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Environment And Regional Security Linked

Environmental deterioration can lead to humanitarian crises and conflict when people start to fight for dwindling resources, says Development Aid Minister Matt Robson

He was giving the opening address at the Asia Pacific Alliance Conference on population and development in Christchurch this morning.

Protecting the environment and encouraging countries to develop so that people can live fulfilled lives go hand in hand, he said.

"Protecting the environment is not an end in itself. Equally we want improved quality of life for the poor and a world that is sustainable for future generations. World population numbers have doubled since 1960 to 6.1 billion and will likely exceed 9.3 billion by 2050."

Matt Robson spoke about New Zealand's new development aid agency which will prioritise poverty reduction in the Pacific in particular. "At the moment we're developing a job description for a new top executive of that agency, and we'll be advertising for the position soon."

The future for the environment is uncertain and we must be vigilant, he said.

"The key question is this: 'how can we ensure the well-being of growing human populations, and still protect the natural world? It is a question that New Zealand will take to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg next year."

Matt Robson also listed a series of health and environment initiatives supported by New Zealand aid, including:

· NZ$300,000 over three years towards the establishment of a regional coordinator for a Pacific HIV/AIDS programme.
· NZ$200,000 towards a UNICEF HIV/AIDS awareness and lifeskills programme for youth in the Pacific.
· An STD/HIV/AIDS programme which focuses on strengthening the capacity of Pacific Island countries to respond to the growing number of HIV infections in seafarers.

"AIDS is a crisis in our own region and we cannot afford to ignore it," he says.

Ends


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