New aid policy & stumbling towards transparency

Hi and welcome to an NZADDs update,

New aid policy
Late last year the New Zealand Aid Programme released its new policy statement. There was little fanfare but the policy is — on paper at least — a clear break from the previous era of New Zealand aid. You can download it here.

The policy emphasises the Pacific (which isn’t a change) and sustainable development (which is). Economic development remains a pillar of New Zealand aid, but one amongst others. Social development, the environment and governance are all emphasised. There’s also talk of partnership and values. The new policy signals change.

The crucial question now though is to do with practical ramifications. Ultimately, aid quality involves good aid practice. What will the new policy mean in practice?

Aid transparency
It will be a lot easier to stay abreast of what the policy means in practice if the aid program is transparent about its work. Perhaps because New Zealand was near the bottom of the most recent international aid transparency league tables, or perhaps because transparency was a common complaint from people submitting to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry into Pacific aid, the aid programme has recently added information to its website.

Updated data on planned spending at a country level can be found here.

After a hiatus the aid programme has also started publishing IATI data on aid projects again. You can find the data here. For those of us who wouldn’t mind knowing what our aid programme does, this should be great news. Sadly though, IATI data are published as XML files. This is the international standard; it’s not New Zealand’s fault. Unfortunately, XML is about as meaningful to the average person as a shopping list written in Cuneiform. To its credit, the aid programme recognises this, and links to a tool for converting the files. Unfortunately the output of the tool itself, is — as I’ve discovered after a wasted Saturday — unusable.

New Zealand’s aid transparency is improving, but we’re not transparent enough yet.

Terence (for NZADDs admin).