In April 2010, the New Zealand government announced the end of a 35 year partnership between successive Governments and Non Government Organisations such as CWS which had delivered good aid and development programmes. The scheme had been recognised as among the most effective in the world. The sudden and dramatic changes have had a huge impact on the work of CWS and its partners. The new scheme is still being developed leaving many groups we have funded unsure of their future. Follow the debate and issues here.
>> May 2012 Wren Green, director of the Council for International Development had an opinion piece published in the Dominion Post comparing the aid levels of New Zealanders and the government, State doesn't Reflect our Generosity.
>>CWS responds to public concern - 24 December 2010
>>A letter to Churches 17 December 2010
>>September Update: the changes and CWS concerns
Update on Government Funding for NGOs
New funding rules are clearer but still not attractive as the direction and focus on Government funding continues to evolve away from traditional good practice say Non-government Organisations (NGOs) involved in the process. Pauline McKay attended a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) International Development Group on 30 August to discuss the new funding window for NGOs, the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF). The SDF has held two rounds to date. Many agencies have raised concerns about the SDF and its overly bureaucratic procedures with some suggesting the level of funding may not be worth the effort. Generally, people were happier with the procedures under the second round but find there is considerable room for improvement. The emphasis on sustainable economic development before the preconditions have been established and poor process are some of the recurring themes.
The second round of funding for programmes over $500,000 allocated 53% to the Pacific, 20% to South East Asia, and 27% for the rest of the world. This is still considerably short of the (official) 75% goal for the Pacific. Interestingly 60% were for water and sanitation projects. Applications were reviewed by the Selection Panel (Peter Kiely, Therese Walsh and John Hayes MP) and MFAT staff. MFAT are preparing a document outlining their understanding on sustainable economic development. The next round will be in April/May 2012 and the appropriate information will be available to applicants well in advance unlike in previous rounds. There is likely to be one round a year.
Although many applications involving the private and education sectors weren’t successful the selection group emphasised their preference for those that fitted the “NZ Inc” foreign policy goal. New Zealand is keen to expand its influence in the Pacific amidst growing competition. Currently its Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget is on par with China and the EU but well behind Australia, the largest funder. China’s growing influence in the region is of concern to the Government.
The Consultative Group made up of representatives of NGOs reported on the survey of NGOs which found that the second round was generally better. However difficulty around definitions and differing interpretations even from MFAT staff providing advice to NGOs were identified as issues. Many noted the inadequacy of communication from MFAT including the changing timelines and lack of transparency in the application process. Others felt that it would be fairer if MFAT identified a standard percentage of grants that could be used for NZ-based costs including monitoring.
The Foreign Affairs minister, Murray McCully, has stated that he intends to increase funds available under the scheme but the majority of applications were turned down. The independent monitoring group Development Action in reviewing approximately 10% of second round applications provided by NGOs found that they were of a higher standard than the first. Although they have yet to present their final results, they point to difficulties in definition including around what is meant by ‘quality’. Development Action has found it difficult to get MFAT to release the relevant information under the Official Information Act even when approached by the Ombudsman. Concern has been widely expressed that the results of the rounds involving public money have not been made available to New Zealand taxpayers.
CWS success in Funding Rounds
In the first round CWS received $164,000 for the Community Development Trust in Tonga for one year to undertake a survey and repair work of water tanks with a view to a subsequent application to improve local supply as well as work on food security and disaster preparedness. In the second round a joint application or Concept Note with Caritas for the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA) in Fiji has been approved for further development. The Concept Note for work in the squatter settlements includes funding for $864,000 over three years.
In July the United Nations released its latest report on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. With little more than four years to go, the outlook for the Pacific is not good and parallels that of sub-Saharan Africa. On average one in four families lives below the basic needs poverty line, reaching as high as 50% in Kiribati. Around one million school age children are not receiving an education.
