News: Food Security and Peace, February 2017

The Australian Institute of International Affairs and the Crawford Fund organised a one-day forum on Wednesday 22 February in Canberra on the topic ‘Security3: Food Security, Biosecurity and National Security in the Melanesian Arc’. The aim of the event was to enhance understanding of security concerns in the Melanesian region by bringing together diverse perspectives from foreign affairs, aid, defence, biosecurity, agriculture and fisheries.


Dr Denis Blight, CEO of the Fund, noted after the event that it showed the benefit of cross fertilisation achieved by bringing agricultural, biological, social and political scientists together.

“The Melanesian Arc is markedly different from Africa and the Middle East: shifting agriculture in PNG and elsewhere; different social and religious structures; no great tradition of migration; and climate variability is more about extreme weather events, sea level rise, acidification and eastward shift of fish stocks. Nevertheless, these factors combined with population increase; declining soil fertility as shorter fallow periods in shifting agriculture; fading ‘subsistence affluence’; the absence of alternative industry and employment opportunities; as well as extended periods of drought, are worrying trends.”

“A take-home message for me is that we need multidisciplinary brainstorming of well-informed science, policy and researchers in the policy-science nexus to identify priority actions, better coordination and targeted investment of R&D,” said Dr Blight.

In addition to the opening by the Fund’s new Chair, The Hon John Anderson AO, an address was made by our Director of Master Classes, Dr Colin Chartres. Other presenters included:

  • Dr Joanne Wallis, Senior Lecturer, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Bill Magee, Project Leader, Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre
  • His Excellency Mr Yogesh Punja, High Commissioner of Fiji
  • His Excellency Mr Collin Beck, High Commissioner of the Solomon Islands
  • His Excellency Mr Sakias Tameo, Deputy High Commissioner, Papua New Guinea
  • Andrew Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
  • Bryant Allen, Honorary Associate Professor, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Professor Tom Kompas, Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Biosecurity and Environmental Economics; Chief Investigator, Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Meg Keen, Senior Policy Fellow, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific; former Senior Analyst, Office of National Assessments
  • Judy Swann, Director, Pacific Islands and Maritime Security, Department of Defence
  • Brooke Campbell, Research Fellow, Fisheries Governance Research Program, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), University of Wollongong

The Fund will be including information gleaned from the forum in its submission to Australia’s first foreign policy White Paper since 2003.

During the Forum, the Fund’s new Chair, The Hon John Anderson AO, was involved in a national media outreach to highlight the important nexus between food security and global security. Some of that media coverage included: