January 2014 NZADDs update

2014 promises to be a big year for New Zealand aid and development: there’s the DAC peer review, and also a general election (probably in the second half of the year). Elections are also set to return to Fiji, and be held in Solomon Islands and Tonga (the three countries all being significant NZ aid recipients).

Australian Aid Budget Cuts Hit Home
The new Australian government has finally published details of where its aid cuts will fall. Observers with a calendar will notice that we are now quite some way into the financial year in question and that such cuts will be disruptive to say the least (something pointed out by Australian NGOs here and here).

A country by country list of funding cuts is here. Cuts to aid funded climate change and environmental work appear to be 100%. Journalist Nic Maclellan has some interesting analysis of the changes here, including the following revealing quote from Tony Abbot:
“Redirecting flagged future increases in spending from foreign aid to domestic infrastructure should actually boost our influence in the region when it helps to bring about the stronger economy on which our international standing rests.”

Shirts for Tonga
Meanwhile in New Zealand the Labour opposition is alleging the government is giving far too little to Tonga to help it recover from recent cyclone damage (the official NZ response is detailed here). At the same time the Manawatu Standard reports a well intended scheme to send (privately donated) clothes to Tonga has run into a hitch:
“Palmerston North has plenty of donated clothing for victims of the cyclone in Tonga, but so far there is no way of getting it to them.”

It’s great that people are giving, but a pity that one of the key lessons of humanitarian assistance has not been learnt: if you want to help people it is (almost always) best to give cash. Cash travels cheap. Cash can be spent on what recipients actually need. And cash doesn’t put local clothing stores out of business. Noting this isn’t the same as criticising the people of Palmerston North for caring (its great they!) but we hope we can find a way of better educating people at how to help well when they try.

Not Nearly Enough for Syria
Back in Australia the Development Policy Centre has a blog post taking the Australian government to task for giving so little to Syria. Syria is by far and away the most significant humanitarian crisis in many years and, while New Zealand is doing slightly better on a per capita basis, our own effort is underwhelming (particularly from a country bidding for a UN Security Council seat). This year we appear to have pledged another NZ$5M on top of the NZ$5.46M we gave last year. All up our assistance tallies at NZ$1.21 per New Zealander per year. Hardly a rousing effort. Last year we sent a letter to John Key asking that New Zealand do more. Key passed the letter on to Foreign Minister McCully who has yet to see fit to respond (as he is required to). You can download a letter template from the NZADDs website. If you don’t like the thought of our country doing next to nothing to help with the worst humanitarian disaster of our time, please consider posting your own letter to Key or McCully. In a democracy if enough people show they care, at the very least it makes it a little harder for those in charge not to.

A Conservative Approach to Aid
Meanwhile, on a slightly cheerier note, freaked out by the approach of their 40th birthday, one member of NZADDs’ admin team (we’ll leave you to guess who) decided 2014 was the year to become a conservative. Alas, it didn’t last, the soy milk withdrawal was too much, but the process of conversion was still useful — with an important lesson for aid. Truly conservative aid would be great. Read the blog post arguing this here.

That’s all from NZADDs admin for now.