The law of the jungle: how can New Zealand navigate global disruption? Maty Nikkhou-O'Brien reports on the NZIIA's recent annual conference.

Position:CONFERENCE REPORT - Conference news
 
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The NZIIA's annual conference took place on 27 February 2018 at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was our keynote speaker, making her first formal speech on issues relating to international relations. (The text of her speech is to be found elsewhere in this issue.) There was a strong media presence, including Sky News, Al Jazeera, Business Desk, New Zealand Herald and Dominion Post. More than 300 diplomats, students, professors, businesspeople, civil servants and interested members of the public were engaged in a day of thought provoking exchange.

The theme and tide for the conference sums up the challenge faced by New Zealand and similar small outward looking states. Laws and norms that once seemed stable are being challenged, or disrupted, at a frenetic pace. We were fortunate to have speakers from civil society, government, business, and academia in the five one-hour sessions, the keynote and a security conversation. Each session was a panel discussion.

In the first session, "The World Order Today: Is it Fit for Purpose?', speakers took a sober view of how well adapted international systems are to today's world. We heard how artificial intelligence will change everything, with 46 per cent of jobs in Australia and New Zealand to be replaced by robots within twenty years, according to one study, and this will have a flow on effect to relations between states. Also noted were such recent constructive developments as the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris accord on climate change and the fact that 137,000 are lifted out of poverty every day worldwide; yet given these successes, pessimism in 'the West' is de rigueur, especially when compared to the early 2000s. The importance of the broad Indo-Pacific region to Australia was also mentioned.

In the second session, 'Security: Threats without Borders', the panelists anticipated threats that transcend borders, such as rising sea levels, mass migrations and terrorism. With 65 million people forced to migrate worldwide, we face a crisis that is greater than the effects of all the natural disasters in the world combined, yet one that receives far less attention. Also highlighted was the fact that the so-called global war on terror has encouraged an 'anything goes' attitude, putting the lives of medical professionals and patients at risk. We also heard how climate change is 'fundamentally unfair', that poor countries, especially equatorial countries, with low per...

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