Small nations ‘need to fight for their values’ amid global instability

NZ deputy prime minister says democracy ‘under attack’ in way not seen for generations

New Zealand’s minister for  foreign affairs  Winston Peters. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

New Zealand’s minister for foreign affairs Winston Peters. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.


Small states such as Ireland and New Zealand need to fight for their values and assert their interests in a time of global instability, New Zealand’s minister for foreign affairs has told an audience in Dublin.

In an address to the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) on Tuesday, Winston Peters said we had entered “a period of dangerous uncertainty in global affairs”.

“The global system underpinning our security and prosperity for the past 75 years is under unprecedented stress,” Mr Peters said.

“The values and norms on which that system rests – democracy, respect for human rights, open societies and open economies – are under attack in a way not seen for generations.”

Mr Peters, who is also the country’s deputy prime minister, said the commitment of key players to the global rules-based system, which had regulated trade and reduced conflict between states, “is now a matter of uncertainty”.

“And we are seeing efforts to reshape the world in ways that do not always support our interests or reflect our values. For small states like New Zealand and Ireland, who have much to lose from global instability and the abandonment of rules, this is a real and present danger,” he said.

‘Speak up’

He said that despite their size, Ireland and New Zealand had “never been afraid to speak up for ourselves and for what we believe in”.

It was not surprising that both countries had made strategic decisions in the past year to expand their diplomatic engagement.

Mr Peters was in Ireland to mark the opening of a New Zealand embassy in Dublin on Monday and his country also opened an embassy in Stockholm last week.

“The investment comes…as Europe undergoes its largest geo-strategic shift in decades as the United Kingdom exits the European Union, ” he said.

“As we work through the implications of this both for the region and for our own interests; as we deepen our cooperation with European partners on issues ranging from climate change to global security and as we launch negotiations towards a free trade agreement with the EU – our commitment to our European partners is stronger than ever.”

He continued: “As the European Union evolves post-Brexit, we will also seek Ireland’s insights on the nature of these changes and what they might mean for Ireland, as well as for third countries like New Zealand.”


Mr Peters said there were several areas where he hoped to see New Zealand and Ireland working more closely together.

“The foremost is of course climate change, where we are fast running out of time to avoid catastrophe. We need to intensify our efforts to identify practical solutions.”

He said there was much more the two countries could do in terms of bilateral cooperation and, in particular, there was “considerable untapped potential” in trade and economic relations.

“These links are currently fairly modest, with little more than $400 million in two way goods and services trade annually,” he said. “We can and will do better in the years ahead, as New Zealand companies give Ireland a closer look when considering how to manage their European operations in a post-Brexit environment.”

Mr Peters also reasserted his country’s support for Ireland’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2021-2022 term and said it stood ready to provide whatever help it could.