Globally it is expected that the first goal of halving poverty by 2015 will be met because of the strong improvement in East Asia, especially China. The UN notes that the poorest children are making the slowest progress in achieving the goals and of the primary aged children not enrolled in school, 42% - or 43 million live in poor countries affected by conflict. It found that 2.6 billion people remain without access to toilets or improved sanitation and it is poor people who continue to miss out.
With food prices rising 33% in the year ending July 2011 according to the World Bank, the outlook for the world’s most vulnerable people is not good. Much attention is paid to the shaky economies of Spain, Greece and Italy but out of the media almost 1 billion people live in poverty. In India one of the feted emerging economies with a predicted 9% economic growth this year, 37% of people live below the poverty line. This amounts to 410 million or one third of all the world’s poorest citizens. The percentage of New Zealand’s Official Development Assistance has remained around 0.3 of the Gross National Income well below the 0.7% committed by New Zealand governments at international gatherings.
CWS welcomes greater transparency in the SDF process but believes there is still much room for improvement. We are concerned about the dismantling of a globally well regarded aid programme based on the eradication of poverty for narrower foreign policy interests. Good development is about the people themselves deciding their own priorities and having the resources to make them happen. It cannot be directed from outside. While aid is not usually a high priority for New Zealand election campaigns, CWS will be circulating material for those who want to raise matters with political candidates. The right of all people to safe, sufficient, nutritious and adequate food will be high on the list as well as the need for increased ODA to meet the needs of the world’s poorest citizens. The Council for International Development is preparing a briefing for the incoming government in recognition of the $130 million the sector raises each year with the support of a quarter of the population.
In March CWS staff members attended both Auckland and Wellington meetings hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for Non Government Organisations. MFAT outlined significant changes in the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) and how it would be managed. A new date was announced for a second round of applications: April 15, but in acknowledgement of the difficulties faced in Christchurch, Christian World Service has until April 30 to file applications. The Chief Executive and Secretary of Foreign Affairs JohnAllen has appointed a three person Selection Panel which will meet in May to make the decisions. Money from the next round is unlikely to be disbursed before 30 June 2011. This time the process is more transparent and more guidance is to be offered by government officials.
The new process retains the focus on sustainable economic development and it is unclear whether the regional ratios will be maintained – we do not know how these were met in the first round. One group not aligned with any agency tried to replicate the first round process from available information and concluded that none of those agencies that they knew about should have received funding.
Coming at the same time as internal restructuring, MFAT stated that 80% of the SDF will be for programmes over $500,000 with the remaining 20% being used for smaller and more innovative programmes. NGOs will now be required to prepare a Concept Note for consideration by the Panel, and then if selected asked to work with MFAT to agree on the final application. Programmes can be spread over three to five years. Unlike the last round, MFAT will provide feedback to NGOs throughout the process.
The Government is interested in the direct relationship of a NZ NGO with the partner rather than funding into an international organisation. It is looking for the added value that the NZ NGO brings (not simply funding and evaluation) and for ‘innovative partnerships’ with other groups such as universities, the private sector and volunteers. The Government is also interested in the links the NGO programme might be able to make with its own aid programme.
In recent statements Mr McCully has reiterated his intention to change the way New Zealand conducts its foreign affairs, and in particular through MFAT. At a speech made to the Institute of International Affairs in April he noted that MFAT spent $63 million of a $525 million aid budget internally – an overhead of 12%. The government plan is to cut costs in diplomatic missions, open up ‘a closed shop’ and consider new ways of staffing them – note the recently advertised position for New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Kiribati – normally it would be an MFAT appointment. It also intends to cut the number of individual aid programmes administered by MFAT from over 800 last year. Mr McCully stated that he was ‘keen to do more work through partnerships with NGOs.’
In the speech he noted the major changes happening in the global economy with China likely to overtake the USA as the major player and India leaping into third place. The Government has expressly stated that it wants to lift New Zealand exports from 30 – 40% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is endeavouring to put in place a foreign policy that will make this happen as well as increasing the role (and therefore benefit) of New Zealanders in this process. Every indication is that the aid programme is part of that strategy. Mr McCully has identified agriculture, tourism and major infrastructure as places offering such opportunities for New Zealand business and research. In an address to February’s Resilience in the Pacific Conference at Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, he also spoke of the ‘absolute priority to renewable energy initiatives’ and the challenges facing the 50,000 people crowded onto the atolls of Kiribati. Increasing the assistance budget for Kiribati from $3 million a year to $30 million is part of this strategy.
