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New Aid Agency, Open For Business

1 July 2002

Hon Matt Robson

Speech Notes

AN HISTORIC DAY

Today is a proud day.

I came to work as a Minister in the middle of an election campaign - nothing new there.

Except that today I’m Minister of a new agency - NZAID.

An agency solely dedicated to the elimination of poverty.

That is a remarkable achievement. We are now in a position to join the other world leaders in development instead of being an “also ran’.

Just as we did in the fight against nuclear weapons in the 1980s.

This time the fight is against poverty and the causes of poverty.

The goal is a safe and just world where violence cannot take root.

If the world can unite to fight terrorism, it can unite to fight poverty.

And NZAID - The New Zealand Agency for International Development, Nga Hoe Tuputupu-mai-tawhiti- will be there.

NZAID STAFF

I would like to thank the staff of NZAID who have made a tremendous effort to get us all to this day in one piece.

I want to thank NZAID’s Executive Director, Peter Adams, for keeping the ship headed in the right direction.

Earlier this year Peter made a joke - I think it was a joke - that with the establishment of NZAID he was in the unenviable position of having to apply for his own job.

Well you’ve got you’re revenge Peter. Now I have to apply for mine!

I would also like to acknowledge the work of staff at posts who consulted with our partner governments and provided the vital field perspective in establishing the nuts and bolts of NZAID’s work in the future.

I know resources have been stretched and there has been a lot of uncertainty. But ODA programmes haven’t missed a beat. You’re to be congratulated.

Of coures we’ve all been talking to hundreds of people in preparation for this day.

I’ve been holding meetings with -

- Tongan and Samoan communities in Auckland - and have others planned.

- The Advisory Committee on External Aid and Development has extensively discussed its views with me.

- Tangata Whenua, Pacific peoples, government departments, NGOs, academics and consultants have all generously shared their views on NZAID.

I thank you all for your valuable input, and we will continue to develop a partnership with you.

CHANGE

I came into this job as Development Minister, determined to review New Zealand’s aid practices.

I came in determined to make changes - not for the sake of it - but because I believed we could do better.

The independent review that we commissioned asked how New Zealand aid could best:

- Eliminate poverty

- Contribute to good governance

- Particularly in our region of the Pacific.

The report concluded we could do better in a number of ways.

We could get more value for our aid dollar.

The key words were “accountability’ and “effectiveness.’

That is why it was called Towards Excellence because “excellence’ is our goal. The authors deserve our sincere thanks.

We wanted to know not just where our aid dollar was going, but if it was doing a good job: was it making anyone less poor? More healthy? Better educated? More likely to live in peace?

It became clear, structural changes were needed.

NZAID staff are right now developing new and strong performance indicators to measure if we really are eliminating poverty.

I want to know that we’re actually doing the job.

I know this is possible.

And when we can prove that we are suceeding, I am confident that I will have no trouble persuading my Labour colleagues around the Cabinet table that we should devote more resources to aid!

Change is hard, and there isn’t a single one of us here tonight who hasn’t had a heated debate with someone over the last year, about what should or should not change.

But change has happened. Now we have some of the tools to do the job better. Of course eventually I want the whole tool bag.

The birth of NZAID is the beginning of us doing a lot better.

It is an exciting time to be launching this waka. Internationally, sustainable development is the most important issues on the global agenda.

It is where the world of cholestrol meets the world of anaemia.

We’ve had the Millennium Summit, the Doha Development Agenda, the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development and next month will see the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Now we need to go from hui to do-ey

A PACIFIC FOCUS

Post September 11, the international community has woken up and smelt the coffee. The realisation is that aid targeted at poverty is:

- An investment in justice

- An investment in security.

Poverty is not only a form of extreme violence, it creates violence.

That is why NZAID will focus its efforts primarily in our own region of the Pacific where we have a vested interest in growth and security.

Of course we will not neglect other parts of the world which we can reach.

But at last I can say - “lets build it in our back-yard’ - and I don’t mean a prison!

NZAID will help build safe, healthy communities in our “back-yard’ of the Pacific.

We don’t want to see more violence in places like Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and East Timor.

This will require an increase in the aid budget, if we are to stand a chance of promoting good governance and a safe Pacific region.

I was very pleased to announced an increase of $4 million dollars in this year’s budget. It’s a modest step towards the internationally accepted level of aid contributions - 0.7% of GNI.

We still have a long way to go to reach 0.7%.

“This is my commitment card. As the Minister in the next government I will:

- Continue to advocate in cabinet for an increase in aid to 0.39% by 2006, and 0.7% of GNI by 2015. These are the internationally accepted targets.

- Keep poverty elimination targets locked on UN Millennium Development Goals (to halve the proportion of people suffering extreme poverty and hunger by 2015)

- Keep New Zealand’s aid focussed on the Pacific

- Constantly monitor and evaluate the aid dollar to ensure we get results

- Reduce aid dependency to get countries off aid and into trade and development.

- Increase the allocation of resources to NGOs, where appropriate

- Keep a focus on human rights.

NZAID has opened its doors for the first time today. I look forward to being back in government to promote it as world-leader in the delivery of aid.

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