Opening Address - Council for International Development and MFAT NGO Hui

Tuia te rangi e tu iho nei, Tuia te papa e takoto nei, Tuia te here tangata ki te here wairua kia rongo te pō, kia rongo te āo – Tīhei Mauri Ora!

Kei ngā iti, kei ngā rahi i whakapau kaha ki te whakahaere i ngā mahi atawhai mo te hunga rawakore,

te huna e noho mānene ana, ōtirā ngā pani me ngā rawakore tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa!

I’m pleased to join you here today. I’m sure we all share a real desire for an in-person meeting. But we continue to adapt to the challenges that COVID-19 brings. So here we are again fully utilising the benefit of a virtual platform, I had planned to host you at Parliament for the Council for International Development dinner, sadly that is not to be.

Last year, I shared some thoughts with you the shared CID conference and MFAT–NGO Hui theme resonates with the thinking we’ve been doing in government over the past year.

In the range of meetings, hui and talanoa I have held there are some consistent themes that have emerged.

New ways of working; Relationships; Resilience:

We need to be confident in our approach to partnering and strengthening critical relationships – especially where we have shared objectives and an opportunity to contribute to transformative outcomes and impacts.

Many of you will have heard my view that as a country founded in our Polynesian culture and the Treaty of Waitangi values, we have more of an opportunity to bring forward these values to guide MFAT and a new way of working. To be realised we need to strengthen internal capacity and be open to the dynamism of cultural diversity.

As partners in much of the work we undertake this may not be a “new approach” indeed it may be a welcome inclusion to the way in which your own organisations are operating.

To recap these values enhance our connection and relationship to the Pacific (whanaungatanga), speak to the benefit of reciprocity and resilience (manaakitanga), our aspiration for greater collaboration and multilaterialism (kotahitanga), our stewardship responsibilities for Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, our Blue Ocean Continent (kaitiakitanga).

It will be evident that the way I have cast these values is a deliberate attempt to extend the way in which we partner the Pacific. I have been working with MFAT to move beyond a “reset” focus towards a resilience focus.

This approach has been motivated by the striking reality of how COVID-19 is compounding already felt economic challenges across the Pacific and the stark reality that Climate Change continues to be the most significant issue facing our Pacific neighbours. In their remarks to you this week the Prime Ministers of Samoa and the Cook Islands challenged us to use the opportunity of ‘building back better’ from COVID-19 to re-think how aid is designed and delivered.

Our determination to partner resilience in the Pacific and alongside partners such as yourselves will have a far greater enduring impact. Civil society actors will recognise this approach as one that is inherent in good development practice.

The role that New Zealand NGOs play in reaching Pacific communities is based on relationships within your networks — between Aotearoa New Zealand and your Pacific affiliates and civil society partners. 

I reflect on some organisations across your sector, who have already moved towards shifting their own operating practice to build in country capacity as a resilience feature of how the organisation contributes to development outcomes.

You have the ability to move the dial significantly in comparison to other development actors and you are able to amplify the voice of Pasifika partners in your organisation. Pasifika NGOs and Pacific diaspora also have deep connections into communities in the Pacific and can contribute to intergenerational solutions for long term wellbeing.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s international development cooperation aims to contribute to a more peaceful world, in which all people live in dignity and safety, all countries can prosper, and our shared environment is protected.

Our priorities are aligned to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) pillars of people, planet, prosperity and peace, and reinforce the global commitment to leave no one behind: kaua tētahi e whakarērea. 

The SDGs provide a framework for creating resilient societies. They are an urgent call to end global poverty, reduce inequality, improve health and education, spur economic growth, tackle climate change, and preserve oceans and forests. They guide us on ‘what’ we need to do. I’m sure that the SDGs also guide your work in the New Zealand NGO sector, and that of your in-country partners.

Together, through our co-investment in the Partnering for Impact programme, we aim to reach 1.8 million people in the Pacific and Asia. By way of example:

  • three of our NGO partners — World Vision, Save the Children and ChildFund — have formed a coalition to end violence against children
  • Hagar and TearFund will collectively reach more than 5,000 people through their work to stop human trafficking and modern slavery
  • CBM focuses on inclusive education and eye health, and Family Planning NZ improves sexual and reproductive health
  • and, many of our partners work on enhancing livelihoods and strengthening civil society, including Caritas, who will reach nearly 130,000 people over the next five years.

