Notes of a Barefoot Diplomat
by Alyn Ware

 

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A number of delegations to the 2000 NPT Review Conference included non-governmental representatives. Bombs Away interviewed Alyn Ware, Consultant at Large of the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), who was appointed to the New Zealand delegation.

Bombs Away: How did you get to be on the government delegation?

Alyn: The Minister of Disarmament Matt Robson asked the peace movement for nominations, and I guess I was put forward because I was not already tied up and could stomach the long flight from New Zealand. Having been to the NPT meetings in 1995, 1997 and 1998, and all the United Nations General Assembly meetings since 1990 helped.

Bombs Away: Was this a token effort to placate the peace movement or a genuine interest in civil society (NGO) input on the delegation?

Alyn: I believe it was genuine interest. The Minister held consultations on the agenda it would be pursuing at the NPT Review with many peace and disarmament groups in New Zealand and in New York, and the Head of Delegation continued to seek reports of NGO views and activities during the Review Conference. I was also afforded status of full member of the delegation including input into strategy and representing the delegation at various meetings.

Bombs Away: Did it add to the delegation having an NGO representative?

Alyn: There were a number of instances where I could activate international NGO and parliamentary support for language proposed by the delegation. These included obtaining support from European countries for an unequivocal commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons and mobilizing opposition to weak language on transport of radioactive materials.

Bombs Away: You mention that you could support the government’s agenda. But what about when it differed from the agenda of your organizations? Did you have to remain silent?

Alyn: I could not be quite so open about promoting the Abolition 2000 and LCNP agendas to other delegations. While our government supports A2000 and a nuclear weapons convention (NWC) in general, its strategy at the NPT was to achieve consensus on some of the key steps forward which have been proposed by New Zealand and other members of the New Agenda Coalition, and which have a greater chance of achieving consensus at this point in time than a NWC. However, I was not constrained from promoting A2000 aims in public events as long as it was clear I was not representing the government on those occasions. In addition, I was able to discuss A2000 and LCNP aims with other delegations in the context of how they could be advanced in a way that was supportive of the strategy of New Zealand and the rest of the New Agenda Coalition.

Bombs Away: Would you recommend that other delegations appoint NGOs?

Alyn: I think it is a two-way benefit. The NGOs learn more about the constraints a delegation is placed under and so can be more understanding of the compromises that are sometimes necessary. On the other hand, the support of the NGOs at strategic times and in effective ways can strengthen the delegation’s hand in pursuing their aims, thus reducing the need for compromise.

Including NGOs on delegations helps break down the somewhat confrontational dynamics that often exist between NGOs and their governments, and transform this into a more cooperative approach. Of course, NGOs should not be expected to ‘sellout’ in order to be appointed to a delegation, and there are occasionally times when views of the NGOs and their governments on specific issues remain so far apart that a common approach might not work for those issues. The art of working together in acknowledgment of these differences is similar to the art of successful diplomacy between nations with differing views and interests, and thus should be encouraged.

 

 

An NGO on our delegation brought a lot in terms of knowledge and experience and extended our reach considerably, both within the Conference and outside it and this was of high value in terms of policy, and operation, and the eventual effectiveness of New Zealand’s participation overall.

Geoff Randall, Head of New Zealand Delegation,

2000 NPT Review Conference

 

 

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