Green Party foreign affairs policy

Most of you will recall the slogan, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, which is a theme of the Green Party’s foreign affairs policy.

The Green Party is part of a global network of Green parties, working together for global solutions to social and environmental problems.

To us, foreign policy must start with a global vision.

Our vision has four main elements:

  • We want to live sustainably, leaving the world in such a state that future generations can live healthy and fulfilling lives on it.

  • We want a socially just world, without the huge divisions between rich and poor both within countries and between countries.

  • We want to live in a democratic manner where all citizens can be fully involved in the political process, at the community level, at the national level, and at the international level. Democratic international bodies are essential to solving the world’s problems.

  • We want to live in a world without wars. We seek ALL alternatives to violence, in daily life, and in relations between countries.

How do we get to a world like this?

We get there by working cooperatively, and by helping the more disadvantaged people and countries. And not just helping them in a charity sense, but empowering them to make their own future.

We can’t achieve this if we allow unrestrained trade and investment, which tends to enrich those who are already rich.

The term free trade is a misnomer because in practice it means that smaller and poorer countries are forced to open their markets to the multinationals, while the richer and more powerful countries remain protectionist.

We favour encouraging fair trade, not free trade. That is, trade that develops strong local economies, rather than undermining them.

We also believe that a foreign policy should be the people’s policy not just the government’s policy.

So it is the duty of the government to encourage greater public understanding. Our Foreign Affairs work should be as open as possible. It should be honest and not deceptive.

Our government’s legacy on Indonesia and East Timor is an example of what not to do.

Our government knew from the 70s that there was mass slaughter in East Timor, but it didn’t tell New Zealanders that.

And for a whole period it actually prevented Jose Ramos Horta coming here to tell New Zealanders what was really going on.

Our policy towards Indonesia was the reverse if what a foreign policy should be.

It put being in President Suharto’s good books ahead of all else.

Foreign policy became reduced to a diplomatic policy, in this case being nice to a ruthless government.

Portugal has shown how it can be done quite differently and more morally. After a shakey start, Portugal came out in full support of the Timorese people’s right to self-determination. It helped to educate the Portuguese people about the genocide, such that last month, when the Indonesian army began destroying East Timor, a huge proportion of the Portuguese population demonstrated in some form.

The Portuguese government’s open campaign for the East Timorese people, among its own citizens, and in the European Union and the UN, was critical to the success of the independence movement.

Let’s look at what the balance of forces was as regards East Timor. Less than a million East Timorese were up against 200 million-strong Indonesia. And the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand and most the Asia/Pacific were backing Indonesia.

Yet the Timorese prevailed, not least because the huge sacrifices they were willing to make for their cause, but also because of the support from Portugal, some other countries, and people’s organisations around the world, including the East Timor Independence Committees here.

Portugal campaigned openly, yet still did the diplomatic work, With regular talks with the Suharto government, sponsored by the United Nations.

Or to put in another way, megaphone diplomacy and quiet diplomacy are not contradictory. Megophone diplomacy is the derogatory term used by Jenny Shipley and Don McKinnon to justify not taking open and principled stands on social justice issues.

The more we can educate and activate the people of our own countries against injustices abroad, the more we put the regimes perpetuating those injustices on the back foot.

Thus, we make any necessary quiet diplomacy more effective.

We’ve got to have a foreign policy that tells the truth. That is, when we see what is happening to former Malaysian deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim today, we should call it a frame up. We shouldn’t just gently ask for the law to be upheld, as our government has done.

The Malaysians that we are trying to reach, and support, are those brave Malaysians standing up to the police batons in Kuala Lumpur, fighting for democratic reform.

Developments over the past year, in both Indonesia and Malaysia have discredited New Zealand’s foreign policy to the Asia/Pacific. We’ve cosyed up to the Suharto and Mahathir, and got egg on our faces.

Events have also discredited our military strategy. Military exercises with Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have been one of its cornerstones, and supposedly a path to regional security.

But all these military exercises have done is given political cover to undemocratic regimes. who use their security forces, soldiers and police, against political opponents.

A part of the blame for the destruction of East Timor can be laid at the doors of successive New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers.

