FDI Research in 2018 and Intentions for 2019

19 December 2018 Major General John Hartley AO, (Retd), FDI Institute Director and CEO

Summary of 2018 Outcomes

During 2018, 317 articles were published, including 47 Strategic Analysis Papers, 240 Strategic Weekly Analysis items, 12 Feature Interviews and 11 Associate Papers. On average, papers were usually published three times per week.

Access to FDI’s website continued to increase, with over 30,000 users doing so for seven months of the year. May was the highest record ever, with 37,672 people accessing the website. Page views were also at an all-time record with 2,457,289 recorded in October.

User Numbers and Page Views for 2018 are shown below:

The number of FDI associates increased by 1,321 after taking into account those who unsubscribed, with a total of over 5,500 on our database.

A total of 80 articles were republished in Australian and international magazines.

Staffing levels were constant with five interns from four universities and five volunteers serving in FDI, usually for one day over one semester. Most interns gained academic credits for their work in FDI.

During the year, FDI hosted a number of workshops to which up to 20 people were invited to attend.

FDI moved offices from the Sunset precinct to Nedlands mid-year.

Major events included the CEO being invited for a week to visit Japan as guest of the Japanese Department of Foreign Affairs, visiting Rwanda as a member of the Australian Davos Connection and being hosted in Indonesia by presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto.

The Basis for FDI’s Research in 2019

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 Indian Ocean region over the next 20 years. Six countries in particular will be considered: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
  • To identify developments over the next 20 years in northern 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 2019 will be the identification and analysis of the major challenges that are likely to confront the six key Indian Ocean states identified by FDI (Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and South Africa) over the next ten years, including the implications of such challenges for Australia.

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.

General elections will be held in a number of countries in 2019, including India, Pakistan and South Africa. Parliamentary and Presidential elections are also scheduled to be held in Afghanistan, Israel, Qatar, Maldives, Mozambique and Madagascar. Developments will be monitored, including leading candidates and their policy platforms, together with possible implications for the countries themselves, their neighbours and for other regional states, including Australia.

Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme

In 2019, the Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme will continue to focus on three regions of greatest food and water insecurity: South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.  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.

Northern Australia and Land Care Research Programme

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. In particular, issues relating to regenerative agriculture will be considered.

In addition to Strategic Analysis Papers, FDI will interview many researchers, 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. The social and economic development of Northern Australia over the next 30 years, the impact of climate change and the significance of growing relationships with China, South Asia and Indonesia will be considered.

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 2019, 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.


This will be the last FDI publication for 2018 with the office closing on Thursday, 20 December. The office will re-open on 14 January, with our next publication on 23 January.

Thank you for your support and, on behalf of FDI, may I wish you a happy and relaxed end-of-year break and start to 2019.

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

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