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Careful Consideration Of Aid Programme Required

Immediate Release

Careful Consideration Of Aid Programme Required

Foreign Minister Murray McCully must ensure the inclusive, pragmatic approach evident in the Government's first 100 days is not abandoned as it reviews New Zealand's overseas aid programme, World Vision New Zealand said today.

With supporters in over 70,000 Kiwi households, the country's largest overseas aid and development charity says the general public expects the delivery and focus of New Zealand's aid programme to aspire to international best practice and only be changed after a process of careful, inclusive dialogue.

"Ordinary New Zealanders don't want to see undue haste or lack of consultation when it concerns an issue as important as the contribution our nation makes to the fight against global poverty," World Vision New Zealand CEO Lisa Cescon said.

"Everyone shares the Minister's desire for taxpayer spending on aid to be effective. However, the consideration of fundamental changes to the delivery and focus of our aid programme needs sufficient time for all the evidence to be weighed. This issue needs to be given scrutiny in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee at a minimum."

World Vision supporters would be deeply concerned if the Government's aid budget was being used as a tool to coerce developing nations into accepting our foreign affairs agenda.

Ms Cescon said World Vision favoured NZAID's existing semi-autonomous status within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which placed NZAID in a similar position to its Australian counterpart, AusAID. The UK Government had gone further and made its well-regarded aid agency DFID a stand-alone Government ministry.

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"If anything, we should look to move toward the British model, rather than reabsorb NZAID back into MFAT. But either way, the general public will expect an inclusive, evidence-based approach."

Ms Cescon said economic development plays a vital role in helping lift developing countries out of extreme poverty.

"Economic development is a tool which helps achieve poverty elimination. By all means let's consider how we can further improve livelihoods and build economic resilience, but the reason for doing these things is to eradicate extreme poverty."

Ms Cescon said New Zealand aid programmes - whether funded by taxpayers or by private giving - achieve a great deal. In the Tafea Province on Tanna Island in Vanuatu, for instance, a World Vision programme has enabled children at 22 schools to grow cyclone resistant root crops.

"They are learning about traditional sustainable agriculture, food security, and marketing skills by selling their produce at a local market. In Africa, in one of our long-term development programmes in Iselamagazi in Tanzania, huge productivity gains have been achieved. Maize production, for example, has risen from 2 bags per acre in 1991 to 12 bags an acre in 2008, and the local population of 36,000 is now moving forward stronger, more resilient and sustainable into its future.

"World Vision wants our country to punch above its weight in the fight against extreme poverty and expects the Government to consider changes to the delivery and focus of our aid budget carefully."


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