CWS is grateful for the many individuals who expressed concern to us and/or the government about the impact of the changed funding scheme. We appreciate the efforts made by the national church leaders in making their concerns about the functioning and priorities of the SDF scheme (shared by most NGOs) known to the Prime Minister, Mr John Key and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Bill English. We believe this has contributed to changes in the process.
CWS is working to test the new process through a second round of applications. We want to take Mr McCully at his word on funding for New Zealand NGOs. Last time advice from MFAT was that some of our partners were doing too much – apparently it is sufficient to build rainwater tanks rather than strengthen the local partner through the process to do even more. Our partners have reiterated their support for us and have proved willing to go the extra mile to meet a new set of requirements but remain deeply worried about how their work with local communities can continue.
There is a heavy emphasis in the new guidelines about furthering New Zealand’s national interest with the use of NZ volunteers, consultants, businesses and universities. This can run counter to good development practice where decision-making belongs with the local community who also can find the expertise they need locally – this may be more appropriate and cheaper than using non-New Zealand resources. In international debate this is sometimes called ‘tied aid’.
The foreign policy focus of the SDF remains on sustainable economic development and linked to trading interests without mention of New Zealand’s international obligations to United Nations initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals. Questions remain about who will benefit from this focus and how it will affect the most vulnerable communities.
The opposition has raised concerns about the appointments to the Selection Panel: Peter Kiely is a lawyer to the National Party, Therese Walsh is an accountant and the Chief Operating Officer for the Rugby World Cup 2011 (another of Mr McCully’s responsibilities) and John Hayes MP and Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee (to which MFAT reports on aid spending and policy). Missing from this equation is any NGO or civil society input and it can arguably be influenced by those closest to the National Party. MPs have previously been part of similar committees but sat alongside NGO and MFAT representatives.
20 April 2011
Thank you for contacting CWS with your concerns about the recent government decisions under its Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) scheme with a budget of $21 million. As you may know CWS has received conditional funding for 1 of its 6 applications enabling Ama Takiloa to undertake a number of development activities in Tonga. On January 12, 2011 CWS staff will meet with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to discuss why the applications were declined, including two in the Pacific where 75% of funding is meant to go according to its guidelines. They will also raise other concerns about the implementation of the new scheme to make sure it promotes good quality and effective community development in the interests of the people affected.
CWS is concerned by some media statements that question the standard of applications. CWS has worked successfully with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NZAID for many decades. It has received significant levels of funding and reported fully in accordance with the requirements without problem. Our partner relationships are managed by highly experienced development staff with many years of experience. CWS has been reviewed three times by independent consultants under the previous schemes (VASS and KOHA) who reported to NZAID. CWS has always received commendation for its systems and procedures which enabled it to make full use of government funding for most of its partners. In 2008 the Audit office found the KOHA scheme fully accountable. Many of our partner groups are supported by a number of partners who are also regularly reviewed by independent and government development professionals.
CWS believes the spotlight must rest on the SDF process and the confusion around its implementation to ensure good quality and effective development. There has been a lack of clear information including around the fund’s criteria that give rise for concern. CWS will work with MFAT to clarify and improve the programme. New Zealand has had a good reputation internationally for an effective aid programme, including its funding of nongovernmental organisations that can do the work that direct government aid funding cannot. We are encouraging concerned people to raise the matter through the usual political processes. Please consider raising it with your local Member of Parliament, writing to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Murray McCully. You may also like to copy it to other parliamentarians responsible for aid policies: Phil Twyford for the Labour Party, Kennedy Graham for the Greens and Hone Harawira for the Maori Party. Further updates will be provided in the new year and staff are always happy to answer further questions you may have.
