A Pacific bubble, Human trafficking with closed borders, Press freedom, and more.

Posted on 12 May 2020

+ MFAT's pivot to COVID-19 and a new normal

Jonathan Kings, Deputy Secretary of the Pacific and Development Group, gives a personal account of how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade responded in the first few days of the pandemic, and what partnership might look like in the future.

"‘How we deliver’ will look a lot different. We are likely to rely much more than before on digitally-enabled ways of delivering aid projects. We will also need to strengthen coordination efforts with governments and other development partners so that collective response and recovery efforts are maximised," he says in a DevPolicy blog.

Priorities will be:

  • Scaled-up focus on health system strengthening.
  • A broad suite of economic response and recovery measures (for more inclusive, diversified, climate-resilient economies)
  • Social protection and social inclusion measures that if not addressed lead to fragility and vulnerability within countries and particularly for the most disadvantaged communities. 
"One thing that has stood out to me since the pandemic began is the incredible commitment and determination from so many people and organisations in our partner countries and in New Zealand to adapt to these extremely challenging circumstances."

+ A Pacific bubble? A win-win

This idea has been floated by a number of organisations in New Zealand and the Pacific. It could be a win-win for everyone.

In Australia, the Minister for International Development Alex Hawke has indicated the Pacific could well be next, after New Zealand – provided countries continue to successfully manage the pandemic, reports joe Rafalowicz of the Lowy Institute. 

Early signs are positive. Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have had no infections at all, while Fiji had just 18 cases, with no new infections in the last two weeks. New Caledonia has not had a new case in several weeks. Tonga has had no cases, is even looking at re-opening night clubs.

A relaxation on travel restrictions would have an enormous impact on the lives of children in the region and help the region to rebuild its economies after tourism has collapsed.

In the Cook Islands, tourism accounts for about 70% of GDP. In Vanuatu and Tonga, it's over 40%.

"The Pacific Island Forum has compared the response to Covid-19 to the Tuvaluan concept of “te fale-pili” – meaning houses which are close to one another have a moral responsibility to protect each other in times of hardship."

That includes New Zealand and Australia.

"Another major income source for families in the Pacific is remittances; they are a greater share of Pacific economies than aid, and represent between 5­–40% of the GDP of Pacific countries. The World Bank estimates that due to Covid-19, global remittances are projected to decline by approximately 20%, making this economic shock the largest decline in remittances in recorded history."

If we truly are 'one Pacific family' with a 'shared identity', now is our chance to prove that by extending our bubble to family and friends across our borders.


+ Closing borders will not stop trafficking

You might think closing of borders and new travel restrictions to combat COVID-19 would hinder human trafficking.

The reality is the opposite.


In ASEAN the economic and social pressures that create community vulnerability to trafficking will be further exacerbated by the COVID response.

The number of susceptible people will increase and the nature of their vulnerabilities intensify, thus creating increased opportunities for traffickers. Lack of social protection for the urban and rural poor leaves them few options to access an income, and exploitation of children while no longer at school and with families that are indebted are just some of the issues.

Traffickers prey on such vulnerabilities and will no doubt forge new business models and continue to thrive in this environment. The full article is available here.


+ The future for aid charities at risk, according to staff

A majority of development professionals globally believe the coronavirus poses an existential threat to their careers and organizations, according to an exclusive Devex survey, writes Vince Chadwick and Emma Smith of Devex.

"A majority — 55% — said they were concerned their organization would not financially survive the pandemic. At a personal level, 57% were concerned they would lose their job, 63% said their activities had been reduced, and 24% reported a loss of employment or income."

Small and medium-sized NGOs across the world have previously said they are at risk of having to conduct mass layoffs if things don’t pick up, with fundraising events cancelled and donations dropping.

Bond, the U.K. network for development NGOs, found that 50 out of 116 organizations it surveyed — 43% — could close because of the financial pressures sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CID will be conducting a survey of its members in the next few weeks to gauge the state of the New Zealand sector, and the options for greater collaboration between aid organisations to increase impact.


