The prime minister of New Zealand has been met with thunderous applause at the UN for her speech espousing global cooperation and kindness from world leaders, in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s portentous rejection of globalism earlier in the week.
Jacinda Ardern’s national statement was viewed by many commentators as a direct rebuttal to the US president’s call for increased isolationism and national self-interest.
Ardern called for equality for women, action on climate change and a recommitment to multilateralism, saying : “We must rediscover our shared belief in the value, rather than the harm, of connectedness.”
Ardern opened her address with seven lines of te reo Māori, the native language of the indigenous people of New Zealand.
“Emerging from a catastrophic war, we have collectively established through convention, charters and rules a set of international norms and human rights,” Ardern said.
“All of these are an acknowledgement that we are not isolated, governments do have obligations to their people and each other, and that our actions have a global effect.”
“None of these founding principles should be consigned to the history books. In fact, given the challenges we face today, and how truly global they are in their nature and impact, the need for collective action and multilateralism has never been clearer.”
Ardern’s speech obliquely rejected Donald Trump’s call for other nations to turn away from globalism and embrace patriotism. Trump’s speech on Tuesday was interrupted by derisive laughter from other world leaders, although Ardern has said she did not take part.
“We can use the environment to blame nameless, faceless ‘other’, to feed the sense of insecurity, to retreat into greater levels of isolationism. Or we can acknowledge the problems we have and seek to fix them,” Ardern said.
At 38 Ardern is one of the youngest world leaders, and described this generation of young people as “borderless” and “global citizens” who are increasingly expressing “dissatisfaction” with current political systems.
One way of improving the future for young people was by tackling climate change head-on, Ardern said.
The UN had awesome potential and power to bring the international community back together, Ardern said, and needed to recommit to its core values of preserving human rights and dignity for everyone. Its practices also needed updating so it was not “hamstrung” by the use of veto.
Ardern concluded her address by committing to work towards the equality of women and girls not only in New Zealand, but around the world, a goal that earned her thunderous applause from world leaders, the first spontaneous applause all day, according to a Radio New Zealand reporter on the ground.
“Me Too must become We Too,” Ardern said. “We are all in this together”.
Ardern’s first trip to the UN has been the subject of intense international media scrutiny and excitement, especially since Ardern has had her three-month-old daughter Neve close by for much of the trip.
At home Ardern has been praised for generating positive publicity for the country, but she will return to a population that is becoming increasingly sceptical about how much her coalition government has been able to achieve during its first year in office.
Two ministers have recently been fired from cabinet, and tensions within the coalition partners are increasingly evident, particularly regarding the recent rise in the refugee quota, which deputy prime minister Winston Peters previously opposed.
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