MFAT at 75.

AuthorPeters, Winston
Position75th anniversary of New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Winston Peters lauds the achievements of the New Zealand foreign service and suggests that it needs to have the courage to take the risks required to grasp future opportunities.

"The longer you can look back, the further you can look forward.' (Winston Churchill)

As we examine the 75 years of foreign ministry service we should do so with an eye to the future. There are lessons from the past which will give clues about the future challenges we will face and also guide what diplomatic strategies we will need to adopt.

This country's fundamental principles are clear to us all and universally accepted--we value and advocate an international rules-based order, we value the Western democratic model that our history has shaped and we value the fundamentals of human rights and legal frameworks. Identifying this is the easier bit. Harder is knowing how to successfully defend those principles when they come under real-power pressure, regardless from whom.

A platinum jubilee also invokes a special quality, one worthy of celebration. When the ministry was formed in 1943 New Zealand had still not achieved sovereignty over its own law making nor granted its people their own citizenship. Those features of a self-confident and independent state would follow in 1947 and 1948, respectively. The ministry's history, therefore, also traces and intersects at key points New Zealand's journey towards an independence that today we can proudly call the jewel in our foreign policy.

Warning sign

That great conservative Winston Churchill once said, 'Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.' Reflecting on the issues and successes of the past provides vital context for the challenges we face today. It is fashionable to always refer to the current era as being subject to levels of complexity and uncertainty that are unprecedented. But now-ism, the belief that everything that is happening to you is unique, can be a trap. While the pace of change today is unprecedented, the fundamental challenges faced by earlier eras were profound. For this reason understanding the issues and successes of the past is a vital context for our emerging challenges.

When we look at New Zealand's foreign policy actions over the last 75 years it is remarkable how the underlying themes of our approach are the same. For 75 years, New Zealand has prioritised safeguarding our national security and seeking international peace, developing commercial opportunities for New Zealanders and preserving the environment and natural resources. In that sense our foreign approach has stayed much the same. What is changing is the resurfacing of some past trends. Looking across the globe today, it is possible to identify trends along the fault lines of...

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