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March 12, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Wellington Hosts NZIIA Conference

The New Zealand Institute of International Affairs (NZIIA) brought together New Zealanders “from all walks of life” to discuss how New Zealand can navigate global disruption. The conference was held on February 27 2018 in Wellington.

The theme of the conference was “The Law of the Jungle: How can New Zealand Navigate Global Disruption”. Speakers from many fields discussed various interpretations of this phrase. There were five sessions, and a keynote conversation with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tim Wright.

The conference covered New Zealand’s relationships with other countries, with particular regards to the issues of nuclear disarmament, free trade and climate change.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern touched upon these issues in her keynote address, and was eager to stress the relevance of international relations to all New Zealanders.

“We ignore the domestic impacts of international relations at our peril.”

The Prime Minister further spoke at length about her interest in keeping the primacy of New Zealand interests in the Government’s foreign policy, with specific regard to the regions, iwi, and women.

Arden stated: “Ultimately, my hope is that New Zealanders recognise themselves in the approach this Government takes”.

Notably, the Prime Minister announced the reinstatement of the Cabinet position of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, which had been removed under the previous government. The Rt Hon Winston Peters will take on the portfolio, which is understood to be largely symbolic.

Other notable speakers included: the High Commissioners to New Zealand of Australia and the United Kingdom, the Ambassador of Japan, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tim Wright.

Mr Wright’s organisation, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in introducing a United Nations ban on nuclear weapons. He was interviewed by Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas about the role that nuclear weapons play in war and peace.

Victoria University Professor Tim Naish and Dr Fiona Barker gave speeches regarding “Security: threats without borders”. Naish discussed the work of the Antarctic Research Centre in relation to climate change; Barker spoke about migration and how New Zealand is not leading the world with refugee uptake.  

A recurring theme throughout the conference was the importance of maintaining strong international relations. This was to be achieved by a commitment to the shared values and institutions that have helped preserve peace internationally since World War Two. Ultimately, New Zealand must be prepared to adapt to today’s rapidly changing world.

As the Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Tim Keating put it, even “the laws of the jungle are still laws”.

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