Remarks by Deputy Secretary Pacific and Development Group Jonathan Kings at event hosted by New Zealand Aid and Development Dialogues at Victoria University, Wellington, 5 July 2018

Let me first thank the organisers for today. 

We welcome these opportunities and I acknowledge the New Zealand Aid and Development Dialogues group for taking the initiative.

I’m very pleased that the discussion today has us looking forward – as there is a lot to do and a lot that keeps me awake at night. I don’t want to go over all the challenges we face in the Pacific and globally but some context is important.

Research by Brookings on the 31 countries most off track against the SDGs finds three in our part of the world – PNG, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

These countries together account for 10 million people – in fact the great majority of Pacific people. 

Along with all the usual development challenges that SIDS face, the Pacific is also extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Cyclones, earthquakes, and more recently volcanic eruptions, can wipe out years of hard won development gains and divert much needed resources.

As an aid programme we also have to make choices. We cannot do everything and we need to target our efforts in areas where we can achieve results. I see the twin threats of climate change and non-communicable disease related issues looming large in the Pacific.

And I can see a time when the costs associated with confronting these challenges potentially overwhelm both the domestic resources of Pacific countries and the funding that the New Zealand government has available.

Adding to these challenges for aid agencies, Foreign Ministries and NGOs, are very serious global issues – long running conflicts, unprecedented levels of displacement and refugees, and a level of humanitarian need on a scale not seen since seen since World War Two.

Globally and in the Pacific, development assistance has helped countries achieve dramatic gains, including sustained economic growth, halving of extreme poverty and greatly expanded access to basic health and education. 

However this is not progress shared by all. Inequality within countries has risen with risks to political stability, economic progress and human rights. 

Hunger remains a reality for eleven percent of humanity.

To help us prioritise funding and chart a future course, MFAT is developing a new Policy on International Cooperation for Sustainable Development.  

I want this policy to give equal weight to how we deploy our aid and how we act with all our tools beyond aid.   

The first phase of this policy work is considering two big questions:

  • What are the challenges of our times – globally, in developing countries and the Pacific?
  • What is New Zealand’s role and priorities against these challenges, as a small, independent, Pacific country with values to advance and interests to protect?

I would welcome your thoughts on these questions later and I know we have some time set for questions and comments.

Most of you will probably be aware that since 2016 MFAT has been taking a fully integrated approach to our trade, economic, development, security, and diplomatic work in the Pacific.

The formation of a Pacific Branch has brought together our full suite of development and diplomatic tools.

It is Pacific Branch that took forward the analytical work underpinning the Pacific Reset and which is charged with making good on the Government’s objectives in this vitally important part of the world for New Zealand.

Our integrated approach to our Pacific relationships reflects:

  • The seriousness of our ambition for Pacific development
  • The critical importance of policy action beyond aid – particularly the value of trade and labour mobility.
  • And the recognition that we need to be driving change through our convening power and relationships in the region.

The 2030 Agenda challenges us to get serious about delivering an integrated and balanced social, economic and environmental agenda. The challenges faced by the Pacific also demand this of us.

For example what causes the western Pacific to have some of the highest rates of child stunting in the world?  Do the answers lie in agriculture, water, sanitation, nutrition, gender, health or education?  Or all of the above?

Challenges like this, demand that that we broaden our thinking and action across traditional sectors and silos. We also know that aid alone cannot finance the SDGs. 

We need to consider the role of aid in growing and improving other resource flows – those of partner governments, the development banks, the private sector and climate finance.

This is particularly important in the Pacific where private investment in development has been weak.

Alongside our integration effort we have also taken additional steps to ensure that we:

  • have a cadre of people whose careers and expertise lie in development.
  • invest in policy and strategy.
  • build systems for results, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • further professionalise design and delivery, contracting and accountability.

In terms of the ‘new’ future for development cooperation, MFAT’s approach will be to go beyond aid (as the 2030 Agenda demands) while also retaining the expertise, partnerships, and commitment to results that are the hallmarks of good aid delivery.

So, turning to that future: 

  • MFAT has work under way to make good on the Pacific Reset which will see a rebalancing of the programme to reflect priority Pacific concerns.
  • We have a significantly larger aid programme to deliver that will total just under $2.19 billion over the coming three year funding cycle.

The larger, refocused programme will enable us to:

  • Bolster our efforts to tackle priority issues for the Pacific, especially climate change and health and education.
  • Focus on sectors important for sustainable progress – including good governance and transparency, human rights, women’s political and economic empowerment, and youth.
  • Provide increased funding to multilateral institutions to build on multilateral partnerships in the Pacific, and to support advocacy of Pacific priorities in multilateral contexts.

• I also want to build on and extend our ambition, focus, and influence.

• I am determined that we will leverage all our tools for development – across trade, migration, Pacifica policy, shared services.

• And we must work to influence the role of other actors and financial flows – that are often larger than we are. That’s all from me. I’d know like to invite comments and questions from you. Particularly in relation to the two big questions I posed earlier.

Thank you.