'Fragile' ratings for Australia's near neighbours

West Papuan activists are escorted by Indonesian police during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, 01 December 2016. Source: AAP

A new report underscores the need for development aid for Australia's near neighbours Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

Three of the world's most fragile countries are on Australia’s doorstep, according to a new report that implores the international community to maintain its aid commitments.

The OECD’s “States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence” report, released this week, identifies 56 countries or regions as being fragile based on how exposed they are to risks like economic shock, youth unemployment, disease, corruption, crime and violence.

Three of Australia’s closest neighbours - Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste (East Timor) - are assessed as fragile. PNG is rated as more fragile than countries that have endured recent coup attempts such as Egypt, Libya, and Burkina Faso.

OECD Fragility Index
The 56 countries assessed as fragile by the OECD. (OECD)

The report calls on the international community to "provide adequate, long-term” development assistance for these countries and "focus funding on the real drivers of fragility”. It also wants countries to develop "better financing strategies”.

The rise of violence in the world is also examined. The OECD estimates almost half the world’s people have been affected by some form of political violence over the last 15 years and it underscores that fact the conflict is not the leading cause of violent death. The report notes that in 2015, more people died violently in countries outside of conflict, including Brazil and India, than in Syria.

According to the report, PNG and Timor-Leste are more vulnerable to political risks, while the Solomon Islands’s most substantial vulnerability is to environmental and health risks.

Together with Indonesia, these three countries represent the largest four recipients of Australian aid. PNG was given $554.5 million in 2015-16, the Solomon Islands was granted $175.9 million and Timor-Leste received $95.3 million.

Despite ongoing conflict from West Papuans over Indonesian rule, Indonesia was not deemed fragile by the OECD.

Although the government has cut the aid budget in recent years, the cuts have not significantly affected allocations to these countries. In the 2014-15 budget, which reduced spending by $650 million, there was actually an increase in the outlay to PNG

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