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A Global Impact on National Issues eS4W

Understanding how global agreements impact on policy and legislation in Australia

economic Security4Women’s e-paper looks as why it is important to understand the role and impact of International Agreements on National Policy in Australia


Australia is a representative democracy founded under the values of: freedom of election and being elected; freedom of assembly and political participation; freedom of speech, expression and religious belief;  rule of law; and other basic human rights.

It is a society ruled by policies and legislation with transparent feedback mechanisms that are open to scrutiny.  Policy and Politics go hand in hand.  Policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes.  The domain of policy serves to define a society and should include the needs of all. It includes most of what a community collectively does to meet the social, political and economic needs of all and works to protect and enable its weakest members.  In principle, Social policy and social protection should go hand in hand.

Australia recognises it is part of a global community and a global market and in order to grow and compete in this global environment there is need for strong links to International and Regional Agreements at the national level.

Just as society continually changes, so do the influences that define what policies and legislation a country needs.   Each policy requires mechanisms and resources to implement and a measurement of effectiveness and review. As Policies have expected and unexpected outcomes, and new and evolving issues emerge, it is also essential that transparency and accountability mechanisms are in place and there is the opportunity to develop new policies or amend existing policies.  In Australia, the policy cycle is well documented and shown below.

Global influences on Australia Policy

Australia recognises it is part of a global community and a global market and to compete in this global market it has to work in a particular way.  Australia’s foreign policy (which guides its approach to other States) is guided by commitment to multilateralism and regionalism, as well as to strong bilateral relations with its allies.  Key concerns include free trade, terrorism, refugees, economic co-operation with Asia and stability in the Asia Pacific.  Trans National Corporations (TNCs) and Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) have increasingly stronger negotiating power in a global market.  The World Bank (WBG) an international financial institution that provides loans to national governments for capital projects has a very strong voice, especially in the Asia and Pacific region. A number of other international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) which regulate and influence the global economy. We therefore see the interplay of Human Rights, Economics and Peace and Security reflected in our regional and international agreements.

To fulfil these international and regional agreements we see these interconnecting factors, Human Rights, Peace & Security and Economic growth increasingly influencing Australian Policy and Legislation, and reflected in trade agreements and international aid and development strategies.  In principle, these agreements should promote growth and development for all, however, there are often gendered implications for Australia’s international and regional agreements.

As part of the United Nations (UN), in addition to ratifying and upholding Human Rights Conventions in the Australian context, Australia also participates in global strategies to transform the world for all global citizens.  The most recent of these global strategies are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.  Due to the universal nature of the SDG’s this means Australia has to look not only outward through the International Aid and Development Policies it also has to look at Australian Policy and progress to make sure we are universally meeting the goals and targets set within the SDGs.

How International / Regional Agreements impact on National Policy & Legislation in Australia

In understanding the external influencing factors of policy, it makes it easier to understand and predict changes in policy at the national level. In policy development, there are external influencing factors and Australia specific influencing factors.

As each of these influencing factors, there is a political overlay which may or may not be obvious.  As with much decision making, the diversity, or lack of in many instances, of those making the decisions strongly influences the interpretation of what is needed for policy and should be taken into consideration.


Over the last 20 years, with advances in technology and instant communications, privatisation of industries and a more mobile workforce, new visions and methods for a economic empowerment and a better world for all have evolved. With this new vision, there has been a change and growth in Free Trade Alliances and Free Trade Agreements.

The Group of Twenty (G20) is the premier international forum for global economic cooperation. Australia supports a strong and effective G20. Australia benefits from G20 cooperation to support an open global economy and to protect the global financial system’s stability.

As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Australia cooperates with Commonwealth countries and participates in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Australia agrees to abide by, and implement Commonwealth Agreements.

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Bogor Goals serve to enhance economic growth and prosperity for the Asia and Pacific regions by striving for free and open trade and investment in Asia-Pacific for industrialised economies and for developing economies. APEC works to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers across the Asia-Pacific region, creating efficient domestic economies and dramatically increasing exports.

