In a spech to the United Nations Association on Saturday, National's foreign affairs spokesperson Murray McCully called for New Zealand to focus its aid on the Pacific. But while McCully had clearly done his homework on the sorts of projects NZAID funds in other parts of the world, he omitted one vital fact: the government already does exactly what he is suggesting. A quick look at the 2006 estimates of appropriation for Vote: Official Development Assistance [PDF] shows that approximately two-thirds of our current aid spending is classed as "Pacific Development Assistance", and only one third "Global Development Assistance" ($466.72 million vs $224.43 million over three years) - up from 47% five years ago. "A core geographical focus on the Pacific" was a key part of NZAID's mandate when it was split off from MFAT in 2002, and so far it has lived up to it.
As for the wider point, it is appropriate that we focus our efforts on our immediate neighbours. We have close cultural ties with many of the Pacific islands (sometimes as a former colonial master; more often because we have large expat communities living here), it is logistically easy to assist them, and few other countries are interested in the region. That means that if we don't help, no-one else will. In addition, we have an interest in ensuring that our neighbours are peaceful and stable, and aid is a way of promoting this. However, that doesn't mean we should completely ignore the rest of the world. There are problems beyond our backyard too, and we should do what we can to help with them.