Christian World Service has condemned Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully’s announcement that NZAID will be absorbed into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In melding the two bodies, Mr McCully has shifted the emphasis of overseas development aid from poverty alleviation to economic growth.
“Mr McCully is clearly operating from a different agenda and a belief that economic development works,” CWS director Pauline McKay says. “CWS believes it will work if poor people are its focus and economic systems work for people. At a time when so many people have been made homeless by conflict and many more lack the necessities of life, it is a pity the government has put undefined foreign policy interests ahead of those in need,” says Ms McKay.
With many other aid and development agencies, CWS argued that NZAID should retain its semi-autonomous focus and its mission to ‘eliminate poverty’.
Without public consultation, the government announced that the plan to tie New Zealand’s nearly half a billion dollar aid programme into wider foreign policy objectives would proceed. In documents released under the Official Information Act, Treasury raised concerns about the lack of clear Terms of Reference and the haste in which the decision was made. Treasury did not agree that money would be saved under this restructuring as claimed by Mr McCully.
In his announcement at a meeting of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, Mr McCully was critical of the achievement of NZAID, particularly in the Pacific. However agencies were relieved that threats to entirely eliminate the poverty focus of aid did not eventuate). Cabinet has agreed that New Zealand’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) programe will include the aim to reduce poverty as well as ‘support broad-based economic development as its central focus’.
At the same time, Mr McCully noted that the ODA budget would increase steadily in the next few years. However this change will not push the New Zealand government much closer to the internationally agreed target of 0.7% of gross national income being spent on overseas aid.
May 27, 2009