Barry Coates

Barry Coates stepped down as Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand on March 7, 2014 after 10 years of service.

Barry Coates
Former Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director Barry Coates.

Oxfam New Zealand Board Chair, Nicki Wrighton, paid tribute to Coates, saying, “He has been an outstanding Executive Director and an inspirational leader for Oxfam and the NGO community. His depth of knowledge and passionate commitment over the past decade has driven major growth in Oxfam’s programmes to tackle extreme inequality and made Oxfam New Zealand credible and influential within the Pacific and in New Zealand. His advocacy skills have ensured that the voices of the poor influence the local and global decisions that affect them.”

Barry Coates will stand as a Green Party candidate for the next election.

Barry has devoted his career to poverty reduction and sustainable development, with a particular focus on tackling the root causes of poverty, injustice and unsustainability, and a commitment to supporting development in the Pacific.

Barry's commitment to the Pacific started in Samoa in 1978, initially as a volunteer, then subsequently in promoting small business development for the government of Samoa. After doing a Masters in Management Studies at Yale University, Barry was Head of Development Policy with the World Wildlife Fund, including attending the Earth Summit in 1992 on the British delegation. He then spent seven years as Director of the World Development Movement in the UK, including playing a leading role in international campaigns on debt, arms trade, corporate social responsibility and international trade.

Since joining Oxfam as Executive Director in October 2003, Barry has succeeded in raising the organisation's profile in New Zealand, providing a voice for development issues, increasing public funding, and developing exciting new grassroots programmes. Fundamental to this success has been building strong and respectful relationships with people and local groups, particularly in the poorest areas of the Pacific and Southeast Asia where Oxfam focuses its work.

Barry has played a major role in Oxfam New Zealand's advocacy work, including working with Pacific civil society and governments in their efforts to secure a fair deal in trade negotiations with the European Union; work that will continue in the future during similar negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. Trade advocacy has also included lobbying on WTO Doha negotiations and support for Tongan and Samoan civil society as their countries work through the process of joining the World Trade Organisation.

Barry has played a key role in raising public awareness of Fairtrade in New Zealand. The past six years has seen a huge rise in sales of Fairtrade products, with annual sales growing from NZ $200,000 in 2004, to over NZ $36 million in 2010 - the fastest growth of Fairtrade product sales in the world. This has resulted in substantial benefits for farmers in developing countries.

"Oxfam's work is about making a difference at the top of the cliff, not helping people at the bottom. This means working with local people to understand the causes of poverty. It means providing a hand up, not a hand out. It means building peace and promoting sustainability, to protect vulnerable people from violence and the impacts of climate change. And it means supporting people to gain their rights to basic needs like health care, education, clean water, and their rights to have a voice in society."

Barry is a Board member of Fair Trade Australia and New Zealand, Board member of the Global Campaign for Climate Action, past Chair of the New Zealand Council for International Development, and past Chair of Make Poverty History Aotearoa New Zealand. Barry has also served on the advisory group for the Minister of Trade for the last government and on the aid advisory board for the current Minister of Foreign Affairs.