New Zealand's South Pacific Policy: Current Directions and Approaches: Tetiana Starodub Provides an Eastern European Perspective on New Zealand's Regional Role

By Starodub, Tetiana | New Zealand International Review, May-June 2013 | Go to article overview
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New Zealand's South Pacific Policy: Current Directions and Approaches: Tetiana Starodub Provides an Eastern European Perspective on New Zealand's Regional Role


Starodub, Tetiana, New Zealand International Review


The increasing role that the so-called small states have begun to play in solving both global and regional problems is a characteristic of current international affairs. Under the bipolar system of international relations, the term 'small state' was usually interpreted as small countries with limited economic and human potential. Following the end of the decolonisation process and the collapse of the Soviet Union, this definition has been applied also to the numerous new countries that have emerged on the map of the world. Now the 'small countries' are usually divided into two groups--developing states with a population of a few thousand to three million people and economically developed countries with three to eight million people. According to Evan Luard's theory of international stratification, countries of the second category, as assessed by the economic indicators and the level of influence on regional processes, gravitate towards the middle powers. (1) In the South Pacific, the first category includes practically all the countries of Oceania except those that should be referred to as micro-states, that is, countries that are unable to protect their sovereignty with their own forces (Tuvalu, Nauru and others). New Zealand is in the second category.

New Zealand political scientists believe that in international relations the place of small states should be precisely correlated with their economic and military power. The characteristics of small states differ qualitatively from those of other countries and, undoubtedly, influence both the priorities of their home and foreign policy and the elaboration of mechanisms for the implementation of their national development strategies. Utilising the concept of a 'small state', David McCraw (2) and John Henderson (3) analyse the conceptual and practical aspects of New Zealand's foreign policy strategy. Such states, in their opinion, should in their foreign policy proceed from their own economic interest to build friendly relations with all countries and to ensure national security not only by participation in military-political blocs but also by using global mechanisms, such as the United Nations and its related structures. New Zealand has the opportunity to, and certainly should, influence world affairs only through its moral example. Wellington should definitely try to play a leading role in the South Pacific region where, in contrast to Canberra, New Zealand relates well to the indigenous inhabitants of the states of Oceania. New Zealanders are themselves a special South Pacific nation, which leaves them with a sense of belonging to the South Pacific community.

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New Zealand's geographical location in the South Pacific naturally demands the development of closer relations with the islands states in the political, economic and socio-cultural spheres. Its fruitful co-operation with Australia, countries of the European continent, especially the United Kingdom, and the United States did not prevent it developing an intensive political dialogue with the Pacific Islands states, nor from becoming an active participant in the regionalisation process in the Pacific area. Geographical location, economic viability and availability of common interests of national and regional development all influenced the shaping of New Zealand's foreign policy--one that identifies with the Pacific community. Wellington's emphasis on New Zealand's South Pacific identity is a conscious step by the government, an approach that has also been supported by a significant part of the New Zealand population. This regional Pacific identity may become a guarantee of future development of the state and lead to a strengthening of its position in the South Pacific. The main aim of New Zealand's Pacific strategy is to strengthen its position in the struggle for zones of influence involving other regional and extra-regional actors in the South Pacific.

On-going difficulties

Differences among South Pacific states have caused difficulties for New Zealand in developing a unified approach on co-operation with them at bilateral and multilateral levels.

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New Zealand's South Pacific Policy: Current Directions and Approaches: Tetiana Starodub Provides an Eastern European Perspective on New Zealand's Regional Role
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