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Has NZ lost its diplomacy mojo? - Geoff Keey

Has NZ lost its diplomacy mojo?

Has NZ lost its diplomacy mojo?

Submitted by Geoff Keey on Tue, 01/12/2009 - 12:25

After watching events unfold with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), I’m starting to wonder whether New Zealand has lost its foreign policy mojo.

First we had the bizarre comments from Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. Saying that he didn’t want CHOGM taken over with “Copenhagen Issues” - after it was clear that Danish Prime Minister Lokke Rasmussen and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon were going - was not his best moment.

One person attending the Copenhagen climate change negotiations as part of a developing country delegation wrote to me after seeing the news story about Mr McCully’s comments:

“We knew the NZ govt priorities are pretty screwed but I wonder if he realises that he sounds just so ridiculous!”

And then, once John Key got to CHOGM there was the issue of funding to help poorer developing countries respond to climate change. Funding for developing countries is a critical part of securing a deal at Copenhagen. It’s something all countries agreed to in Bali two years ago. It was also going to be a major focus at CHOGM. It was a big priority for UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and it was also unsurprisingly a big priority for the small, vulnerable, poor countries that make up the bulk of the Commonwealth.

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Initially John Key wanted to restrict New Zealand’s assistance to the Government’s agricultural research plans, a programme that seems more about getting other countries to fund New Zealand’s research priorities than helping the poor vulnerable countries of the Commonwealth. But within a day he had changed his mind and put money on the table, although the amount is only about 4% of what Oxfam says it should be

So what caused John Key to make the u-turn and say that climate change talks in Copenhagen next month will fail unless wealthy countries agree to a fund to compensate developing countries?

It seems that UK newspaper The Guardian has the answer in an interesting report on the behind the scenes diplomacy.
They have revealed UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown had to talk Canadian climate laggard and ‘bad boy’ Stephen Harper into persuading a reluctant John Key. Presumably, Gordon Brown had given up on persuading John Key himself. None of this is smart diplomacy. It’s one thing to negotiate hard on behalf of your country, its something else to be dragged into public u-turns by other heads of state.

One can only image what Gordon Brown must have thought of having to go to a climate laggard like Stephen Harper to persuade John Key to do the right thing. And remember, it’s Gordon Brown’s government that’s resisting plans by France for the EU to tax products from countries like New Zealand that fail to take real action on climate change.

Now I see that John Key’s stubborn refusal to go to Copenhagen is crumbling, just like his refusal to help developing countries with finance. A Johnny-come-lately perhaps?


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