Aotearoa New Zealand's place in a troubled world: Nanaia Mahuta highlights the significance of fostering partnership and partnering to deliver international solutions.

AuthorMahuta, Nanaia

For a generation or more, Aotearoa New Zealand has enjoyed a comparatively stable and secure world. Our interests and values have been reinforced by our commitment to an international rules-based system, by being an ardent supporter of multilateralism, a defender of universal human rights, a promoter of non-proliferation and disarmament and, more recently, an advocate for collective action on climate change. But many of the assumptions that have underpinned our foreign policy for decades are being challenged, from globalisation to the effectiveness of some multilateral institutions to the benign nature of our Pacific neighbourhood.

We have also evolved as a relatively young nation moving beyond our colonial past towards a future confidently located in and of the Pacific, articulating ourselves in a Pacific-centric way. We live in a world where the existing rules and norms are being increasingly challenged, eroded or disregarded. A country of our size and location relies on an international rules-based system to assert our common interests of shared prosperity, peace and stability.

From its earliest days--when Prime Minister Peter Fraser signed the UN Charter on behalf of New Zealand in June 1945--we have recognised that our well-being is closely tied to this international system: its commitment

* to sovereignty and territorial integrity;

* to democratic values;

* to openness and transparency;

* to universal human rights; and

* to multilateralism as the best means for solving global problems.

A shift to a more contested environment is unsettling for countries that benefit from the security of international rules and norms. A challenge to this system has wider ramifications contributing to poverty levels, indebtedness, conflict, economic exclusion and human rights abuses.

We are also living in a world where geo-strategic issues are firmly back on the diplomatic agenda. This is nowhere more apparent than in our wider home region, the IndoPacific. And we live in a world where concerns about resilience and economic security increasingly trump economic efficiency. Add to this the climate change crisis and environmental degradation and the future seems more uncertain.

Challenging times

These are challenging times for small states like Aotearoa. In my speech to the diplomatic corps in May, I spoke of the importance of giving ourselves options in a more contested environment, whether through domestic resilience, diplomacy, development assistance or security and defence interests. I spoke of what an independent foreign policy means in this troubled world:

* that we must have a robust and clear-eyed assessment of our interests and values in any given situation; and

* determine which tools are the right fit for our national circumstances.

I made it clear that an independent foreign policy does not mean isolation, neutrality or a fixed pre-determined view of how we will act on a particular issue. While we may sometimes choose to champion issues 'against the odds', an independent foreign policy does not mean, and has never meant, 'flying solo'.

I have spoken before about how we are guided in our foreign policy by our national identity and our sense of place in the world. Our journey as a nation has been marked by challenge as we seek to reference our founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty is a symbol of principles of partnership and mutual respect providing the groundwork for how we execute our foreign policy today. Both Maori and the Crown continue to evolve and grow from this partnership, and we will continue to evolve as a nationhood. Our experience in fostering bicultural relationships offers valuable insights to other nations grappling with similar challenges.

Alongside a well-established Western viewpoint of...

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