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Monday, February 18, 2008

NZAID's Funding of Radical Organisations To Be Investigated

While New Zealand's government overseas aid agency, NZAID is clearly struggling, its projected taxpayer funding is rising fast.

NZAID's programme budget rises from $359 million in the last financial year to $429 million this year.

By 2010-11 the aid budget will reach $601 million, or 0.35 of GNI (gross national income).

Leaving aside the ethics and efficacy of foreign aid, it is imperative that such a huge chunk of national income is donated wisely and in New Zealand's best interest.

There is some evidence that there are problems on both counts.

The bulk of New Zealand's aid money is distributed by NZAID's Global Group.

Director of Globaal Group is Don Clarke, who has been;

...director of NZAID’s Global Group since the agency was established in 2002. Don has extensive experience in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector, especially in the area of international aid and development.

His professional experience has included national-level administration, strategic planning, programme development, policy development and advocacy in organisations such as the Council for International Development, where he was executive director from 1990–1994, and the Commonwealth Foundation (London), where he was deputy director from 1995–1998. Don has also been a journalist and publisher.

NZAID neglects to mention that Mr Clarke has also been a long time socialist activist.

I believe that Mr Clarke, was in the 1980's a leading member of the Maoist leaning Workers Communist League. Certainly he has a long history of association with Maoists and Workers communist League members.

Here are some highlights of Mr Clarke's early career.

In the early 70s Don Clarke was Dunedin contact for the anti Vietnam War, Organisation to Halt Military Service (OHMS). This group was headed by Clarke's friend, Robert Reid, a Maoist and later a member of the Workers Communist League.

In 1975, Don Clarke was chairman of the selection panel charged with choosing delegates for a NZ University Students Association tour to China. Of the several Maoists on the tour at least two, John Ryall and Harold Merriman went on to join organisations preceding or succeeding the Workers Communist League.

By 1983, Don Clarke was involved in the "aid" agency CORSO, based in Wellington. Representing that organisation, Mr Clarke addressed a Wellington demo on November the 4th, protesting the US invasion of Grenada. Wellington CORSO was heavily populated in the '80s, by Workers Communist League linked activists such as Dave Cuthbert, Paulette Keating, Sandy Smith and David Stott.

In 1987, Don Clarke went on the first New Zealand coffee picking brigade to Nicaragua. "Salient" No 4, 1987, carried an article on Nicaragua, by Carol Stevenson. Those wanting more information were urged to contact Don Clarke at CORSO or Gordon Campbell of the Latin America Committee.

In July that year, Don Clarke addressed the South Pacific Conference for Peace and Justice in Central America in Wellington. Among those listed as sponsoring the conference were the Socialist Unity Party, the Socialist Action League and the Workers Communist League.

In 1988 Don Clarke was CORSO International Programmes officer.

By 1990 Clarke was spokesman for the Vietnam Action/Information Network (VAIN). He wrote an article for the Socialist Unity Party's "Tribune" of July 30th entitled "US Drops Khmer Rouge", on the Cambodian crisis. He implored through Tribune for people to join VAIN. Sandy Smith and other Workers Communist League linked activists were also involved in VAIN.

In March that year, Don Clarke, representing the "Nicaragua Must Survive Campaign" wrote a full page article for the Workers Communist League's "Unity" newspaper on the recent electoral defeat of the Sandinista government. This was Unity's last issue before the WCL morphed into a new organisation, "Left Currents".

In 1991 Clarke was the producer (Through New Work Trust) of a new journal focusing on union issues, "Labour Notes". Many contributors to Labour Notes had former Workers Communist League or Left Currents connections including Robert Reid, Maxine Gay, Campbell Duignan, Bruce Cronin, John Ryall, David Steele and the late Rob Steven.

From 1990 to 1994, Clarke was national co-ordinator of the Council for International Development, an umbrella group of NZ "aid" agencies". At least two former WCL members were involved in CID, Robert Reid and Sue Bradford.

In 1994 Clarke participated in the "Building Our Own Futures Project". Other BOOF participants included WCL or Left Currents linked activists, Robert Reid, Maxine Gay, Sue Bradford, Bill Bradford and Quentin Jukes.

Is there a pattern here?

Don Clarke's current organisation gives money to his previous organisation, the Council for International Development (CID).

One example (however tiny in the scheme of things) is the $30,000 odd per year that NZAID gives to CID's NGO travel fund.

CID is an umbrella organisation of New Zealand "aid" organisations.

Many of these are quite legitimate charitable organisations, but many are socialist activist organisations.

Most of the the travel grants approved by the CID NGO travel fund appear quite legitimate, but some certainly ring alarm bells.

For instance this 2007 grant;

Latin America Solidarity Committee – Richard Jeffrey to attend the Encuentro of the Zapatista Communities with the Peoples of the World conference to be held in Chiapas Province, Mexico, 21-31 July 2007 $3,500

When I queried Don Clarke over this funding, he seemed unconcerned.

Mr Clarke seemed to think it was a perfectly valid to spend taxpayers money to send an activist to meet up with armed Mexican revolutionaries.

Perusing the CID annual reports have thrown up some other interesting grants.

Some seem to have gone to organisations, that I would consider more political than aid oriented, such as the Latin America Committee and the Wellington Palestine Group, both organisations with past Workers Communist League connections

Some grants went clearly socialist or anarchist oriented organisations. Some went to people previously organisationally involved with Mr Clarke.

This is not surprising or sinister as the New Zealand aid/NGO community is small and tends to attract people with a socialist bent.

In the next few days, I will analyse some of CID's NGO travel fund grants on this blog.

I will send my analyses to Mr Clarke for comment.


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