Leader Profile: Bruce Davis, Director General, AusAID

The Australian government overseas development agency, AusAID, was established in 1974 and is responsible for managing Australia’s overseas aid program. The objective of the aid program is to assist developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia’s national interest. Bruce Davis has been the Director General of AusAID since 1999.

The AusAID Director General is responsible for the management of Australia’s international development cooperation program, worth in excess of AUS$ 1.5 billion/US$ 1.2 billion. International development has increased in importance within Australia in recent years. “It was not too long ago that aid and development lay firmly on the periphery of serious considerations of Australia’s security and strategic interests,” said Bruce. He elaborated, “Aid was often regarded as a somewhat ill-defined process of ‘doing-good’, a process which had little tangible impact on the strategic environment faced by Australia and its policy makers. These times are now over.”

AusAID’s program is based upon four interlinked themes, which are (1) accelerating economic growth, (2) fostering functioning and effective states, (3) investing in people (including health and education), and (4) promoting regional stability and cooperation. Bruce believes that a long term strategy is essential for the achievement of sustainable development. He asserted, “The aid program is a long-term tool to address long-term problems. In particular, we need to persist with support for stability and for economic and governance reform over the long haul – strengthening the hands of reforming governments and supporting reform champions within struggling governments.”

The agency’s work is global in nature, though it focuses on the country’s neighboring Pacific and Asian states. “Australia’s aid is now very sharply focused on the highest development priorities in the national interest while taking account of ongoing regional developments and progress”, Bruce explained. He further added, “The Pacific Islands and PNG are some of Australia’s most important development partners. Our aid is delivered in a complex and dynamic environment. Many countries continue to face significant development challenges and will do so for the foreseeable future.”

Bruce joined AusAID when it was still called the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) in 1975. He has also served in a range of positions such as Deputy Secretary-General and Forum Secretariat, as well as senior policy, program and corporate positions. He was Acting Director General from 1998 and was formally appointed as Director General in September 2002. He holds a degree from the University of Queensland, Australia.

In the future, Bruce wants to lead the expansion of AusAID programs. He affirmed, “The Australian government [now has] a greater openness to more sophisticated definitions of security, definitions that range beyond physical security to include concepts such as food security, livelihood security and security of access to resources such as water.” He finally said, “A lot of the ways you’re going to make a difference on governance issues is to think long term and expose future generations to different ways of learning and different opportunities.”

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