I am writing to you as the New Zealand partners of Christian World Service to alert you to an urgent and serious situation facing our work. Together we have been able to help millions of people since the very first Christmas Appeal was launched exactly 65 years ago by Archbishop West Watson on behalf of New Zealand churches. The first Christmas Appeal helped the people of Greece begin to recover at the end of World War II and subsequent appeals have enabled people to survive through war and natural disaster, and improve their livelihoods through sound community development programmes. This has been done through a model of partnership that puts people at the centre of the development process and in a way that addresses the underlying causes of poverty and injustice. In recent decades the core financial support you have given has been supplemented by significant contributions from the New Zealand Government which has valued the ability of CWS partners to help people out of poverty in diverse communities. It has been a partnership relationship that received widespread recognition from its peers as providing good outcomes.
This year the New Zealand Government announced a new model of funding for non-governmental organisations like ourselves where agencies apply for funding from the Sustainable Development Fund administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CWS and most other agencies have raised concerns about the implementation of this fund which has caused widespread confusion and concern because details and processes have been slow and unclear. The Methodist Conference, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and some Anglican Diocesan Synods passed resolutions expressing concern about the scheme. On November 17, Nick Clarke from our International Programmes Team met with Church Leaders and then joined them in meeting the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to express concern about the new scheme which is widely seen as a step backwards in good development practice. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister undertook to discuss the issue with Mr McCully, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Finally, last Thursday, some one month later than promised, CWS received news that only one of its six applications had been successful. Five partner programmes missed out. The successful application will provide $132,000 for Ama Takiloa in Tonga to do important community development work for one year. In addition CWS will receive some funding to support this work. The effect of this decision is that other partners will now need to be supported directly by our New Zealand supporters or not be funded.
The Council for International Development on behalf of agencies has already written to Mr McCully raising serious concerns about what we see as a flawed and unjust process. Significant development work over many years is now in jeopardy because of these recent decisions and changes in government policy. We will need to reduce support to some international partners and withdraw from other work.
CWS has 30 long term partners. For some of these partners we are the sole funder. All have expressed concern about their future and the people with whom they work. Good development requires strong long term relationships, a stable income source and time to put in place appropriate and effective programmes. CWS is committed to all of our partners and is working hard to raise the funds to meet the gap in funding by the loss of government funds to ensure that their critical work can continue.
More than ever we need your support. We ask that you tell your congregation and community about these bad changes as we believe New Zealanders need to know what has happened. There are two immediate ways supporters can assist. Most urgently, we remind you of this year’s Christmas Appeal and encourage you to give a little more in order that we can carry on our work with those who need it most. Secondly, please consider making an extra donation or organising a fundraiser in the new year. Please contact us for details or assistance.
For 65 years CWS has been an effective means of partnership for good. Without your help this work cannot continue.
In this Advent season we ask for your prayers and support so we can continue to work for a world where all people have a decent life and the respect they deserve. I am happy to discuss the details with you further.
At 65 years Christian World Service is at the crossroads. On Thursday December 16, CWS received notice that only one of its six applications for government funding was successful. Ama Takiloa in Tonga is an effective organisation that is a broad ranging programme to improve the livelihoods of local people. So are the other partner groups but for reasons unclear to CWS they did not receive funding. CWS has a strong track record of effective partnership relationships and has always received very positive reviews for its work. With other agencies that have been similarly affected, we are writing to the government to express our concern about what has happened and asking for fair process based on good development practice. More information is available on the website: www.cws.org.nz
In the short term this means that we need to raise much more money in an effort to meet the commitments we have made to all our long term partners. They are doing vital work helping poor communities and their future is now in jeopardy. This is not the message we want to give them at Christmas so we are asking for your help. You may like to contact the government expressing your concern, but more than anything we ask you if you are able, to give generously to this year’s Christmas Appeal and encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same. With your help, we can Share the Care with those who need it the most.
