Partnerships across sectors are critical to addressing the range of social and economic difficulties inherent in many Asia-Pacific countries, international aid and philanthropy experts said today.
Mr Peter Baxter, Director General, AusAID, described the organisation's approach in countries such as Indonesia as "partnerships of equals".
"It's about building trust through sustained and long-term engagement, rather than ad hoc measures," Mr Baxter said, adding that closer engagement with the private sector in particular had been crucial to AusAID's work.
He told delegates at today's In the Zone conference at The University of Western Australia that while aid alone could not provide economic growth in Asia, if it was used effectively and leveraged well, then benefits would flow.
AusAID, which by 2016 will be the largest donor of grant assistance to East Asia, is in partnership with UWA and the University of Queensland in the International Mining for Development Centre (IM4DC), which helps developing countries use their natural resources to grow their economies and provide social benefits to their people.
AusAID has a large number of programs throughout Asia, with outcomes including increased participation of women in the workforce, and enhanced access to infrastructure.
Mr Baxter said critical issues being addressed included food security in countries such as Timor-Leste and Indonesia, where stunting in children was common due to lack and quality of food.
Education was a huge challenge in fragile states such as Myanmar, where less than two per cent of GDP is spent on education - one of the lowest figures in the world.
Also speaking at today's conference was Professor Michael Henderson, Chairman, International Skills and Training Institute (ISTIH) in Health, who said partnerships with local institutions such as hospitals and universities were important to Asian economic and social development.
Professor Henderson said that economic and demographic changes in many Asian countries were creating a new raft of challenges. For example, in Indonesia the growing middle-class and private sector was resulting in a shortfall in human resources as staff left the public health system for new opportunities in private health.
Mr David Evans, Head of Philanthropy and Values Based Investing, Asia Pacific at UBS Wealth Management, described a twin challenge in capacity building in the not-for-profit sector in Asia.
He said that many social and health problems came with huge numbers attached due to the large populations of some countries, while most not-for-profit organisations and foundations were less than a decade old and lacked experience.
In the Zone is an intensive meeting of national and international leaders from the business, government and academic sectors.
With the theme ‘The Geography of Global Prosperity', the conference provides an opportunity for discussion and debate about the increasingly complex global neighbourhood and key policy questions facing Australia and the region.
The conference follows the success of the 2009 In the Zone Conference and the 2011 Business Forum.
For more information about the In the Zone conference: www.zone.uwa.edu.au