Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke is backing a proposal to deliver New Zealand’s foreign aid through an autonomous agency separate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).
A ministerial review team made the proposal in a report released today.
“I’m disappointed the Government is not going the whole hog to a fully independent NZAID agency. However, the Greens recognise it is a major step forward for aid to be delivered through an autonomous unit within MFAT with its own career structure and reporting to its own Minister.
“Under MFAT aid has often been a hostage to trade and commercial interests, and to the need to flatter particular governments,” Mr Locke said.
“Ninety percent of our education aid to overseas countries goes on tertiary scholarships, which is a form of aid to New Zealand universities and polytechnics. Those on scholarships are often the sons and daughters of government officials in Asian and Pacific countries.
“Yet we live in a region where many kids don’t go to school. Less than 40 percent of Solomon Island children get a primary education.”
Mr Locke said that the Green Party agreed that New Zealand’s aid should be used to overcome the poverty which is so prevalent in the Pacific.
“The lack of jobs and social services is behind the crises we’ve seen in the Solomons and Fiji. We also have a responsibility to help stop the environmental degradation of the Pacific, in the form of waste accumulation and loss of natural heritage,” Mr Locke said.
“Hopefully, the new dedicated aid agency will be staffed by aid professionals, not by career diplomats dabbling in aid work between political or trade postings.”
Mr Locke hoped the new agency would better harness the energy of non-governmental organisations like Oxfam, and could draw on the experiences of New Zealand community groups in terms of development models.
The review team lauds non-governmental work, but is critical of much of the aid delivery of MFAT officials.
“The Greens also believe the Government should substantially increase the aid budget, which the review team points out is only 0.27 percent of our GNP,” he said.