In response to the many requests for more information, CWS has prepared the following points for those wanting to raise their concern about changes in the Government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) for Non Government Organisations. These concerns may be raised with friends, professional groups, congregations and/or your local MP.
You may also be interested in the briefing prepared by CWS and Caritas. The church leaders presented this to the Prime Minister in their latest meeting with him.
On 1 December 2010, CWS wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade with concerns about ongoing delays in annoucing the outcomes of the first round of new funding grants. This is now seven weeks overdue and it is increasingly difficult for our partners overseas to manage their programmes when the total funding we can provide them remains uncertain.
For those who want to write directly to the government about these or other related matters, the contact address for the Minister is:
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon Mr Murray McCully
Private Bag 18888
or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The present National led Government have been clear for some years that they planned to shift the focus of aid and development closer to home in the Pacific and to also change the way these services are run and delivered.
For 35 years there has been an effective working partnership between successive Governments and Non Government Organisations such as CWS which has delivered good aid and development programmes. This year this proven collaborative system was dropped in favour of a new centrally controlled model with all effective control now with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and their staff as directed by their Minister.
Along with this the support vehicle for New Zealand’s NGO community, the Council for International Development had its funding slashed by 90 per cent after months of uncertainty.
The emergent shape of the changes became clearer on 19 April when we were told that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was stopping the various funding schemes that have supported good aid and development for many years. The now extinct KOHA-PICD and HAF schemes had put tax dollars into strong long term relationships with partner groups that met both emergency needs and also built robust capacity and ability to take more active roles in sometimes deeply troubled societies.
The Government has now put up two new schemes which NGOs such as CWS find add up to a loss of directional control and precision in planning that is likely to undermine the locally-owned community development of our partners.
The Sustainable Development Fund with a focus on sustainable development is the new main vehicle for getting Government funding. There is no requirement for matching funds so the direct connection donors had with Government is gone. We will now have to apply for funding for many of our programmes on a much more contractual basis with a tighter time frame for delivering specific and economically focused results. This means that long term capacity building programmes will become harder to get Government funding for and more reliant on direct donor support to work.
The new Humanitarian Response Fund also shifts the emphasis in key areas, in this case on the time immediately after a natural disaster or conflict. From what we have been able to see so far this new scheme removes the capacity to help in the aftermath of disaster with rebuilding and in trauma care on a long term basis.
The other crucial major change has been on the geographical areas where the Government will provide funding. Under the new scheme the Government is requiring that by 2012/13 the funding ratio be split with 75 per cent to the Pacific, 15 per cent to South East Asia and 10 per cent to elsewhere. This will hit our own multiyear programme arrangements and will almost inevitably mean that in the absence of solid new donor support some partnerships will have to be closed down. Already our partners outside the Pacific are expressing their deep concern about the effects of such a substantial reduction in funding, even as they express gratitude for the good relationship which CWS has with them.
Our key concerns
We have identified several key areas of concern that we believe you may share with us:
1. Disappointment at the abrupt end of the successful KOHA-PICD and HAF schemes and their replacement with new schemes that at this stage offer far less flexibility and vision.
2. The erosion of many of the relationships that mean CWS supporters are able to get behind locally controlled partner programmes that are empowering and positive. Best practice development does not have an exclusive economic driver as do the new schemes. Instead it respects human rights, including social and cultural rights, factors in broad concerns such the changing climate and the causes of conflict, and improves the practical aspects of the lives and livelihoods of the world’s poorest people.
3. The need for development policies that are not just another instrument of Governmental geopolitical aims. These policies need to be flexible, empowering for recipients and able to deal with rapid change. Governments in Scandinavian states have recognised this reality for years by substantially funding NGO groups and leaving operational decisions to experts operating outside of political considerations that go along with Government.
4. The need to affirm and promote foreign policy that makes sure New Zealand is a consistent player in doing our bit to contribute towards meeting the UN mandated Millennium Development Goals, working to eradicate poverty, strengthen global relationships away from political fads and favourites, and retain the capacity to be a credible player in responding to disaster and conflict.
3 September 2010