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Stop McCully’s cull of NZAID

Written By: - Date published: 5:02 am, March 9th, 2009 - 13 comments
Categories: International, national/act government, poverty - Tags:

The Standard hasn’t commented on what’s happening with NZAID yet, and people can be forgiven for not knowing what’s going on. But chances are, by the time you get your head around it, NZAID will be history.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has instigated two reviews into NZAID, the semi-autonomous government department which oversees how development aid is distributed. Some of his comments have been very worrying. He claims that aid “payments” have become “a handout rather than a hand up . You could ride around in a helicopter pushing hundred-dollar notes out the door and call that poverty elimination.” He also stated in a recent speech that NZAID’s focus on poverty alleviation is an “old mantra” and that we should be focusing on economic growth. In other words, serving NZ’s and poor countries’ economic elite – an scenario all too common.

As a matter of fact, NZAID has had reviews, and has been praised for its work on poverty reduction. Furthermore, at international consensus, poverty reduction are key Millennium Development Goals. Oxfam New Zealand’s executive director Barry Coates suggested that ‘overseas aid would be at risk of becoming a political tool in the service of the Government’s foreign policy objectives if the changes Mr McCully was suggesting went ahead . There are many examples of aid being spent for political purposes rather than the benefit of the country concerned.”

It’s clear that Murray’s NZAID “reviews” are a window dressing to legitimise his already made up mind. Murray, well known for his cut throat style, wants control. Murray wants to reincorporate NZ’s well-respected aid programme into NZ’s foreign policy objectives. Murray must be stopped.

A campaign has been launched by key NZ NGOs www.dontcorruptaid.org.nz

If we want international aid to be effective and NZ’s reputation respected, NZAID and MFAT need to be kept separate. Aid should go to those in need, and not be used to serve Western capitalist interests.

13 comments on “Stop McCully’s cull of NZAID”

  1. Nikki 1

    Thanks! Finally!

    And don’t give up hope yet,

  2. Stephen 2

    That was a great post until “Western capitalist interests” – way to alienate and confuse people.

    I would hope Labour would go after this, but altruism has never really got the voters’ blood boiling, has it…

  3. McCully is a clever-clever guy. The “old mantra” about alleviating poverty is old for two reasons:

    1. It was identified almost 40 years ago that if you can assure parents their children will survive, those parents will then make choices about how many children to have. Population growth is a major consequence of grinding poverty. People want to be assured at least some of their children will live.

    2. Though poverty has been alleviated in many places, particularly Latin America, it has actually become worse in many others.

    If New Zealand’s aid is going to places that don’t need it, fine…then let’s change that. But let’s not deride the tried and true logic behind the approach rather than address the substantive issues that approach intends to deal with.

  4. theaveragekeywi 4

    “Western capitalist interests’

    It’s just that you assume that most people reading this blog would understand the concept, and would understand what the problem is with the unequal economic balance between the West and the Third World (if you like).

    If McCully’s taking about economic growth (like the neoliberal model, aligned to the IMF and the World Bank’s interests), a system designed to subjugate and exploit poor countries, we know who gains from it – it ain’t those in genuine need

  5. Stephen 5

    It’s just that you assume that most people reading this blog would understand the concept…

    ….more like ‘heavily sympathise with the concept’, IMHO.

  6. Edosan 6

    NZAID’s focus on poverty elimination (or alleviation depending on how optimistic you are) not only sync’s up with international goals like the millennium development goals, but is is the only approach to development that is culturally neutral and difficult to politicise. There have been so many experiments with development over the past few decades. The focus on poverty elimination at the start of this decade was the result of these many failures.

  7. Something I haven’t yet read anywhere is that not only would politicising aid mean less chance to tackle the causes of suffering (and a fair whack of instability that is in no sovereign states interest), but it is also bad politics.

    Murray McCully may not realise, but the Pacific Island states feel bullied already by some of the actions of New Zealand and Australia, and advice from these countries on how to conduct their affairs has come in way that has been seen more as a directive than as friendly help. Thankfully, MFAT, Goff and Clark have realised this, and have mainly applied a softer hand, excepting Fiji’s regime.

