News Item

​Finding a Balance

News 31 May 2018

After almost a decade working as the Development Cooperation Advisor for the Pacific Islands Forum, Alfred Schuster appeared more relaxed than most at the Pacific Heads of Mission Breakfast at Auckland’s Hilton Hotel on May 25.

His nine-year stint at the Forum in Suva ended in April and he appeared more than happy to be a bystander and catch up with former colleagues and acquaintances while he’s “between jobs”.

Alfred says he left his role feeling content, having contributed in managing relationships between Pacific governments and major donors.

“Government leaders said there was a need to improve the nature of our engagement with donors, not just with setting priorities as to where the money should go, but also how we’re doing it in relation to the procedures and partnerships that were put in place,” he says.

“My role was to ensure they were keeping to the principles of best practice, ensuring money invested was through the government and not their own businesses or entities.”

A graduate from the University of Auckland with a Master’s Degree focused in Political Science and Government, Alfred has established a career in international affairs, which includes sustainable development, political science, analytical skills, programme evaluation and international relations.

Taking a meticulous approach, Alfred’s interest includes a strong focus on community and social services. He has also witnessed a noticeable improvement in how Pacific governments operate.

“They’re clearer on what their needs are in terms of infrastructure, health and education,” he says.

“Climate change is also increasing in significance throughout the region, and governments are looking at what resources are needed to improve and prepare countries better in response to growing disasters. Fund-proofing has become clearer because their policy frameworks are a lot more robust.”

Alfred concludes a common issue is ensuring leaders are consistent in their advocacy for the genuine priorities. That includes buy-in from others within the region.

“That’s easier said than done,” he says.

“We’re always good at coming together when the potential threat is an external one, but when it’s within the group itself, we find it hard to apply the same principles that we use to advocate against others. The key is finding policies we can all agree on and benefit from.”