These are just some of the solutions led and implemented by local organisations, with our New Zealand NGO partners and New Zealand volunteers supporting and building capacity; all the while making sure that women and girls, people living with disabilities, and other marginalised groups are not left behind.

COVID-19 has amplified vulnerability and inequality, and has set back development progress in the Pacific region. Drawing upon our common commitment to the SDGs, we will support each Pacific nation’s ambition to chart their own recovery and development pathway. We will continue to support our partners to respond to the impacts of the climate crisis, and on issues that matter most for our region, in a way that makes a positive difference for the long term.

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Aotearoa New Zealand will commit $1.3 billion in grant-based climate finance, between 2022 and 2025.

This new commitment is a considerable step-change in scale for us. It is more than four times the size of our 2018 commitment of $300 million, and underlines the importance Aotearoa New Zealand places on global efforts to work together.

Pacific leaders have told me that climate change remains the single greatest threat to Pacific lives and livelihoods.  Aotearoa New Zealand has listened.  At least half of the total climate finance commitment will support Pacific island countries.

Building climate resilience will be a key focus of our efforts as we move through COVID-19 response and recovery phases.

You are already playing an important role. 

Through our current Partnering for Impact programme we have co-invested $46 million in projects with New Zealand NGOs that contribute to climate adaptation. These activities are in the early stages of implementation and will address the vulnerabilities that climate change presents to communities, food and water security, ecosystems, economies, and livelihoods.

Oxfam will increase access to climate finance for more 21,000 women. Rotary, ADRA and UNICEF will address water quality and management issues for more than 160,000 people. Habitat for Humanity is strengthening disaster resilience in the Pacific. And Conservation International and WWF focus on environmental kaitiakitanga projects.

The New Zealand NGO sector’s efforts all contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change, the greatest threat of our generation.

Civil society also contributes to the evidence base needed to inform policies and programmes.

For example, Save the Children’s Born into a Climate Crisis 2021 report highlights the importance of children as key agents of change in addressing the climate crisis.  The report reminds us that children, impacted by inequality and discrimination, are often the hardest hit and need to be included.

In the coming months the new climate programme will take shape. It will be based on strong engagement with our Pacific whanaunga.

The funding will be delivered through the New Zealand International Development Cooperation (IDC) Programme in partnership with New Zealand and off-shore partners, and funding will focus on three things:

  • supporting countries to reduce their carbon emissions. This would likely include renewable energy projects, and other carbon reduction initiatives.
  • supporting countries to adapt to climate change, especially in the Pacific. Projects might include ensuring buildings are able to withstand more damaging storms, crops are resilient to droughts and floods and new pests, and communities are protected from sea level rise and storm surges.
  • and, supporting climate change capacity and capabilities, such as understanding the impact of sea level rise for communities, preparing for climate migration, or upskilling decision-makers.

As the new climate change programme is developed, the perspectives of New Zealand NGOs and your civil society partners will be welcomed.

Our strength and success relies on working together. COVID-19 has compounded development challenges across the Pacific, but it also offers opportunities.

The whakataukī He moana pukepuke e ekengia e te waka assures us that a rough sea can still be navigated. 

COVID-19 has highlighted the resourcefulness, innovation, and depth of resilience that has existed for centuries in Pacific countries. It reminds us, as development and humanitarian actors, to take a strengths based approach which builds on indigenous local knowledge and skills. 

In addition to considering what we will invest in through the aid programme, we will increasingly focus on how we engage. 

The partnerships we have in place with New Zealand NGOs have an intentional focus on partnering and the co-designed principles guiding each Negotiated Partnership are regularly monitored, alongside the achievement of development results. 

We will also listen to how our partners feel about our engagement. I understand some of their voices will be heard via video during your hui today.  We may not be able to travel as much as we used to, but I encourage you to keep thinking about bringing your local partners into everything you do, and to consider how you work together, based on each other’s strengths.

This framework for a new way of working gives me hope that the next generation will benefit from the actions we take together, as kaitiaki of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share these whakaaro at this important event.