Learning from New Zealand Agency for International Development


SEATTLE, Washington — NZAID, or the New Zealand Agency for International Development, works to provide targeted global aid to Pacific and Asian nations as well as emerging high-risk nations worldwide. Through the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the agency’s New Zealand Aid Program funds dozens of globally-based projects and adjusts its budget regularly to address foreign aid’s top needs. While NZAID’s programs address many global dilemmas, key strategies used in four successful areas can be translated to other foreign aid organizations. NZAID’s most notable foreign aid effectiveness includes programs addressing health, education, humanitarian and trade and labor policy.


NZAID’s mission to provide and support equitable healthcare in developing nations is fulfilled through its work with the United Nations and international NGOs. NZAID had an expenditure of approximately $30 million on health aid alone throughout 2018 and 2019, which allowed the agency to provide essential medicines and health services to 17,705 people globally. With this realistic and flexible budget, NZAID delivered care and measles vaccinations in Samoa to 132,935 people, bolstered by the deployment of more than 100 medical professionals and additional funding for 15,000 vaccines just last year.

The first Pacific Islands Forum report released in 2019 also showed that in Pacific nations where New Zealand is now a strong donor, other health metrics including infant and maternal health, clean water accessibility and improved sanitation systems have all improved since NZAID increased investments within the past decade. A critical component of the agency’s goals for the next year includes expanding healthcare and protection to women, ensuring sexual reproduction rights and promoting gender equity within medicine to create lasting cultural changes that advance nations’ ability to treat its citizens.


In 2006, when NZODA, the New Zealand Official Development Assistance Agency, was relaunched as NZAID, education emerged as an aid sector requiring improvement in its approach. Since 2006, New Zealand has invested $30 million into a three-year program to restructure the Solomon Islands’ education system. That funding fell under NZAID’s Education Strategic Plan which has advocated for equitable access to quality basic education for all children and access to communal, technical, vocational and tertiary education.

In 2009, the New Zealand Agency for International Development supported another nation’s restructuring of education, this time in Vanuatu. In 2010, NZAID increased its education aid expenditure again by almost $1.2 million. NZAID’s work in promoting education is also fulfilled by its commitment to providing four distinct categories of scholarships to citizens of developing Asian Pacific nations. These scholarships include the New Zealand Scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate study, New Zealand Short Term Training Scholarships for Pacific and Timor-Leste citizens, New Zealand Short Term Scholarships for citizens of Southeast Asia and Timor-Leste and the New Zealand English Language Training for Officials Scholarships. In 2018 and 2019 alone, NZAID sponsored 600 individuals to pursue higher education through these scholarships.

Humanitarian Efforts

NZAID’s commitment to humanitarian aid proactiveness combined with a $77.7 million expenditure in the sector last year enabled the agency to quickly address emerging humanitarian needs, including an active COVID-19 response. In 2018 and 2019, NZAID trained 855 individuals in disaster relief across the Pacific and Caribbean. In the same period, NZAID also provided aid to Indonesia, Sulawesi and the Sunda Strait following natural disasters. The agency also provided famine relief in Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Venezuela and Palestine in addition to assisting in the Rohingya crisis response.

In May, amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, NZAID announced a $7 million contribution to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan run by the United Nations for COVID-19 relief. This funding is allocated toward providing humanitarian aid and medical intervention for vulnerable groups, such as the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and individuals affected by conflict in Syria and Yemen. The $7 million funding is also being used to provide nutritious food, shelter and emergency education for children, and medical attention for expectant mothers in those regions.

Trade and Labor Mobility

NZAID works to advance global humanitarian efforts, solve local dilemmas and promote equity across all sectors largely through its strategic trade policies. Free Trade Agreements specifically allow NZAID to enter legally binding contracts with developing nations that often eliminate tariffs, simplify the customs process for the exporting and importing nation, streamline traveling between nations and, most notably, secure efficient routes for aid delivery. NZAID promotes competition and low-risk trade through these agreements by ensuring the contracts are neutral and do not favor New Zealand’s foreign affairs agenda above other nations.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, NZAID implemented the Trade Recovery Strategy to uphold the intended benefits of Free Trade Agreements. Within the detailed plan, NZAID has made commitments to the advancement of trade and labor mobility by funding an additional $216 million to the New Zealand Trade Enterprise over the next four years. The enterprise oversees trade relations with 700 firms and 700 internet-based services that export to New Zealand. NZAID’s ability to quickly stimulate the economies that rely on New Zealand aid and trade has led to a less dramatic dip in economic activity than in other regions, protecting both New Zealanders and citizens of developing nations.

The New Zealand Agency for International Development uses an interconnected approach to help the world’s poor access quality healthcare, education, humanitarian resources and trade and labor policies remain successful. With almost two decades of effective aid, New Zealand serves as an example of how even a small developed nation can create lasting effects in developing nations through strategic, flexible and targeted approaches to aid.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr


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