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4th Asia Pacific Alliance - Robsn Speech

Speech Notes - Hon M Robson

The 4th Asia Pacific Alliance (APA/ICPD) Meeting On Population And Development

Opening Address

Hon. Matt Robson

New aid agency

Thank you for inviting me to open your conference today.

I have just returned from a meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea. We had a very interesting meeting and explored how to strengthen the ability of Pacific peoples to live fulfilled lives. New Zealand supports the SPC because the Pacific region is a central focus of our development assistance.

I am the Minister in charge of aid and I am also the Minister for Disarmament. You wouldn't think that these two portfolios had a lot in common, but increasingly they do.

Eliminating poverty, protecting the environment, and stopping the illicit trade of small arms are all about creating a safe and secure Asia Pacific region.

As many of you will be aware we are in the process of creating a new aid agency, semi-autonomous from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

When the Alliance Labour government first came to power during the dying days of the 20th Century, I called for the most comprehensive review ever undertaken of New Zealand's Official Development Assistance.

The review (Towards Excellence in Aid Delivery) was finally released in September of this year, and generated a lot of discussion.

Armed with that report, we set about creating the new aid agency.

At the moment we're developing a job description for a new top executive, and we'll be advertising for that position soon.

The new agency will have its own vote, and will report directly to ministers.

Other changes under the new structure will include an even stronger focus on poverty elimination and some reduction in the number of aid partners.

More emphasis is to be placed on basic education and good governance, while human rights will be more closely mainstreamed into programmes. Gender and the environment will continue to be major considerations.

Population and Environment

The links between population and environment are complex. Two weeks ago I was at the launch of the UN Population Fund's State of the World Population 2001 report. It highlights the tremendous challenges our region and the wider world face in providing a healthy and sustainable environment for all our people.

The analysis of future change is cloaked in uncertainties, given our limited understanding of earth systems and their interactions with changing economic and social conditions.

Shifting consumption patterns, and institutional innovation will undoubtedly continue to affect the environment, as will the pace and nature of technical change.

There is reason to believe that these changes will hasten the deterioration of environmental conditions faced by already vulnerable populations in developing countries.

Such deterioration would likely reinforce vicious cycles of humanitarian crises, conflict over resources, and lack of development.

We cannot afford that kind of insecurity in today's fearful world.

Population growth is very much at the centre of these complex environmental challenges. To confront these pressing challenges, a concerted global effort is needed.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development next year in Johannesburg will be an opportunity to develop global initiatives to meet these challenges, and reinvigorate political support for sustainable development.

Sustainable Development

At the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, the world leaders explicitly for the first time recognised that the way we were living was a threat to the planet.

It also recognised that protecting the environment is not an end in itself. That we want improved quality of life for the poor and a world that is sustainable for future generations.

Given the fact that our numbers have doubled since 1960 to 6.1 billion and will likely exceed 9.3 billion by 2050, there is no doubt that sustainable development is the greatest challenge we face this century.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realise that women's right to education and health, including reproductive health is crucial to achieving sustainable development. The concern of your organisation (APA/ICPD) that the targets for improving reproductive health, set in the international Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994 have not been achieved, is therefore well founded.

In our own country, improving adolescent reproductive health remains an important challenge.

The key question for all of us is this: 'how can we ensure the well-being of growing human populations, and still protect the natural world?

It is an important question that New Zealand will take to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg

NZODA Response

>From the outset, I need to point out that the complexities of the links between environment and social issues is a challenge we have identified but have as yet to reflect in our programmes. ICPD highlighted the real need to integrate health and environment programmes. NZODA partnership with your organisation is therefore very important. Let me outline some examples of NZODA activities in these sectors. · In the reproductive health area, activities include: 1. $575,000 over two years to a "Men as Partners" Project, by UNFPA (United Nations Family Planning Association). UNFPA members in the audience would know more about the details than I do. Suffice to say, increasing awareness of gender Issues and reproductive health among men is no doubt a good thing.

2. In support of reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, funding was provided for Pacific delegates to attend United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS in New York in June 2001. Eleven delegates funded comprised one NGO representative and one official from four countries (the Cook Islands,. Nauru, PNG, and Tuvalu), one representative from the AIDS Taskforce of Fiji, one from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and one journalist.

3. Inter-agency collaboration between NZODA, the Ministry of Health, and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation in preparation for the Ministers' meeting on HIV/AIDS that paralleled the sixth International Convention on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in October.

4. NZ$300,000 over three years towards the establishment of a regional coordinator for a Pacific HIV/AIDS programme designed by the Pacific's UNAIDS co-sponsors.

5. NZ$25,000 towards the costs of a Pacific Society for Reproductive Health workshop held in Madang, PNG, in August to promote continuing education in the field of reproductive and neonatal health care in the Pacific

6. NZ$200,000 towards a UNICEF HIV/AIDS awareness and lifeskills programme for youth in the Pacific.

7. 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.

8. Various HIV/AIDS education programmes in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar

I'm pleased to say our contribution to multilateral organizations in this area has risen substantially in recent years: from NZ$500,000 in 1993/94 to $1.8 m in 2001/2002 for UNFPA; and from NZ$400,000 in 1993/94 to NZ$1.15 million in 2001/2002 for the International Planned Parenthood Federation .

We also contribute $200,000 a year to the Population Council, a research organization that has led the way in research into the development of microbicides. As a female controlled method that does not have fertility control as a side-effect, microbicides are key to an effective strategy for HIV/AIDS prevention. In the environment area, the 1996 NZODA Environment Strategy for the South Pacific, focuses on building the capacity of Pacific Island Countries to manage key environmental issues that affect sustainable development in the region. · Our Pacific Initiative for the Environment (PIE) programme evolved out of this Strategy. Since its establishment in 1998, $5.2 million has been delivered to the region through this programme. The allocation for the PIE is now NZ$2 million a year. Support has been provided areas like conservation, hazardous waste management, environment education plus environment impact reports, and support for areas to do with climate change.

Integration

A recent study by the World Bank, The Quality of Growth stated that, "Development is about improving the quality of people's lives, expanding their ability to shape their own futures."

This involves much more than a call for higher per capita income. It involves greater gender equality:

· more equitable education and job opportunities · better health and nutrition. · a more impartial judicial and legal system. · broader civil and political freedom · and a more sustainable natural environment.

The conference in Johannesburg will present an opportunity to integrate all these agendas into initiatives to promote sustainable development.

Your organisations are to be congratulated for linking environmental protection to individual decision-making and human rights, including gender equality.

I commend you for your efforts and wish you all the best for this week. I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of your discussions

Ends


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