Foreign Affairs policy through a bicultural lens: Nanaia Mahuta's first ministerial trip to Europe

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Following in the footsteps of her ancestor Kīngi Tāwhiao who travelled to Europe in 1884 to seek redress and strengthen ties, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says she will draw on the paths and experiences forged by her ancestors as she heads abroad “reconnecting Aotearoa to the world”.

She says canvassing a series of kaupapa with her global counterparts including climate change, trade and indigenous rights is an opportunity to “present our values and interest to key partners moving forward in a post-Covid world.”

In Geneva, Mahuta will also represent Aotearoa New Zealand at the High-Level Segment of the UN Human Rights Council, reinforcing that indigenous people have a crucial role to play in trade and economic development. This is the first time a New Zealand minister of foreign affairs has spoken at the council since its creation in 2006.

“We draw on our own examples to demonstrate that there are pathways to self-determination within a democracy," she says. "There are solid gains when you take an inclusive approach to economic participation with Indigenous people.”

“Obviously the framework for us is the Treaty of Waitangi and what partnership looks like. So we can lend those insights to challenges in, for example, West Papua, New Caledonia and Tahiti,” she says.

Pacific issues

Mahuta will co-chair one of three ministerial roundtables at the Indo-Pacific Forum in Paris, discussing global issues and focused on climate, biodiversity, health and oceans.

“The Indo-Pacific Forum in Paris will be an important opportunity to engage on key issues facing our region and to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand’s voice and perspectives on issues affecting us and our Pacific partners are well registered,” she says.

Committed to bringing a bicultural lens to foreign policy, Mahuta says that while historically, foreign policy is driven and underpinned by trade, there are some Māori values that can assist in “deepening alliances, relationships and trade agreements.

"It's our 'point of difference'.

“Travelling across the Pacific, often forming alliances, tatau pounamu (peacemaking) as a result of conflict. To introduce a bicultural lens on New Zealand foreign policy is exciting,” she said

The minister will be out of the country from February 20 until March 2. On her return she will go into managed isolation to complete the necessary Covid-19 requirements for returnees to Aotearoa New Zealand.