A bridge too far.

Headline: A bridge too far. – 36th Parallel Assessments

Jiaozhou Bay/Qingdao-Haiwan Bridge, China. Photo: Feel the Planet (feel-planet.com).

The Labour-led government in New Zealand has settled on a new mantra when it comes to addressing the US-China rivalry. It claims that New Zealand is ideally situated to become a bridge between the two great powers and an honest broker when it comes to their interaction with the Southwest Pacific. This follows the long-held multi-party consensus that New Zealand’s foreign policy is independent and autonomous, and based on respect for international norms and multinational institutions.

The problem is that the new foreign policy line is a misleading illusion. It ignores historical precedent, the transitional nature of the current international context, the character and strategic objectives of the US and the PRC and the fact that New Zealand is neither independent or autonomous in its foreign affairs.

The historical precedent is that in times of conflict between great powers, small states find it hard to remain neutral and certainly do not serve as bridges between them. The dilemma is exemplified by the island of Melos during the Peloponnesian Wars, when Melos expressed neutrality between warring Athens and Sparta. Although Sparta accepted its position Athens did not and Melos was subjugated by the Athenians.

In stable world times small states may exercise disproportionate influence in global affairs because the geopolitical status quo is set and systemic changes are incremental and occur within the normative framework and around the margins of the system as given. When international systems are unstable and in transition, small states are relegated to the sidelines while great powers hash out the contours of the emerging world order—often via conflict. Such is the case now, which has seen the unipolar system dominated by the US that followed the bi-polar Cold War now being replaced by an emerging multi-polar system aggregating new and resurgent powers, some of which are hostile to the West.

In this transitional moment the US is in relative decline and has turned inward under a Trump administration that is polarizing at home and abroad. It is still a formidable economic and military power but it is showing signs of internal weakness and external exhaustion that have made it more reactive and defensive in its approach to global affairs. China is a rising great power with global ambition and long-term strategic plans, particularly when it comes to power projection in the Western Pacific Rim. It sees itself as the new regional power in Asia, replacing the US, and has extended its influence world-wide.That includes involvement in the domestic politics and economic matters of Pacific Island states, including Australia and New Zealand.

China’s rise and the US decline are most likely to first meet in the Western Pacific. When they do, the consequences will be far reaching. Already the US has started a trade war with the Chinese while reinforcing its armed presence in the region at a time when China cannot (as of yet) militarily challenge it. China has responded by deepening its dollar and debt diplomacy in Polynesia and Melanesia as part of the Belt and Road initiative, now paralleled by an increased naval and air presence extending from the South and East China Seas into the blue water shipping lanes of the Pacific.

There lies the rub. New Zealand is neither independent or autonomous when it confronts this emerging strategic landscape. Instead, it has dichotomized its foreign policy. On the security front, it is militarily tied to the US via the Wellington and Washington Declarations of 2010 and 2012. It is a founding member and integral component of the Anglophone 5 Eyes signal intelligence gathering network led by the US. It is deeply embedded in broader Western security networks, whose primary focus of concern, beyond terrorism, is the hostile activities of China and Russia against liberal democracies and their interests.

On trade, New Zealand has an addict-like dependency on agricultural commodity and primary good exports, particularly milk solids. Its largest trading partner and importer of those goods is China. Unlike Australia, which can leverage its export of strategic minerals that China needs for its continued economic growth and industrial ambitions under the China 2025 program, New Zealand’s exports are elastic, substitutable by those of competitors and inconsequential to China’s broader strategic planning. This makes New Zealand extremely vulnerable to Chinese economic retaliation for any perceived slight, something that the Chinese have been clear to point out when it comes to subjects such as the South China island-building dispute or Western concerns about the true nature of Chinese developmental aid to Pacific Island Forum countries.