    The rhetoric that McCully is spouting about being able to force Pacific hands on issues by using aid as a blunt instrument is quite disturbing. Pacific nations aren’t likely to respond well to this kind of approach, from the academic literature I’ve read that examines how these countries actually feel about NZ and Australia’s role in the Pacific. McCully seems to have no idea that NZ’s position in the Pacific comes as much from relationships and it’s Pacific immigrant community as it does from being a regional hegemon. These are smart and proud people, and deserve our respect. To do otherwise is cede the Pacific to China, which is greatly increasing its aid delivery (and Taiwan to a lesser extent), and is doing so in ways that leaders of these countries are quite comfortable with. Of course, not all of their aid is focused on things that will deliver long term aid and stability.

    It is also a bad move politically in the rest of the world. NZ’s aid goes to a large number of countries. I know that NZ’s contribution to Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country, is not huge, being in the tens of millions, and only to Nusa Tenggara, but is noticed and appreciated. Developing countries are by their nature growing in economic terms, and growing in influence. Aid forms an important part of bilateral relations, and to lose this in order to try and bully the Pacific is an incredibly shortsighted and naive. Of course, this should not be the only reason for aid – it should be focused on the elimination of human suffering, but it is also a crucial form of soft power and small state diplomacy. The United States under Bush was still seen quite favourably because of its large and consistent aid to HIV/AIDS and malaria programs.

    NZ may be able to act as a regional hegemon in the short term, but it will come at a cost.

    • George Darroch 7.1

      Correction – not only Nusa Tenggara. Although that is a major recipient area.

  8. Thanks for the coverage. It’s good to see the Standard highlighting this issue.

    We would love it if everyone reading here would visit http://www.dontcorruptaid.org.nz and follow the action points. We don’t have long to get this opened up to the public and possibly stopped. Get your voice heard.

    Frank Ritchie
    Education and Campaigns Manager – TEAR Fund NZ

  9. Concerned Citizen 9

    Leaving the debate about what makes effective aid aside for a moment (other than to say that economic growth and poverty elimination aren’t mutually exclusive), two things really bug me about McCully’s actions. 1. The total lack of transparency with which he’s handled the whole shenanigans: not consulting the public, development practitioners (or even his parliamentary colleagues, by some accounts). 2. This is totally out of step with the Government’s whole agenda of cost cutting measures to steer us through a recession. Who wants a costly merger now? To use the NZ Treasury’s language, where’s the ‘value for money’ in a costly merger that goes against the findings of two OECD reviews?

  10. Kevin Welsh 10

    Gordon Campbell has a nice piece on this growing debacle here http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2009/03/09/campbell-mccully%E2%80%99s-attack-on-nzs-aid-programme/

    Within this article is a reference to the last time McCully had his fingers in the public pie here http://www.nznews.net.nz/hardnews/1999/19990416.html

    The last line is the best.

  11. Toni 11

    Q. What is the latest dish on a Chinese menu?

    A. Egg on McCully face.

  12. Manu 12

    Check out this website: http://www.nzaid.net

    The Hon Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs recently stated that he intends
    to absorb NZAID, the New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency back
    into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and tie all aid to foreign policy.
    Mr MCully stated that poverty elimination will no longer be the mandate of NZAID.
    Frankly, given everything that’s going on in the world, that’s a relief. At least for us in New Zealand.
    International experience tells us that aid used in this manner becomes a political
    football; used as sweeteners for trade talks, or even better, as a weapon to coerce
    nations into doing what we want them to do. So with this change, we are pleased to become a real international player in encouraging poverty and terror throughout the third world.
    The Government intends to do this with no public scrutiny, no select committee and no consultation.
    New Zealand likes to pride itself on being a responsible international citizen and
    upholder of fundamental human rights. Mr McCully has signaled a bold new
    direction away from such tomfoolery to flexing our regional economic muscle.
    We love to service our minister, so in line with the Minister of Foreign Affairs new
    and exciting ideas about how to use our aid dollars, we are proud to launch the new
    website: http://www.nzaid.net
    PS. We also got a new logo that included some subliminal corporate sponsorship
    since taxpayers are so tight.

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