22 Dec 2015

NZ criticised for poor links with civil society

8:34 pm on 22 December 2015

A veteran aid worker from New Zealand is welcoming criticism of this country's treatment of civil society in recent years.

A peer review of New Zealand aid conducted by the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat assessed whether the spending is achieving what it is meant to achieve.

The review was largely positive but there was criticism that the recipient country, in this case Kiribati, was not fully included in the process and that links with NGOs were not up to scratch.

The outgoing chairman of the Council for International Development, Seth Le Leu, says the NGOs had had close links with the government until it abolished the semi-autonomous aid agency, NZAID.

"Now over the last five or six years there has been a real move from being partners to being contractors to government. And from a situation where it was pretty collaborative to what is being fostered, which is a highly competitive environment, and those things don't necessarily lead to great development."

Seth Le Leu also says New Zealand's wish to use Kiwi expertise on aid projects can be a retrograde step.

New Zealand has been criticised for its sometimes 'Do it themselves' approach, instead of involving the host recipient nation and helping it develop its skill base.

Seth Le Leu says New Zealand wants a 'Kiwi Value Add' in its projects, but to ensure sustainable development they need to make greater use of local skills.

"And they are the bedrock of everything we do. They are the people who know the stuff, they know what works and things like that, and the thing that is most exciting for us is partnering with these amazing people. And so it is a little bit of a retrograde step to sort of think that it should be Kiwi experts that are doing this stuff."