As a general rule issue linkage is the best approach to trade and security: trading partners make for good security partners because their interests are complementary (security protects trade and trade brings with it the material prosperity upon which security is built). Absent that, separating and running trade and security relations in parallel is practicable because the former do not interfere with the latter and vice versa. But when trade and security relations are counterpoised, that is, when a country trades preferentially with one antagonist while maintaining security ties with another, then the makings of a foreign policy conundrum are made. This is exactly the situation New Zealand finds itself in, or what can be called a self-made “Melian dilemma.”

Under such circumstances it is delusional to think that New Zealand can serve as a bridge between the US and China, or as an honest broker when it comes to great power projection in the Southwest Pacific. Instead, it is diplomatically caught between a rock and a hard place even though in practice it leans more West than East.

The latter is an important point. Although a Pacific island nation, New Zealand is, by virtue of its colonial and post-colonial history, a citizen of the West. The blending of Maori and Pacifika culture gave special flavor to the Kiwi social mix but it never strayed from its Western orientation during its modern history. That, however, began to change with the separation of trade from security relations as of the 1980s (where New Zealand began to seek out non-Western trade partners after its loss of preferred trade status with UK markets), followed by increasingly large waves of non-European immigration during the next three decades. Kiwi culture has begun to change significantly in recent years and so with it its international orientation. Western perspectives now compete with Asian and Middle Eastern orientations in the cultural milieu, something that has crept into foreign policy debates and planning. The question is whether the new cultural mix will eventuate in a turn away from Western values and towards those of Eurasia.

The government’s spin may just be short term diplomatic nicety posing as a cover for its dichotomous foreign policy strategy. Given its soft-peddling of the extent of Chinese influence operations in the country, it appears reluctant to confront the PRC on any contentious issue because it wants to keep trade and diplomatic lines open. Likewise, its silence on Trump’s regressions on climate change, Trans-Pacific trade and support for international institutions may signal that the New Zealand government is waiting for his departure before publicly engaging the US on matters of difference. Both approaches may be prudent but are certainly not examples of bridging or brokering.

While New Zealand audiences may like it, China and the US are not fooled by the bridge and broker rhetoric. They know that should push come to shove New Zealand will have to make a choice. One involves losing trade revenues, the other involves losing security guarantees. One involves backing a traditional ally, the other breaking with tradition in order to align with a rising power. Neither choice will be pleasant and it behooves foreign policy planners to be doing cost/benefits analysis on each because the moment of decision may be closer than expected.

Analysis syndicated by 36th Parallel Assessments

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Op-Ed: Turkey: 95 Years of Humanitarian Foreign Policy

Op-Ed: Turkey: 95 Years of Humanitarian Foreign Policy

By Republic of Turkey’s ambassador to New Zealand, Ahmet Ergin.

Turkey’s Ambassador to New Zealand, H.E. Ahmet Ergin, and New Zealand Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy.

On 29 October 2018, we celebrated 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. In these 95 years of the Republic, Turkey has managed to shape a humanitarian foreign policy in a much volatile region.

The changing political and economic environment in its neighbourhood has made Turkey more vulnerable to an increasing number of challenges; being located close to the volatile regions where intensive transformations are still taking place.

Despite the uncertainty in the parameters and dynamics of the international system in a changing world, Turkey, powered by its growing means and capabilities, strives to effectively respond to today’s challenges in a determined and principled manner, as a reliable and responsible actor guided by the principles of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, in his dictum: “Peace at Home, Peace in the World.”

With a view to adapt itself in a changing regional and international environment, Turkey adopted an enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy, aimed at promoting stability and prosperity regionally and globally.

New Zealand shares the same approach as a prominent contributor to the Pacific region and supporter of other countries that are currently experiencing humanitarian crises like Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Papua New Guinea.

Humanitarian aid, as one of the fundamental aspects of Turkey’s foreign policy, has been implemented with determination and success in all the countries where people face massive challenges. Turkey is a leading actor in the global responsibility of fighting extreme poverty, providing education for all, improving the lives of women and youth, as well as alleviating the challenges in conflict and disaster affected areas. The key element of Turkey’s humanitarian policy is the combination of humanitarian and development assistance, without discrimination.

