“UNIFEM is becoming increasingly concerned about the messages that are coming through from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We oppose the move from the NZAID goal of poverty elimination to economic development. This move would be actively harmful to women in developing countries”, said Rae Julian from the National Committee of UNIFEM New Zealand in response to the announced reviews of NZAID.
The Minister has initiated a review of NZAID, with the possibility of reintegrating it within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite requests from a number of non-governmental organisations, there is no provision to receive submissions from the public to this exercise. The review includes a reconsideration of NZAID’s core policy of poverty elimination.
NZAID was reviewed twice since its inception in 2002, by the OECD and by Dr Marilyn Waring, a former politician from the Minister’s party. Both reviews were very positive about the work of the agency, praising its semi-autonomous status and its focus on poverty elimination.
UNIFEM’s main concern is the possible effect of any changes on the women in developing countries who have benefitted from NZAID’s policies on both poverty and gender. Women in those countries are likely to be the poorest. If they survive the possibility of death in childbirth, they are then threatened by preventable diseases or violence. Many raise children alone with no financial support.
We support the economic development focus – if the development is targeted to benefit those in greatest need, and the poor are part of the necessary planning. Economic development should ensure that all of the people, including women, can be at a level where they can participate. This implies access to basic education and good health services as a starting point – rather than as an outcome of the process. It requires good governance processes at all levels, peace building and conflict prevention. Fair trade and private sector development are also components to increase income generation for all.
Aid must not become a tool of foreign policy, a carrot used to persuade developing countries to support New Zealand’s political agenda or a stick to punish those whose policies we do not like. There are other ways to ensure that effective aid gets past corrupt governments to where it is needed, especially through working with civil society organisations in those countries. NZAID funding support for governance programmes from the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific has been stopped by the Minister. These programmes, often led by women, have been invaluable in a number of Pacific countries.
“We add our voice to those asking to have input to the review of NZAID. Empowerment of women through aid is too important to be sacrificed to political whims”, concluded Rae Julian.ENDS