Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters’ recent ‘Shifting the Dial’ speech brought some welcome clarity to the new government’s foreign policy, complementing Prime Minister Ardern’s first foreign policy speech of a few days earlier. Delivered in Sydney, Peters’ speech focused on New Zealand’s neighbourhood: Australia and Pacific Island Countries. What did the speech signal for New Zealand’s development cooperation efforts under the Ardern government?
The most interesting part of the Minster’s speech was the ‘shift of the dial’ in working with the Pacific. New principles now underpin New Zealand’s “shared destiny” with Pacific Island Countries: understanding, friendship, mutual benefit, collective ambition, and sustainable results. Underpinning these principles is the assertion that New Zealand has a common identity with the Pacific, and therefore similar interests. This is the analysis that led to the integration, about a year ago, of MFAT’s Pacific Division and the Pacific Aid Programme. The Minister’s speech is a clear articulation of what this integration can mean in diplomatic terms.