Conflicts and natural disasters are the leading causes of human suffering. Today, more than 60 million people have been displaced from their homes due to conflicts. Since the World War II, this is the biggest number of people displaced. More than 200 million people have been affected by natural disasters and need aid. The gap between the needs of the people and aid provided to the people in response to humanitarian emergencies is widening. In order to find solutions to this problem, the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit was organised jointly by the United Nations and Turkey in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016. Nine-thousand participants from 180 Member States, including 55 Heads of State and Government came together in Istanbul.

According to the OECD Development Assistance Committee, Turkey’s official development assistance (ODA) amounted to USD 8 billion in 2017. Humanitarian assistance has the biggest share in our ODA with an amount of USD 7.2 billion. Turkey was the biggest humanitarian aid donor worldwide in 2017 and the most generous donor when the ratio of official humanitarian assistance to national income (0.85%) is taken into consideration.

Turkey’s humanitarian aid is delivered mainly through the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent with development oriented humanitarian aid from Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA).

Another aspect of our humanitarian approach is Turkey’s open door policy for Syrians fleeing their country due to ongoing violence over the past seven years. Over 3.5 million Syrians are currently hosted in Turkey. Around 230,000 of them live in one of 21 temporary protection centres. Turkey has spent USD 31 billion on these refugees (including contributions of municipalities and Turkish NGOs).

According to the UN Refugee Agency, Turkey maintains its position as the biggest host country with 4.3 million refugees. More than 600 thousand Syrian children continue their education in Turkey. The schooling rate among Syrian children in the age of primary education is 97 percent. Furthermore, the number of Syrian school leavers studying in Turkish universities is over 20,000.

Development-oriented humanitarian assistance constitutes the ultimate target of Turkey’s efforts. Turkey intervenes at the request of the host country with humanitarian aid for emergency humanitarian relief and continues with development projects, such as the construction of fundamental infrastructure, like hospitals and schools. This approach has been very successful particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Turkey’s policy to assist Somalia can be regarded as an exemplary case. All segments of Turkish society, from public institutions to NGOs and private sector, were mobilised to assist the people of Somalia following the severe famine in 2011. This approach has gradually evolved into a comprehensive policy, comprising humanitarian, developmental, as well as stabilisation efforts in an integrated strategy. Several projects were initiated, which consisted of human and institutional capacity building, construction of essential infrastructure, providing services such as education, sanitation and health. Humanitarian aid, such as delivering food and medicine is ongoing.

Whether it is an emergency resulting from a conflict or a natural disaster, Turkey extends its helping hand indiscriminately by responding to emergencies in its region, from the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to Yemen; from Colombia to Vietnam; from Nepal to Libya and Sudan.

Turkey’s humanitarian contributions are not confined to bilateral assistance projects. Turkey aims to further increase its contributions to various international organisations. Turkey is working and cooperating closely with the UN and its related institutions.

In order to assist further and to offer guidance to the UN’s humanitarian efforts, Turkey became a member of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) donor support group, which brings together leading humanitarian donors.

Turkey also financially supports and continues to increase its financial contribution for humanitarian aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and has been actively working to raise awareness to solve the financial crisis of UNRWA in view of its recent budget constraints.

Through mediation, and in fostering mutual respect and common values, Turkey actively seeks prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts around the globe. These efforts transcend into the multilateral sphere. In 2010, Turkey spearheaded, jointly with Finland, the “Mediation for Peace” initiative within the UN in order to raise awareness for mediation. “Friends of Mediation” formed within this framework has reached 56 members (48 states and 8 international/regional organisations). A similar group is co-chaired by Turkey-Finland-Switzerland at the OSCE.

