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“People Power” focus for Foreign Policy School

Wednesday 23 April 2008

“People Power” focus for Otago Foreign Policy School

How much say should a nation’s citizens have on foreign policy issues such as wars waged in their name and trade agreements signed on their behalf? That’s a key question to be tackled at the upcoming 43rd Otago Foreign Policy School, titled “Power to the People? Public Participation in Foreign Policy”.

School Co-Director Dr Jim Headley says the June event will gather together leading experts, officials, activists and members of the public to vigorously debate whether more popular participation is needed in setting foreign policy.

“The events of September 11th and the subsequent ‘war on terror’ have helped throw this issue into sharp relief. For example, several governments have – rightly or wrongly – supported US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq despite their own peoples’ opposition,” Dr Headley says.

Other global issues such as climate change, free trade, and the development of human rights norms are also increasingly affecting the lives of ordinary citizens, he says.

“The foreign policy directions that governments pursue can impact profoundly on the people in whose name these decisions are being made. The School will provide a non-partisan forum for robust debate about how much of a say people should have,” Dr Headley says.

The recent signing of the Free Trade Agreement with China and the Government’s international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are examples of policies with the potential to significantly affect New Zealanders’ day-to-day lives, he says.

Other themes explored at the three-day School, which begins on Friday 20 June, will include foreign policy involvement by indigenous groups and minorities and the role and effectiveness of activists and interest and pressure groups.

Among the invited speakers is Foreign Affairs Minister Rt Hon. Winston Peters, who will give the School’s opening address.

Political commentator Chris Trotter will lock horns with the Centre for Strategic Studies’ Dr Lance Beath in a debate titled “More power to the people?”; while Duke University Professor Ole Holsti will give a video-linked talk on “Public opinion and US foreign policy after September 11”.

Other speakers will focus on public participation in foreign policy in settings such as Europe, the Pacific and South Africa and the contribution of indigenous peoples in New Zealand and overseas. The role of non-governmental organisations will also be explored, along with that of the media.

A panel presentation on public opinion in New Zealand will round off the gathering.

A full list of speakers and topics and registration form is available at the School’s web site:

Around 120 participants are expected to attend the School, which runs from 20 - 22 June at Salmond College, Dunedin.


About the Otago Foreign Policy School:

The School originally started in 1966 as a workshop on foreign affairs, and now attracts a wide range of people drawn from both public and private sectors.

Participants include officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Defence, academics, journalists, diplomats, members of the business community, students and interested members of the public.

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