The increasingly globalised world economy calls for an increasingly globalised approach to basic ethics and political and social procedures. Migrant workers, exploitation of workers, minimum wage, decent work requirements. The nature of work, building the local economy and workers’ rights all come under scrutiny in fast growing economic markets. ILO Agreements set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

Global and Regional Alliances, Treaties and Trade Agreements have become major influencers on the way Australia works in the global market. As opportunities markets shift and change so do work opportunities and practices this is reflected in Australian Policy and Legislation.

Peace & Security

As a member of the United Nations, Australia abides by and interacts with the UN Security Council. Australia was an active member in the drafting of the Security Council Charter and held the first Presidency of the Security Council in 1946. Australia provided the first military personnel as peacekeepers under UN auspice to Indonesia in 1947. Australia has served a member of the Security Council on five occasions and intends to serve again in the future. As a member of the UN Security Council, Australia agrees to abide by Security Council Resolutions.

Regional stability is a key motivator in this area. We recognise our commitments to Peace and Security through our Foreign Policy, International Aid, Defence, Border Protection and Anti-Terrorism strategies and policies and regional groupings such as ASEAN and APEC.

Human Rights

As a member of the United Nations, Australia recognises that it has rights and responsibilities as a global citizen to not only provide rights and protections to its own peoples, but also to work collectively to bring these rights and protections to all.

Australia, as a member of the United Nations has ratified a number of Human Rights Conventions, Treaties and Agreements. It is fairly easy to see how Australian policies and legislation align with the rights, responsibilities and protections included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, our fundamental rights for Education, Health, and the right to legal representation are covered in multiple forms in our policies and legislation. Statistical data shows us how we are progressing against State and Commonwealth policies and legislation. Australia also reflects the human rights principles through much of its overseas aid funding and through its Foreign Policy.

Each of these Conventions and Treaties have global reporting mechanisms where States report back on progress. As part of these global agreements Australia participates in Global Review processes including Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs) to demonstrate to the UN Committees how well they have done against their global commitments and agreements.

In addition to UN Conventions and Treaties other UN agreements exist such as UN Global Compact, Women’s Economic Principles (WEPs) and UN SDG Business forum which serve to accelerate specific areas of the economy.

As international agreements progress, there is a unique opportunity for those affected by issues to follow these commitments to work for change at the local level.

What does this mean for Australian Policy & Legislation?

Global and Regional Agreements, once entered into, need to be translated into action. This mainly occurs through Policy and Legislation development and budget and resource allocation to operationalise the agreement. Feeding into this process is top-down international commitment, flowing through the filter of political disposition.

This same filter exists in the interpretation of commitments into Commonwealth / State Policy and Legislation. Opportunity exists for NGO and Civil Society to influence Ministers and Government Departments on key issues in Australia in this process.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Australia reports on its commitment to the SDGs at the Commission on the Status of Women, the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) and other relevant UN committee meetings including the UN Heads of State Meeting. There are also strong interlinkages between CEDAW, Beijing Platform for Action and the SDGs.

Australia reported through the Voluntary National Review (VNR) procedure on the SDGs in 2018 and will report once more before the due target date of 2030. As noted above the SDGs have universal targets, which apply in Australia. These commitments are clearly reflected through the international aid and development commitments. There are also clear opportunities through these goals and targets to integrate new strategies into advocacy work along the lines of key issues.

What does this mean for eS4W Identified SDG Priorities?

Throughout 2017 eS4W members identified four key areas of work connected to the SDGs. These areas were Gender Equality (SDG 5), Education (SDG 4), Decent Work (SDG 8) and Care in the economy (SDG 8 and SDG 3).

The issues highlighted by eS4W as priority issues in the SDGs sit across all areas of SDG work. For example, Goal 5 To achieve Gender Equality across all areas by 2030 is a specific goal with targets and indicators and is reflected across all other SDGs under gender mainstreaming. This opens a much wider space for advocacy for gender equality.

Some International Agreements have regular reporting mechanisms, others can be influenced prior to decision making.

Contact Sharen Page, Finance & Project Officer

Phone: 1300 918 273