As part of its leading role in the field of mediation, Turkey also hosts “Istanbul Conference on Mediation”. The three conferences held in February 2012, April 2013 and June 2014 brought together representatives from various institutions, NGOs and experts. The 4th “Istanbul Conference on Mediation” was held on 30 June 2017 under the theme “Surge in Diplomacy, Action in Mediation”. On 21 November of that year, as a summit chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Turkey hosted the first ever OIC Member States Conference on Mediation in Istanbul, with the theme, “Surge in Mediation: The Role of OIC”.

The UN Alliance of Civilisations Initiative, co-sponsored by Turkey and Spain, (currently with 146 members) represents the strongest response to the scenarios of the so-called “Clash of Civilizations”. Thus, boosting this global initiative is essential for strengthening the world now more than ever. We believe that one is not born with prejudices and discrimination but rather these are learned. These negative attitudes turn into hate speeches and even violence. Respect for social diversity and inclusive societies are crucial in our challenging world. We need to unite against all forms of intolerance, xenophobia, and discriminatory policies, including animosities against different religions.

To sum up, based on actions on the ground and the content of the policies, we call Turkish foreign policy enterprising and humanitarian; basically because it is a peaceful, creative and effective – a foreign policy able to utilise various elements of sway in a rational way, a foreign policy not hesitant of taking initiative, a foreign policy that takes into account peace and development.

Turkey is committed to shoulder its share of the burden in a multilateral framework, motivates to pursue these and further avenues of action believing that the international community needs to make a serious and concerted effort to achieve sustainable development and social justice globally.

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Confronting Sharp Power.

Headline: Confronting Sharp Power. – 36th Parallel Assessments

Source: http://akross.info/?k=List+of+magical+weapons++Wikipedia

International relations is about exercising power to achieve objectives on the global stage. The actors that do so are states, companies, non-governmental organizations or criminal and non-state political actors acting directly or as proxies. The tools they employ have traditionally included hard power, which is the threat and use of diplomatic, economic and military coercion; soft power, which involves the persuasive appeal of diplomatic, cultural and economic engagement; and smart power, which is a hybrid, carrot and stick approach where hard and soft power is combined into a package of positive and negative incentives for cooperation and dissuasion. International norms are designed to encourage soft and smart power solutions to contentious issues, with hard power used as the weapon of last resort.

Recently a new form of approach has emerged on the world scene, one that is wielded by authoritarian regimes that seek to alter or undermine the ideological consensus and institutional stability of liberal democracies. It is called sharp power.

Sharp power is an extension of smart power but with a subversive, norm-violating twist. Its purpose is to condition the internal narrative of democratic states in ways that are favorable to the authoritarian state employing it. This includes influence operations like those used by the People’s Republic of China in New Zealand, where so-called United Front organizations (such as community organizations and business associations) are employed as “magical weapons” designed to influence the way in which New Zealand political and economic elites view the world system and more specifically, to align these elites with Chinese positions on international affairs. Taking advantage of opaque campaign finance laws, financial donations have been used by Chinese front organizations as a means of currying favor in the New Zealand political system, much in the way the PRC’s so-called cheque book diplomacy has shifted foreign policy perspectives throughout the community of Pacific island states.

Sharp power also includes undertaking disruption operations where, via cyber-hacking and disinformation campaigns on social media, popular faith in the institutions governing everyday life are undermined. These include the placement of so-called fake news stories in major social media outlets, malicious hacking of banking systems and government bureaucracies responsible for basic public good provision, and hidden control of targeted media outlets. These malevolent activities run in parallel and at times overlap with traditional espionage and influence operations in a multi-faceted strategy aimed at subverting the ideological and institutional foundations of democratic societies. A loss of faith and trust in liberal democracy is seen as a win by the sharp power-wielders.

Although the government has soft-peddled the issue, the GCSB has given three warnings this year about disruption activities undertaken by foreign states that have an impact on New Zealand.