+ DFID Assistance to UK NGO's

The U.K.’s Department of International Development has announced measures to help struggling organizations in the development sector, but NGOs are calling for more support.

As in New Zealand, the measures and economic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 response has caused significant financial problems for the development community.

At the beginning of April, NGO leaders called for more government support and flexibility in the UK to avoid bankruptcy and ensure their work continues. The poll, conducted by Bond, the network for U.K. development NGOs, surveyed 93 organisations of different sizes. It revealed that 56 of those surveyed — or about 60% — have already frozen recruitment, furloughed or laid off employees, or asked staff to voluntarily take unpaid leave.

Last week the UK secretary of state for international development, sent a letter to DFID’s supply partners outlining support for “relief on services and goods provided in the UK, to DFID aid programmes” to be made on a case-by-case basis. 

There will be payment in advance to meet ongoing costs where there is a strong value for money case, up to a ceiling of 25% of the value of the contract. DFID will also provide support for continued cash flow for partners delivering essential aid programmes, including the continuation of payments where all other options have been exhausted and the programme is paused. 

The decision was met with a mixed reaction from Bond.

+ Role of INGOs in NZ National Emergencies

To keep our resources and reference materials up to date, it is key to understand what the role might be for some INGOs in the coordination of National Emergencies within New Zealand:

  • The Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS) 2nd Edition describes New Zealand’s coordination, command, and control system for emergency responses in NZ. (Although this will be superseded by the CIMS 3rd edition document from 1 July 2020).
  • The Guide to the National CDEM Plan 2015 is a living document that operationalises the National CDEM Plan 2015 (2nd tier legislation that supports the CDEM Act 2002). It’s a useful general document to dip in/ out of, particularly;
    • Section 14. Welfare services – for understanding of the MCDEM welfare services portfolio, and the arrangements that a number of NZ-based NGOs and a few INGOs have roles and responsibilities within
    • Section 31. International assistance – CID and the Humanitarian Network (or rather ‘NDRF’) are mentioned under s31.7.2 (in relation to c146(f)(v) under the National CDEM Plan 2015)
  • The Welfare Services in an Emergency Director’s Guideline (DGL) provides further information on the welfare services arrangements and sub-functions.
  • There is also a NCMC International Function SOP, but this is still very much a work in progress for a while, and now on hold given the current response.

+ Making sure peace isn't a casualty of COVID

The response to COVID and versions of lockdown continue to affect people in developing countries in far more devastating ways than in richer countries.

"As a result of measures to contain the coronavirus’s spread, the spectre of “biblical” hunger now hangs over much of the globe...," writes Céline MonnierHabib Mayar in The World Politics Review.

For fragile and conflict-affected countries, the pandemic represents a grim, dual challenge that risks threatening a precious good.

The health minister of Afghanistan announced that 80 per cent of the population may be affected by the virus.

In Yemen, the war has destroyed more than half of the country’s hospitals.

Closer to home, in Timor Leste, the country’s Petroleum Fund has already lost $1.8 billion in value after a drop in global demand due to the pandemic caused oil prices to fall—and this was before the mid-April collapse in the global oil market. The fund covers Timor-Leste’s infrastructure needs and provides critical financing for social protection programs.

The global slowdown in trade will disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable, no matter how far away they are in the supply chain from the pandemic’s epicentre.

Remittances—a key source of income in the developing world—are way down.

The world needs to unite in a joint effort to support the most fragile countries:

+ Press freedom under attack: a Filipino story

ABS-CBN, the largest television network in the Philippines, has been ordered to cease operations after President Rodrigo Duterte's allies in Congress refused to renew the station's 25-year licence, writes Al Jazeera.

Danilo Arao, a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines said "This closure order is clearly an attack on press freedom and we should confront this head-on. The administration should be exposed as the real enemy of press freedom," he told Al Jazeera. 

