary scale used by IOs and INGOs for local and international staff.

The two sets of tensions contribute in their own specific ways to international migration―as such the internal brain drain contributes to external brain drain dynamics. In this seminar, Dr Nicolas Lemay-Hébert will discuss the difficult policy choices facing development and humanitarian organisations when every set of policies addressing one side of the equilibrium is bound to impact the other.

Dr Nicolas Lemay-Hébert is a Fellow in the ANU Department of International Relations, and the Department’s Director of Research. He graduated with his PhD in international relations from Sciences Po in 2010. Prior to joining ANU in 2019, Nicolas worked as an invited professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal and senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham. His current research interests include state-building and intervention issues in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. He is particularly interested in local resistance to international interventions and the political economy of interventions.

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2019 Mitchell Oration — Unfinished business: the pursuit of rights and choices for all
6–7.30pm 12 September 2019
Dr Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA

The year 2019 marks two important milestones in the field of reproductive health: 50 years since UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, began operations, and 25 years since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo.

Dr Natalia Kanem will discuss the remarkable gains in sexual and reproductive health and rights since 1969, and point to the remaining economic, social, institutional and other barriers that prevent women, girls and young people from making their own decisions and fulfilling their potential.

Dr Kanem will share her vision for the pursuit of rights and choices worldwide, present findings from UNFPA’s State of the World Population Report 2019, and offer some examples of progress and challenges in a number of Pacific countries.

This lecture forms part of the Mitchell Oration series, which was created to provide a forum at which the most pressing development issues can be addressed by the best minds and most influential practitioners of our time. The lecture is presented by the Development Policy Centre at Crawford School of Public Policy, with generous support from the Harold Mitchell Foundation, and in partnership with the United Nations Information Centre, Canberra.

Access to event live-streaming is available here.

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The future of US government assistance to fragile states
12.30–1.30pm 11 September 2019
Vijaya Ramachandran

Many donors are rethinking how aid can better confront fragility and support governments and communities to build resilience. The United States is the top provider of official development assistance to fragile states but this aid has, at best, a mixed track record of success. Reflecting on lessons of the past, the United States is currently working through several new initiatives and proposed reforms that seek to address shortcomings. To help inform these efforts, the Center for Global Development convened a working group of more than twenty experts, including former officials from the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and the US intelligence community, along with academics and policy experts. In this seminar, Vijaya Ramachandran will provide an overview of the newly released report based on these conversations, and its recommendations.

Vijaya Ramachandran is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) in Washington DC. Prior to joining CGD, Vijaya worked at the World Bank and also served on the faculty of Georgetown University. She works on private sector development, development finance, and the governance of the multilateral system. Vijaya has a PhD in Business Economics from Harvard University.

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