More darkly, sharp power has been deployed with murderous or criminal intent. Be it recent Russian poisoning campaigns against dissidents and renegade intelligence agents in the UK, the murder of a Saudi journalist by state agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the killing of Kim Jung-un’s half brother in the Kuala Lumpur airport or the physical intimidation of expat Chinese communities in Australia, authoritarians have grown bolder in flouting international norms on sovereignty and non-intervention. Even New Zealand may have been touched by such authoritarian interference: the burglaries of the home and office of an academic critic of the PRC’s foreign influence operations are believed to have likely been carried out at the behest or on behalf of the Chinese state since no valuables were taken while research tools and materials were. New Zealand security authorities have stated that the investigation has moved overseas and been transferred to INTERPOL, the international police agency. That means that the perpetrators are believed to have left New Zealand, something that would be unusual for local common criminals given the low level of the crime and the nature of what was taken.

But let there be no mistake: if the involve a foreign power, the burglaries of Ann Marie Brady’s home and office are crimes committed on sovereign New Zeaaland soil and therefore a step up from influence operations and into direct intimidation of a New Zealand citizen and her family.

All of this occurs against a backdrop where strong authoritarian states like the PRC and Russia have brazenly violated international norms by laying claim to, built islands on and militarily fortified reefs in international waters while ignoring international arbitration decisions against it (China in the South China Sea) or seized and annexed large swathes of a neighbors territory in the face of international condemnation (Russia is Georgia and the Ukraine). The Saudis are leading a vicious war in Yemen against Iranian-backed rebels in which war crimes are committed on industrial scale. Myanmar’s military is engaged in the ethnic cleansing of its Rohinga community, causing a multi-national humanitarian crisis. These and scores of authoritarian atrocities go unpunished because the liberal democratic world has neither the will or the capabilities to stop them. That is a weakness that authoritarians seek to exploit with their sharp power projection, and in this they may have been encouraged by the US abandonment of its support for the liberal institutional world order under the Trump administration.

The question is how to respond to the use of sharp power against New Zealand? As a small, economically vulnerable state that is dependent on trade in agricultural commodity exports, tourism and foreign student education from a number of authoritarian states, particularly the PRC, New Zealand has to tread delicately when confronting violations of its sovereignty and/or overt or covert meddling in its internal affairs. On the other hand, as a staunch supporter of the rule of law and norm adherence in international affairs as well as a long-term member of the community of mature liberal democracies, New Zealand cannot afford to cast a blind on on such offenses less it encourage more and from other actors as well. In fact, its response has to be both broad and specific, with it coupling repudiation for international norm violations as a matter of principle with specific targeted remedies taken against those who employ sharp power on New Zealand soil or against its interests.

It is a conundrum that will not be resolved easily.

Analysis syndicated by 36th Parallel Assessments

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Dr Paul Buchanan – On intelligence oversight, a broader perspective.

Dr Paul Buchanan, founder of 36th Parallel Assessments.

Paul Buchanan On intelligence oversight, a broader perspective. – 36th Parallel Assessments


Dr Paul Buchanan, co-founder of 36th Parallel Assessments.

36th Parallel Assessments’ Director Paul G. Buchanan has been named as a member of the New Zealand Inspector General of Intelligence and Security’s Reference Group, an external interest intermediation panel.

The backdrop to his appointment is that historically the IGIS has been a hollow agency posing as an institutional check on the agencies it is statutorily charged to oversee. Historically dependent on the funding, space, communications and cooperation of the NZSIS and GCSB  and without powers of proactive compulsion under oath, the office was as much devoid of real authority as it was a reward to individuals for service in other fields. In response to series of scandals and illegal behavior on the part of the NZSIS and GCSB, in recent years the authority and independence of the IGIS have been strengthened. However, these remain some distance away from the type of robust oversight associated with liberal democracies, and the Reference Group was created with the intention of expanding the number of interlocutors the IGIS interacts with when confronting the challenges of the job.