Since becoming president in June 2016, Duterte has repeatedly claimed that ABS-CBN refused to run his political advertisements during the campaign season - allegations denied by the network.

ABS-CBN's coverage of Duterte's so-called war on drugs, which has killed thousands of people, also angered the Philippine president. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounced the "dastardly move" of the Duterte administration. 

This is one of the many stories of human rights repression and authoritarianism under the cloak of Covid-19. 

"Some governments are exploiting this moment – to suppress relevant information uncomfortable for the government or use the situation as a pretext to crack down on critical voices, writes Amnesty International.

+ Update from DevNet 2020 Conference Committee

Conference is still planned for  2-4 December.

It will be a mix of virtual and (hopefully) in-person participation for those who are able to get to Palmerston North, says Jo Spratt, CID's rep on the DevNet Conference Committee.

"We're planning to get virtual hubs participating from across Pacific Island Countries, and potentially beyond. Watch this space. For now, the most important thing is to get your ideas for sessions in.

Head to the Conference website, download the template, and share your thoughts on what you'd like to see, hear and present on at the Conference. This is your chance to contribute your organisation's experience and learning to a collective conversation about development matters.

We're really keen to showcase NGOs' work so make sure you get your sessions submissions in by 1 June 2020. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions:
Second, a huge thanks to Shona Jennings from ChildFund, who was also a rep on the Committee with me until she left to join the Swedish Childfund team. Thanks so much, Shona for your thoughtful contributions, and your desire to make sure the DevNet 2020 Conference work for the people in our organisations who do the hard graft of managing programmes."

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+ CID Members Advocacy Snapshot: January-April 2020

One of our amazing interns looked at the CID members' advocacy priorities for the period January-April 2020. The report highlights a drastic shift in focus of the advocacy activities of CID members from previous periods, due to the current climate and recent events. 

The most prominent theme of this period was COVID-19 related campaigns, making up almost half of the advocacy campaigns recorder in this report. The scope of advocacy in this thematic area primarily included activities related to awareness-raising in vulnerable communities, namely in the Pacific, and also domestic reform and campaigns in New Zealand providing support to those affected most significantly by the pandemic.

Emergency relief advocacy related to Tropical Cyclone Harold and the Australian Bushfires was also notable during this period, collectively making up 28% of Members’ advocacy activities. A remarkable campaign was the Child-Friendly Spaces campaign conducted by Save The Children, focused on supporting children affected by the Australian bushfires.

Continue reading here.

+ New 'report card' on Asia-Pacific aid donors

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) have touted themselves as the much-needed alternatives to the Western-dominated traditional International Finance Institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The two new banks entered the development financing landscape to much fanfare with their mandate of catering to the development needs of the South, particularly in building sustainable infrastructure. Five years into their operation, how do they fare in relation to commitments on sustainable development, development cooperation, and people's rights in Asia-Pacific?

This research published by The Reality of Aid - Asia Pacific (RoA-AP) and CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Asia investigates and scrutinizes the nature of AIIB and NDB in relation to the Bank's governance and power structures, "green" investments, adherence to Development Effectiveness Principles especially that of transparency and accountability, and neoliberal policies that effectively capture sustainable development and shrink civic space.

+ COVID-19 Resources 

 Events During Lockdown
+ CID Activities
  • Humanitarian Network COVID-19 (& DRP) coordination meetings
  • CEOs catch up
  • Webinar - 'COVID-19 & Public-Health in the Pacific'
  • 2 workshops on 'Effective Communication post COVID-19' held
  • Code compliance self-assessment meeting with new members.
  • Preparations for next (previously deferred) CID Humanitarian Network & Code of Conduct Committee meetings
  • Preparation for online 'Governance' workshop
  • Membership engagement: 1 on 1 calls with CEOs continued
  • Preparation to develop CID Member Program and Fundraising Network groups
  • COVID-19 CID updates compiled and shared on our website
  • ACFID/PIANGO/CID meetings and actions


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