Our approach to aid

New Zealand works to advance sustainable development through our aid, trade, environment, diplomatic, and security cooperation as well as providing humanitarian support.

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A re-oriented New Zealand International Development Cooperation programme

The New Zealand International Development Cooperation (IDC) programme delivers New Zealand’s official support for developing countries, with a particular focus on the Pacific Islands region.

New Zealand’s policy for International Cooperation for Effective Sustainable Development was approved by Cabinet on 25 November 2019. This policy confirms our primary focus on the Pacific region, in line with the Pacific Reset. It reflects a shift in how our government works in the region that includes deeper collaboration with Pacific partner countries and more ambition for our Pacific engagement. It also affirms four development principles to guide our development work: effectiveness, inclusiveness, resilience and sustainability. They replace our earlier policies on development quality, including the Cross-Cutting Issues Policy and Activity Quality Policy.

The purpose of New Zealand’s IDC is to develop shared prosperity and stability in the Pacific and beyond, drawing on the best of New Zealand’s knowledge and skills. We support sustainable development in developing countries to reduce poverty and contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world. We follow the principles of understanding, friendship, mutual benefit and collective ambition in how we design and deliver our IDC programme.

MFAT staff in Wellington and overseas are responsible for managing the New Zealand IDC programme, working with a wide range of partners.

Useful links:

Where we work: Pacific focus, global reach

Samoan fishermen heading out..
Samoan fishermen heading out.

As a small donor country committed to development that works, we’re carefully targeting our efforts to where we can make a real difference.

The geographic focus for New Zealand’s IDC is our Pacific neighbourhood. We invest close to 60% of our development funding within the Pacific region. We achieve global reach through targeted development cooperation to developing countries where New Zealand has strategic interests. Beyond the Pacific, our development cooperation focuses on initiatives in ASEAN countries. We also support projects in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Our IDC programme reaches more than 150 countries through partnerships with international aid organisations and multilateral agencies, including in response to disasters and conflict.

How we work

We're committed to making our development cooperation effective and to delivering value for investment of taxpayer funds.

International best practice and the global development agenda inform the way we work. The Sustainable Development Goals apply to all countries. New Zealand will contribute to achievement of the goals through a combination of domestic action, international leadership on global policy issues, and supporting countries through the New Zealand IDC programme.

Find out more about New Zealand’s approach to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provide guidance for its members to enhance quality and effectiveness of their development cooperation programmes. The last Development Assistance Committee (DAC) peer review of the New Zealand IDC programme was completed in 2023(external link).

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation and, in the Pacific, the Forum Compact (also known as the Cairns Compact) recognise the wide range of government and non-government contributors to development and set out principles for achieving effective development. The New Zealand IDC programme was peer reviewed by the Forum Compact in 2015.

Read more about the Global Partnership(external link)

Our approach

In managing the New Zealand IDC programme:

  • we recognise that countries lead their own development – this means aligning our support to our partners’ priorities, and making good use of their systems for planning, implementation, financial management, monitoring and reporting
  • we focus on delivering measurable results – this includes taking a systematic approach to collecting quality data so we know what changes are occurring, and helping partners to do the same
  • we and our partners are clear about what we will each deliver
  • we coordinate our development cooperation effectively with other donors, led by partner governments
  • we work inclusively with partners to deliver the IDC
  • seek to strengthen international and regional organisations
  • we continue to make information on IDC investments and forecast budgets more accessible
Solomon Islands school girls..
Solomon Islands education support has included a focus on more girls attending school

The cross-cutting issues of environmental protection and climate change, gender equality and human rights, child and youth well-being and prevention and resolution of conflict are integrated into all New Zealand IDC programme initiatives. This helps deliver sustainable, inclusive outcomes.

Human Rights

Human rights are a priority area for New Zealand’s development agenda, and play an important role in New Zealand’s vision and commitment to partnering for a long-term resilient and prosperous Pacific, and to building a safer, more prosperous and more sustainable future for New Zealanders and the world. In its international development cooperation, New Zealand seeks to contribute to the realisation of human rights for all. 

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Human Rights Strategic Action Plan for International Development Cooperation 2021–2025 sets out priorities for targeting and mainstreaming human rights within New Zealand’s international development cooperation programming, particularly focusing on people and groups most at risk of being left behind, and establishes the framework for New Zealand’s Human Rights Based Approach to development. The implementation of the Human Rights Strategic Action Plan will improve New Zealand’s capability for mainstreaming human rights through development programming, and deepen investment in human rights related impacts through targeted programming and enhanced reporting.

Gender Action Plan

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Strategic Intentions 2020–2024 identified the priority deliverable of a Gender Action Plan to guide and scale up New Zealand’s development cooperation programming to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

A Gender Action Plan 2021–2025 has been launched in March 2021. It aims to increase New Zealand’s gender principal investment to 4% of the IDC and gender significant investment to 60% of the IDC by targeting and mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment across our programme.

The Gender Action Plan’s goal is to achieve transformative change of those formal and informal customs, norms, practices and laws in society that create or perpetuate gender inequality and social exclusion based on gender identity.

We deliver value for money by focusing our development cooperation to have meaningful impact, and invest in initiatives only where the anticipated economic and social benefits exceed the costs.

Child and Youth Well-being Strategic Action Plan

Child and youth well-being is a critical focus area for New Zealand’s development cooperation – affirmed in New Zealand’s International Cooperation for Effective Sustainable Development Cooperation (ICESD). This reflects New Zealand’s domestic commitment to achieve greater equity through the national Child and Youth Well-being Strategy. The strategic action plan aims to deliver greater impact and equity across our programming by advancing human rights for children and youth and through taking a targeted approach across the life-cycle – from birth, through the early years (0 – 5 years), primary years (6 – 12 years), secondary years (13 – 18 years), and tertiary years (19 – 30 years). The broad scope of this approach promotes multi-sectoral holistic development for child and youth well-being, rather than delivering fragmented sectoral and piecemeal initiatives.

Climate Action Plan

Climate change is a priority area of focus for New Zealand’s development cooperation and international engagement.

The Climate Action Plan 2019-2022 launched in 2019 frames MFAT’s approach to global and Pacific development cooperation based around:

  • supporting an effective global response to climate change, and
  • improving Pacific resilience.

The Climate Action Plan has a strategic framework for action that signals where our attention and efforts should be directed over the four year period:

  • Ambitious Action
  • Pacific Champion
  • Global Engagement
  • Policy Leadership


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