In democracies intelligence oversight mechanism vary. In some cases parliamentary or congressional committees exercise strong legal powers to compel intelligence agencies to proactively as well as retrospectively provide evidence or other material documenting their activities under penalties of law. these include institutional as well as individual sanctions, to include fines and jail terms, for those who do not comply. In other cases oversight arrangements are looser and less robust in terms of enforcement capability. Here, should they exist, oversight agencies are often located within the Executive branch and/or the intelligence agencies themselves, leading to a lack of independence and effectiveness when discharging the oversight function. That has been the case in New Zealand, where the IGIS remains as the sole oversight agency (the parliamentary select committee on intelligence and security having no real powers to impose demands on the intelligence community), and yet in spite of recent legislative reforms remains relatively weak when it comes to ensuring compliance by the agencies under its jurisdiction. It is against that backdrop that the Reference Group was created.

In response to questions raised about the composition and purpose of the Reference Group, Dr. Buchanan has written an explanatory brief. It follows below.

Source: Image Wikimedia Commons.

The announcement that the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), Cheryl Gwynn, has convened an external Reference Group to discuss issues of intelligence agency oversight (specifically, that of the NZSIS and GCSB, which are the agencies under her purview) has been met with applause and controversy. The applause stems from the fact the Group is a continuation of her efforts to strengthen the oversight mechanisms governing New Zealand’s two most important intelligence collection and analysis agencies. The controversy is due to some of the persons who have accepted invitations to participate in the Group.

The Group is an unpaid, non-partisan collection of people with interest, expertise and/or background in matters broadly related to intelligence and security and their oversight. None are government employees, something that gives them freedom to speak frankly under the Chatham House rules established by the IGIS. The Group is a supplement to and not a rival of or substitute for the IGIS Advisory Panel, made up of two people with security clearances that have access to classified material and who can offer specific assistance on matters of operational concern. However, the Advisory Panel has had no members since October 2016.

The idea behind the Reference Group, which is modelled on a Dutch intelligence oversight counterpart, is to think laterally or “outside of the box” on matters relevant to intelligence oversight. Bringing together people from different backgrounds and perspectives allows Group discussions to gravitate towards areas of common concern, thereby eliminating personal agendas or extreme positions. And because the Group is made up of outsiders, it does not run the risk of becoming slave to the groupthink of agency insiders.

In contrast to the Advisory Panel, the Reference Group does not handle classified material nor discuss operational matters. Access to classified material or operational details is obviated by the fact that the Group’s focus is on the broad themes of accountability, transparency, organizational compliance and the balance between civil liberties (particularly the right to privacy) and the defense of national security as conducted by the lead intelligence agencies. These are matters of legality and propriety rather than operational conduct. And while similarly important, legality and propriety are not synonymous. Often what is legal is not proper and vice versa, and this is acutely the case when it comes to intelligence collection, analysis and usage. Since the IGIS does not oversea the NZDF and smaller intelligence “shops” such as those of the DPMC, Police, Immigration and Customs, the Group will only discuss issues relevant to oversight  of the NZSIS and GCSB.

Who are the members of the Group and why the controversy? The plurality of members are four public interest lawyers, three of them academicians and one an advocate for refugees. Two members are journalists. One is the Issue Manager for Internet NZ, one is the head of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, one is a former Russian diplomat now serving as the Director of the Massey University Centre for Defense and Strategic Studies (CDSS), one is an economist who chairs Transparency International New Zealand and one is a private sector geopolitical and strategic analysis consultant.

Concern has been voiced about the presence of both journalists as well as the refugee advocate and the loyalties of the former Russian diplomat (although he has held positions at a US security institution as well as the NZDF-funded CDSS. The thrust of the contrary views about these and some of the other participants is that they are untrustworthy due to their personal backgrounds, professional affiliations and/or ideological orientations. An additional reason given for opposing some of the membership is that they have been strong critics of the SIS and GCSB and therefore should be disqualified a priori.

