FDI Outlook and Analysis for 2020

21 January 2020 Major General John Hartley AO, (Retd), FDI Institute Director and CEO

The year ahead has all the hallmarks of continuing geopolitical uncertainly and the likelihood of increasing concern over a number of non-traditional challenges that include changes in demographic trends, the impact of climate change, the ability to meet food and water demands, rising inequality and the impact on employment of increased automation.

The Basis of FDI’s Research

FDI attempts to make judgements about the future. This is a form of intelligence analysis, noting that much of the future is grey and that often there are different options that need to be further tested with new information before a final judgement can be made. This requires analysts to be flexible and to be prepared to admit that earlier judgements may be wrong.

FDI will continue to identify those who should receive its product, noting that such people have the authority, responsibility and interest to use the research that FDI produces. This includes a wide range of people in government, the public service, private institutions, business entities, academia and the media.

FDI’s work is essentially journalistic in style. That is done to attract as many readers as possible and to avoid the complex style of academic and scientific papers. FDI papers are short and start with a list of key judgements so that a busy reader can quickly decide if the paper should be read or not.

FDI uses a wide range of researchers who continue to develop an intelligence analysis style while capitalising on their detailed knowledge and understanding of the subject. Some researchers include FDI staff, who not only write papers but also identify authors, carry out scoping studies and edit the final product. Other authors include academics, university interns, subject matter specialists and members of Australian and overseas research institutes.

In 2020, FDI will continue to produce informed, balanced research to enhance the quality of strategic decision-making at senior levels of the public and private sectors in Australia.

FDI Research in 2020

FDI’s research will continue to focus on three areas:

  • To determine whether there will be a global food and water crisis between now and 2050, how this might evolve, what will cause it, what the implications might be for Australia and how Australia might respond.
  • To consider the geostrategic developments, including opportunities and challenges for Australia, in the Indo-Pacific region over the next 20 years.
  • To identify developments over the next 20 years in northern, regional and rural Australia, focussing initially on regenerating the landscape in Australia generally and particularly in tropical Australia.

Details for individual programmes are below.

Indian Ocean Research Programme

The continuing primary theme for 2020 will be the identification and analysis of the major challenges and opportunities for Australia that are likely to confront six key Indian Ocean states (Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and South Africa) over the next ten years.. Emphasis will be placed on the US-China relationship in this region and the implications of developments in Iran with regard to the US, Israel and the Middle East.

Consideration will also be given to the geo-strategic situation regarding countries in the South-West Pacific, including Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Such analysis will address each country’s overall national characteristics, assess the objectives of Australian foreign policy towards that country and vice-versa and analyse the country’s national plan and strategic objectives for the future, including its ability to implement such a plan and achieve the objectives.

Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme

In 2020, the Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme will continue to focus on four regions: South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the South-West Pacific.  It will also continue to analyse the state of global soils, water, food demand and supply and the impact of climate change. Increasingly, it will also consider the impact of food on human health. An assessment of the global food and water security situation will be produced twice a year.

The Programme will also produce an assessment of the food and water situation in a number of South-West Pacific countries, including Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste as well as Indonesia.

Northern Regional and Rural Australia

The primary theme for this Programme will continue to be research that considers the reason, impact and means of dealing with the regeneration of Australia’s landscape and its soil.  This will have added significance given the devastation caused by recent bush fires and the need to prepare the landscape for further fires.

In addition to landscape development, FDI will also consider the need and means of encouraging the establishment and continuing development of rural and regional communities.

FDI will prepare analytical papers and interview researchers, innovative farmers and pastoralists and policymakers. FDI Associates who have an interest in this topic may also be asked to provide papers.

With regard to Northern Australia, noting that the Land Care component of this Programme’s research is equally significant to Northern Australia as it is elsewhere, research will concentrate on issues that determine future opportunities for the region as well as the challenges for achieving such opportunities.

Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International.

Published by Future Directions International Pty Ltd.
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