Given the years of New Zealand (and Australia) turning a blind eye to East Timor, and expressing trust in Suharto and his armed forces, it is not surprising the Indonesian army thought it could still keep East Timor in the fold, even after losing the ballot.

Surely, one conclusion we have to draw from recent events, including Mahathir’s recent attack on Australia and New Zealand, is that the Five Power Defence Arrangement is no longer a valid arrangement.

Most of those exercises we’ve had with Malaysia and Singapore (and Indonesia as a subsidiary party) have pointed us in quite the wrong direction – not only the wrong political direction, but also the wrong military direction.

Virtually the only use we’ve made of our frigates and Skyhawks has been in exercises with Australia, Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia.

We’ve been encouraging the wrong type of armament for New Zealand (and Asia for that matter).

What East Timor and Bougainville have shown us is that we need an efficient and well-equipped peacekeeping forces, with helicopter and air transport backup.

I don’t think the Asian contributors to Interfet have yet got their troops there.

They too seem to have the wrong focus, wasting billions on unnecessary fighter/bombers and warships.

The stark truth is that the security problems in the Asia/Pacific are within countries, not between countries, apart of the two legacies of the Cold War, North and South Korea and China and Taiwan, which are not that difficult for the international community to handle. South Korea is unlikely to invade North Korea, and North Korea has a very weak economy. China is much constrained by international political and economic pressures.

Rather than keeping up with the big Asian powers in wasting money on armaments, the Greens say New Zealand should lead the way in conventional disarmament, as it has in nuclear disarmament.

We propose halving New Zealand’s defence spending from $1.6 billion to $800 million, by eliminating our air and naval combat capacity, unifying and rationalising the three forces, and concentrating on peacekeeping, disaster relief and fisheries zone surveillance in New Zealand and the Pacific. For the latter we propose to buy two multipurpose long range patrol boats.

We can also lead by example in spending this $800 million “peace dividend” in needy social and environmental areas.

We simply don’t need to buy our way into anyone’s good books, be it the US, Britain, Australia or any Asian nation, by purchasing unnecessary military hardware.

Sure, we will have some exercises with other countries, in the Asia/Pacific and elsewhere, but these should be specifically related to the tasks of peacekeeping, disaster relief and fisheries surveillance.

But we don’t need formal treaty relationships with these countries. We should get out of the Five Power Defence Arrangement, and drastically changing our relationship with Australia, as long as it has an outdated defence strategy, more related to a Cold War scenario, and subordinate to America’s.

Australia’s defence treaty with Indonesia shows just how utterly wrong Australia’s defence strategy can be.

The Greens say that no longer should New Zealand be a subordinate power to the US, Australia or anyone else.

This is not isolationism. We actually think New Zealand has a tremendously important role to play in world politics. thinking independently, and allying with different combinations of countries, according to the issues concerned.

For example, let’s come back to Indonesia. While we would have been against the Suharto government on East Timor a Green government would actually been working closer with it on the nuclear issue, where Indonesia had a strong stand for full disarmament. Or some other issues where Indonesia has reflected legitimate economic concerns of Third World nations.

So we would be working with Indonesia (and other Third World countries) on some issues. And with the United States on some human rights issues where Washington has taken a stronger line than our government (as on Burma). And we would be cooperating across a whole band of issues with the more thinking and independent countries like Ireland, Sweden and South Africa.

Being subordinate to the big powers, like the US, often means we are part responsible for the disasters that follow. Because the US, for example, has mishandled many crises since its major disaster of the Vietnam war. Suharto was supported against the Timorese, and in Cambodia, for a whole period, the US supported Pol Pot against the Vietnamese-backed Hun Sen government. There were the debacles in Somalia and Rwanda. And in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo the United States was slow to face up to repressive governments, and when it did take action it didn’t always choose the best options.

Despite being a small nation, we do have a big role to play in world politics, showing political and moral leadership.

But only if we think independently, and act according to the global vision I outlined at the beginning of my talk: of a peaceful world, run democratically, and governed by principles of social justice and environmental sustainability.

Thank you.


Presentation to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, 21 October