Others believe that the Group is just a whitewashing, window-dressing or co-optation device designed to neuter previous critics by bringing them “into the tent” and subjecting them to “bureaucratic capture” (whereby the logic of the agencies being overseen eventually becomes the logic accepted by the overseers or Reference Group interlocutors).

The best way to allay these concerns is to consider the IGIS Reference Group is as an external focus group akin to a Town Hall meeting convened by policy-makers. Communities are made of people of many persuasions and many viewpoints, and the best way to canvass their opinions on a broad range of subjects is to bring them together in a common forum where they can debate freely the merits of any particular issue.  In the case of the Reference Group the issue of intelligence agency oversight and, more specifically, matters of institutional and individual accountability (both horizontal and vertical, that is, vis a vis other government agencies such as the judiciary and parliament, on the one hand, and vis a vis the government and public on the other); transparency within the limits imposed by national security concerns; and the juggling of what is legal and what is proper, are all set against the backdrop of respect for civil liberties inherent in a liberal democracy. These are complex subjects not taken lightly by those involved, all of whom have track records of involvement in the field and who, given the terms of reference and charter of the Group, are acting out of a sense of civic duty rather than for pecuniary or personal gain.

The IGIS does not need political or agency authorisation to construct such a Group, which has no statutory authority or bureaucratic presence. As a vehicle for interest intermediation on the subject of intelligence oversight, it serves as a sounding board not for the IGIS but for the people on it. In that light, the IGIS has called the Group’s discussion a “one-way street” where participants air their informed opinions about agenda items agreed to in advance and in which the IGIS serves as a discussion moderator and takes from it what she finds useful. Expected to meet two or three times a year over tea and coffee, the Group is not likely to tax the Treasury purse and could well deliver value for dollar in any event.

Critics of this exercise and other forms of interest intermediation or external consultation betray their closet authoritarianism because such concertative vehicles are mainstays of policy-making in advanced liberal democracies. Be it the tripartite wage negotiation structures bringing representatives of the State, labour and capital together (even at the regional or local level), to consultative boards and other social partnership vehicles that connect stakeholders and decision-makers in distinct policy areas, the use of interest intermediation is an integral feature of modern democratic regimes (for an example of the breadth of issues addressed by intermediation vehicles, see Kate Nicholls, Mediating Policy: Greece, Ireland and Portugal before the Eurozone Crisis. London: Routledge, 2015.). To argue against them because of who is represented or because they are seen as inefficient talkfests that are a waste of taxpayer money is just a cloak for a desire to silence broad public input and dissenting views in the formulation of public policy. That may have been the case under the previous government but no longer is the case now.

Critics of this exercise and other forms on interest intermediation or external consultation betray their closet authoritarianism because such concertative vehicles are mainstays of policy-making in advanced liberal democracies. Be it the tripartite wage negotiation structures bringing representatives of the State, labour and capital together (even at the regional or local level), to consultative boards and other social partnership vehicles that connect stakeholders and decision-makers in distinct policy areas, the use of interest intermediation is an integral feature of modern democratic regimes. To argue against them as inefficient talkfests that are a waste of taxpayer money is just a cloak for a desire to silence broad public input and dissenting views in the formulation of public policy. That may have been the case under the previous government but no longer is the case now.

One of the thorniest problems in a democracy is the question of what system of checks and balances keeps the intelligence community proper as well as legal. As the most intrusive and sensitive of State activities, intelligence collection, analysis and usage must be free from reproach on a number of grounds—conflicts of interest, partisan bias, foreign control, illicit activity or criminal behaviour, etc.—and must be accountable and responsive to the public will. The broadening of consultation intermediators between the NZ intelligence community and the public is therefore a step in the right direction, and for that reason the Reference Group is a welcome contribution to the oversight authority of the IGIS.

References: http://www.igis.govt.nz/media-releases/announcements/establishment-of-igis-reference-group/


Analysis syndicated by 36th Parallel Assessments

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media