Greater focus on gender equality needed in Pacific
An academic says the recent OECD review shows the New Zealand aid programme is neglecting issues such as gender equality and human rights.
An academic says the 2015 OECD review of New Zealand's aid programme shows this country is neglecting cross-cutting issues such as gender equality and human rights.
Terence Wood is a research fellow at the Development Policy Centre at the Australia National University and a former NZAID employee.
He told Esther Zweifel the report highlights several aspects New Zealand could improve on.
TERENCE WOOD: Yeah, I think it is a good review and it provides a balance of where the aid programme is at present and in particular I think it does a good job of describing an aid program which is working quite well within the political constraints that it is working underneath. And so I think it is well recognised that at least since the change of government in 2008 and since the aid program has come under the per view of Minister McCully it's been quite a hard environment for the aid programme to work within. There have been some major changes obviously the NZ aid was reintegrated into MFAT and some quite significant changes in the way the aid program worked. Which in turn led to quite a rapid turnover in staff. The minister has proven to be fairly capricious made some somewhat strange changes to the aid program such as changes in the way that NGO funding is delivered and this had led to quite considerable challenges when it comes to giving aid and giving aid well and I think the aid programme staff themselves are struggling to keep up with these changes and to adapt to a challenging environment. But to an extent they have been able to do this and I think the more positive sides of the review reflect that fact.
ESTHER ZWEIFEL: It seems for the OECD which is quite a conservative economic organisation they did raise some concerns about the aid programme. Can you make any comment about these concerns?
TW: The donor assistance committee, the organisation that commissioned this review is the club of donor countries but effectively it's a sort of body that involves countries reviewing each other. So it's the reviews that it produces are always very gentle. And so you do have to read them across the grain a little bit and given that I think that it is quite significant that there were some major shortcomings identified. An obvious one was there concerns about aid volume and the fact that despite New Zealand having been in relatively favorable economic circumstances compared to other donor countries in recent years. Aid volume has only increased very slightly and our actual aid effort has actually gone downhill. They also identified areas such as the changes to NGO funding which I spoke about before as being cause for quite considerable concern. These changes occurred for no good reason and have led to real problems for New Zealand NGO's doing work in developing countries. They also identified I think one other important area that they identified under the current government what is called in aid jargon cross cutting issues such as human rights agenda have been really neglected. And this I think has reflected the fact that the minister doesn't view such issues as important for development work and so you will struggle to find gender mentioned, afforded much prominence in the aid work that our country does despite the fact that parts of the Pacific have very real issues in areas such as violence against women and all of this is raised in the report.
EZ: You mentioned the cross cutting issues earlier, do you think these are particularly significant for the Pacific?
TW: Yes definitely and gender is an obvious example of this. So take for example the Solomon Islands the country that I know the best in the Pacific two key areas here. Domestic violence rates or rates of violence against women they are extraordinarily high and if you want to, women are obviously about 50 percent of Solomon Islands population and so if you want to be helping Solomon Islanders and helping Solomon Islands women you really need to start thinking about tackling these problems and currently we are very weak in this area. The minister himself has said it is not something he views as a priority which strikes me as really odd given that it is such an area where there is such visible issues. And what is true for Solomon Islands is also true in other parts of the Pacific. I think if you really want your aid to engage with the realities of Pacific Island life and try and help women who are as I said are 50 percent of the population in the Pacific then you need to start thinking about this sort of cross cutting issue a lot more.
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