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Refocusing Our Aid - Will The Poor Be Lost From View?

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

5 May 2009 - Catholic aid and development agency Caritas is deeply disappointed that the government has reintegrated government aid agency NZAID back into the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, and shifted its prime focus from poverty elimination to sustainable economic growth.

"What's been particularly frustrating," says Caritas Director Michael Smith, "is the lack of consultation and apparent consideration of the views of development organisations such as ourselves. Despite repeated requests, we have not been granted a meeting with the Minister Murray McCully over the issue." The Board of the aid agency umbrella body Council for International Development was only able to meet the Minister shortly before news of the so-called review became public, and then again 10 days after the restructure had taken place.

In preferring to go ahead with his plan without consultation, Mr McCully has missed an opportunity to more clearly integrate the complementary goals of eliminating poverty and sustainable economic development.

The Catholic Church's social teaching recognises that wealth creation and increasing per capita income is important in the fight against material poverty, but it cannot be the ultimate goal of political and economic activity. Genuine development must give "priority to the needs of the world's poor".

"New Zealand's aid should identify 'what will benefit the poor?' and not be used to benefit our own political or trade purposes," says Mr Smith.

A reliance on economic growth, and measuring the effectiveness of aid using trade and tourism figures, as espoused by Mr McCully, has echoes of failed economic development models from the 1950s and 1960s.

"Good development practice and Catholic social teaching - both of which underpin our work - remind us that good change must begin with the poor determining their own needs and goals and being actively involved in the way these are achieved and measured," says Mr Smith.

"True development is not just about accumulating wealth and more goods and services. In the words of Pope John Paul II, it must consider 'the social, cultural and spiritual dimensions of the human being' to promote an authentic human development, of the whole person." Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

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