I grew up in Palmerston North in the 1960s during a period of generous government investment in health and education. I was part of a generation that benefitted from great child health and early childhood development services, such as in my case, school milk, Playcentre and Plunket.
We had opportunities that our parents did not: my mum and dad had both left school at the end of what was then Form Two, but they were determined that their four children would complete high school.
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Today, I am the vice president for human development at the World Bank Group, overseeing financing operations and projects worth more than NZ$15 billion a year. In no small part, this is because I was fortunate enough to grow up in a stable, prosperous country which made effective investments in health, nutrition and education, especially in early childhood.
New Zealand's success story is often told in terms of its lamb, wool, kiwifruit and agricultural exports. But our country's greatest asset has always been our people, who have been equipped to do amazing things in Aotearoa and on the global stage – from Alan MacDiarmid to Taika Waititi to Black Grace.
New Zealand's own development story, with its history of investment in "building human capital", to use the World Bank's language, means our country has much to share with the world and especially low-income countries.
Beyond knowledge-sharing, one of the most effective ways to demonstrate solidarity with the world's poorest countries is through the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), the fund for the poorest countries, which is negotiating its next three-year funding package with our 55 country donor partners.
New Zealand has been a member of IDA for more than 40 years. In that time, IDA has helped countries to grow their way out of poverty, and many of these successful countries are now themselves donors, and New Zealand's trading partners.
But the countries that remain poor are frequently extremely fragile and struggle to invest in their own people, while also dealing with conflicts and climate change.
New Zealand is small but punches above its weight in the international arena. It relies on — but also strengthens — global institutions such as the World Bank with its presence and voice.
IDA fights extreme poverty by creating opportunities for people in the world's poorest countries through grants and very concessional loans. It is now the second-largest donor in the Pacific region, supporting 61 projects worth nearly NZ$2.35 billion. Since 2011, the number of Pacific operations has more than tripled, while disbursements have more than sextupled.
Many of these grants and loans are delivered in line with the Bank's global Human Capital Project. Around the world, nearly 60 per cent of children born today will, at best, be only half as productive as they could be if they had complete education and full health. More than half the children living in developing countries cannot read by the age of 10.
Making progress on human capital is at the heart of the Pacific region's path towards sustainable development.
In Tonga, IDA is helping 10,500 youths reach their potential by supporting the government to provide cash transfers so parents can keep their children in high school. We are working too to improve technical and vocational courses to make graduates more employable, not only in Tonga but also in Australia and New Zealand.
In Papua New Guinea, support from IDA has helped more than 18,000 disadvantaged young people complete employment training and work placement, and open bank accounts.
As well as supporting human capital, IDA is investing across the Pacific in building systems and infrastructure that can better withstand shocks from climate change, boosting regional integration, helping strengthen debt policies and debt management, and is ready with access to finance when crises occur. IDA's mission is in lockstep with New Zealand's Pacific Reset policy in supporting Pacific countries' resilience to climate change, improved governance, and closing gender gaps.
New Zealand is small but punches above its weight in the international arena. It relies on — but also strengthens — global institutions such as the World Bank with its presence and voice. This translates into country-led efforts to improve living standards and stability. In the Human Capital Project's first year, 63 low- and middle-income countries have signed up to invest more in their people.
The Gambia, for example, prioritised a programme to enable the poorest households to cover basic needs while investing in childhood education. Pakistan launched a flagship policy to use data and technology to reduce inequality. And Mali announced major reforms to make health services free for under-5s and pregnant women.
I was lucky to be born at a time when New Zealand was able to invest in nurturing Kiwi children. That made my life chances so much greater than those of a girl born today in Chad – a country with one of the world's highest infant-mortality rates.
By showing solidarity with the world's poorest nations, New Zealand can use its experience and voice to export its human development success story — and continue to use its mana to build greater stability and prosperity around the world.
• Annette Dixon is the Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank Group