McCully asked to explain NZAID plans
Associate Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
3 March 2009 Media Statement
McCully asked to explain his plans to restructure New Zealand’s aid programme
Labour’s Associate Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Phil Twyford has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to seek public comment on his plans to re-organise New Zealand’s $450 million per year aid programme.
“He has initiated two internal reviews, and made limited public comment, on New Zealand’s official development assistance programme. Indications are that he wants to disestablish the governmental aid agency, NZAID, and fold its operations back into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” Phil Twyford said.
“Mr McCully has said loosely that he wants to drop NZAID’s focus on poverty elimination and replace it with a focus on economic development. He has also suggested narrowing the focus of New Zealand’s assistance, which could mean closing down parts of the aid programme.
“Such comments suggest a significant policy shift, yet so far he has offered no justification for his plans and has not reached out to involve stakeholders.”
Phil Twyford said NZAID was set up in 2001 as a semi-autonomous body within MFAT after independent development experts who had reviewed the existing aid programme found problems with it, including poor policy and lack of clear goals. “They recommended creating a new agency with a central goal of eliminating poverty. There was substantial public consultation before the agency was set up.
“Since then NZAID has won favourable reviews from the OECD’s peer review group for aid donors, and from a ministerial review by former National MP Marilyn Waring. Both praised the progress made by the new agency in improving the quality of aid delivery, and endorsed its focus on poverty elimination.
“It is now incumbent on Mr McCully to explain what problem he is trying to solve within New Zealand Aid and the strategies it is pursuing,” Phil Twyford said.
“Many New Zealanders care deeply about helping make the world a better place. Our aid programme is making a difference to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people. For example, in the Solomon Islands NZAID is helping rebuild the primary education system.
“Our aid programme touches the lives of millions of people. It is also a serious investment of taxpayers’ money. The Minister should not tamper with it lightly and in secret,” Phil Twyford said.
“There is growing concern that Mr McCully has already made up his mind up on the structural changes he wants to make to NZAID and on doing away with its focus on poverty elimination. If the Minister wants change, he should be transparent about it, seek advice from development experts, consult the public, and allow sufficient time for proper deliberation.”