Speech to Council for International Development Conference

Speech to Council for International Development Conference

9.30am, 29 October 2018
Massey University, Wellington



Good morning to everyone here today.

Firstly, let me acknowledge the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Honorable Mark Brown.

Pacific Island states are important to us but all the more so are the Realm countries, with whom we have a special relationship.

Earlier this year the New Zealand Prime Minister and I, along with some of you in this room, travelled to the Cook Islands as part of the Pacific Mission.

It was an excellent trip and so let me acknowledge the gratitude of New Zealand’s Coalition Government for the Cook Island’s hospitality, and note the pleasure of having you both visiting New Zealand.

Now, Foreign Ministers are usually both discrete and diplomatic,  but it won’t harm our excellent relationship with the Cook Islands to let you all know that if you need someone to provide an excellent cover of Elvis songs – then Deputy Prime Minister Brown is your go-to man !

Pacific Reset and budget increase

Members of New Zealand’s NGO community, the New Zealand Coalition Government has just past its one year anniversary since being formed.

In the past year we have moved swiftly to address what has been long standing neglect of our foreign affairs funding, and commitment to the Pacific region in particular.

In Budget 2018 we announced the $714 million increase in Official Development Assistance.

The additional funding secured by this Government arrested the decline that would have occurred in New Zealand’s GNI ratio – which was tracking down to 0.21%.

New Zealand’s GNI ratio has been stabilised at .28% however we are not satisfied, noting that we were last at 0.3% in 2008/09.

We also announced our Pacific Reset policy which is a renewed commitment by this country to our Pacific region.

This is about doing what is right.

New Zealand has a proud history of standing up for fairness, good governance, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, free media, and sustainable and fair economic development.

The drivers for our action in relation to the Pacific are clear, including immense challenges such as climate change, non-communicable diseases, and barriers to trade and rising unemployed youth populations with limited opportunities.

Our region is also not immune from the pressures of great power competition and the growth in some quarters of authoritarianism, isolationism and inward looking and narrow-minded nationalism.

These are significant challenges.

Yet we must not fall into the trap of defining Pacific countries through a negative lens.

We need to move beyond talking about “providing aid” and approaching our Pacific neighbours as beneficiaries.

Instead, we must commit ourselves to supporting Pacific countries to stand on their own two feet, make their own choices, control their own resources and have their distinctive voices heard on the global stage.

There are immediate outcomes to the New Zealand government’s decisions.

This year MFAT agreed to a 5 year $10.5 million partnership agreement with the New Zealand Red Cross in support of their humanitarian work in the Pacific and globally.

We also agreed to a $45 million 5 year partnership with Volunteer Service Abroad, representing a 14 percent increase in funding. This will enable VSA to expand its work across the Pacific.

And our aid funding continues to be shaped by a focused humanitarian lens.

For Indonesia following the recent tragic earthquake and tsunami, we rapidly provided a $5 million package of disaster response support and deployed a NZDF C130 to provide practical support on the ground.

And this year New Zealand has contributed more than $12 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross for humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Papua New Guinea.

Shifting the dial in the Pacific for such projects does require different funding channels than the status quo.

For this reason MFAT is establishing a new Strategic International Development Fund. This will allow New Zealand to be flexible and responsive to the emerging needs of our Pacific partners.

The importance of civil society

Ambition and increased funding are critical - in the words of President John F Kennedy “things do not happen, things are made to happen”.

With respect to making things happen, this government recognises the important role that NGOs have in the Pacific and beyond.

Where governments do not have sufficient resources to reach those in need, NGOs can help to reach the most vulnerable so that no one is left behind. They can help communities address challenges and realise economic and social benefits in remote regions.

NGOs can be flexible, adaptive and innovative, with a local focus. This makes them vital partners for efforts to build sustainable development.

NGOs also have a critical role to play in supporting and advocating for a vibrant civil society, and promoting fairness, democracy, the rule of law, human rights and freedom of the media.

Indeed, in an age where there is more information and misinformation than ever before, NGOs have a critical role in supporting constructive and inclusive dialogue in communities.

Doing things differently: a new partnership model

In terms of taking action and working together, we are pleased that MFAT has worked with NGOs to develop a new partnership model backed by NZ$70 million in development funding. This model reflects the Pacific Reset priorities and values, is more strategic, more focused and more efficient, and that delivers greater sustained impact. 

MFAT will negotiate partnerships with some New Zealand NGOs that have particular capacity to deliver a strategic, focused programme with sustainable results.

MFAT will also fund smaller projects that target specific communities and issues.

This does not mean that every NGO will receive funding. MFAT will partner with NGOs that are clear about their value add and can make an impact, especially in the priority areas in the Pacific.

We need to build genuine and equal partnerships in the Pacific. We expect the New Zealand Government’s engagement with Pacific partners’ to reflect the Reset principles.

We want to challenge NGOs to do the same.

We also want to encourage you to collaborate. Not just with each other, but with the private sector and Crown Research Institutes, to maximise our collective New Zealand impact.

No one organisation or sector alone can support the Pacific to resolve all the economic, social and environmental problems or make good on the opportunities that exist.

We also need New Zealand NGOs to support a localisation agenda – we should be supporting the flourishing of independent and strong NGOs in Pacific countries. This may be challenging to some but this is the right thing to do.

And in partnering to deliver overseas development, we need to better tell the story of the difference that our work is making to hardworking New Zealanders beyond the beltway.


In summary, this is not a time for fiddling round the edges. We cannot just accept the status quo given that the Pacific is one of New Zealand’s core interests. It is the time to bring innovative thinking and make a difference with our Pacific partners.

In terms of taking action, we have high expectations of the NGO sector.

We acknowledge the significant contribution you have made to development in the Pacific and beyond.

Yet we expect NGOs to devote more resources to Pacific partnerships, be more innovative and collaborative and to bring your supporters to join with us in delivering on the Pacific Reset.

Thank you for inviting me to speak today.