Principled Pragmatism: Non-Governmental Influence on New Zealand’s Nuclear Disarmament Advocacy 1995-2000
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The 1987 New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act is arguably the most comprehensive national ban on nuclear weapons in the world. It prohibits nuclear weapons and nuclear powered vessels from the country’s land, sea and airspace, and has made New Zealand a flag bearer for the international nuclear disarmament community. New Zealand’s non-governmental movement played a decisive role in creating and maintaining the nuclear free law. This is indicative of a recent transformation that has seen a much broader set of actors influencing the course of international relations than was historically the case. Furthermore, with its inherent rejection of power politics, nuclear freedom suggests that international relations are more susceptible to influence from ideational concerns than was traditionally thought possible. This thesis assesses the influence of principled, non-governmental advocacy on New Zealand nuclear disarmament policy from 1995-2000, focusing on the work of New Zealand-based organisations and individuals. A process-tracing methodology is applied to determine the pathways through which new understandings about nuclear disarmament were developed and diffused both nationally and internationally. This allows for identification of the key sources and transmitting agents of these ideas, thus controlling for potential sources of influence not relevant to this study. Analysis reveals that despite diminished public attention during the research period, non-governmental advocacy demonstrated a relatively high degree of influence on New Zealand government policy, particularly via transnational initiatives. This transnational non-governmental activity is also shown to have contributed tangibly to international normative and political developments in nuclear disarmament. The elimination of nuclear weapons is increasingly seen in international circles as an urgent, feasible and desirable goal. Analysis of contemporary developments leads to the conclusion that the only credible means of achieving this goal is to begin by outlawing nuclear weapons. With its strong disarmament credentials and respected moral voice, New Zealand is well placed to lead the exploration of a potential abolition framework. The expertise of New Zealand’s nuclear disarmament movement in this realm, as demonstrated by its role in the development and advocacy of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, indicates that the government would benefit greatly from meaningful collaboration with the non-governmental sector in this task.