25 years ago, there were two nations striving to lead the world. The choice was clear: Communism or Capitalism. Communism was on the way out, with the U.S.S.R. about to fall, having shown itself to be unable to adapt to changes and mired in corruption. Capitalism was about to win the contest and political theorists such as Francis Fukuyama thought everyone would flock to embrace the winner.
25 years later New Zealand is entering a leaderless world. This is a world where the United Nations is no longer, despite being the official world body, a place of leadership or inspiration, with individual Security Council members working for their own perceived interests. This is a world where the rule of law no longer has the respect of many nations including those who have spent much of the post World War II era promoting just such a common legal structure that nations could abide by. The idea of a leaderless world is by no means mine, but I am increasingly of the opinion this is what it has come, or shortly will – i.e. anytime after Donald Trump is inaugurated as President on 20 January 2017.
New Zealand needs to think and act for itself, as our traditional allies and friends start to dance to their own tunes or embrace the America that Mr Trump is going to unleash. It is fair to say that after the principled stand against Israel’s occupation of the disputed territories, New Zealand probably not so highly rated in terms of nations Mr Trump wants to curry favour with. Our pandering to Saudi Arabia over agriculture, at the expense of the well being of thousands of sheep whose fate would horrify animal welfare activists however shows we need to be more consistent in our message.
Our leadership does not need to involve big bold gestures on the international stage. Indeed some of the best moves we can make are internal ones. By making New Zealand stronger domestically we are placing ourselves closer to “pole position” in terms of dealing with the domestic challenges that are going to buffet us. Among the steps I recommend New Zealand take to improve its internal strength are:
- Immediately making the purchase of property something only New Zealand permanent residents (1 property)and New Zealand citizens can do. Purchases already in progress would not be affected
- Ring fencing with “gates”, the path to holding permanent residency or citizenship so that neither can be purchased
- Introduce Civics as compulsory subject matter at High School – this will help address issues we are having with young people not knowing how the law works; apathy towards democratic practices
- Hold binding referendum to determine once and for all whether or not New Zealanders want a formal constitution, so that all parties in Parliament are bound by the outcome
Rather we need to be sensible about what a little island nation of 270,000km² is going to achieve, set some realistic yet challenging goals and stick to them. I have thought out a few below:
- Immediately raising our annual refugee quota to 1,500 refugees and 2,000 by the end of the decade
- Ratchet up our foreign aid to 0.4% of G.D.P. by 2020 – right now it sits at 0.2%, which is much lower than that of some nations with smaller economic bases than ours
- Offer to host a disarmament conference of the United Nations Permanent Five with a focus on getting rid of remaining chemical and biological weapons stockpiles; an amnesty to surrender existing stockpiles and implementing common protocols to ensure such programmes cannot be restarted
- Review our involvement in the “Five Eyes” surveillance programme so that it works for New Zealand
Sometimes, nationalism is a bad thing, as we saw in the 1930’s with Adolf Hitler, and more recently with the rise of the far right in Europe. But when you are a small island nation no longer wholly certain of who your friends and allies are, a bit of bravery and independence is not an altogether bad thing.