Kindness, not fear or hate - Jacinda Ardern's message to Donald Trump and the world

UNITED NATIONS/YOUTUBE
The prime minister's speech was in stark contrast to one given by US President Donald Trump earlier in the week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has used her debut speech to the United Nations General Assembly to directly challenge the view of the world outlined by US President Donald Trump in his speech there earlier this week.

And she has called for a different world order - one that puts "kindness" ahead of isolationism, rejection and racism.

In a call to arms against the retreat into protectionism and nationalism urged by Trump, Ardern warned that the consequences of abandoning institutional institutions and agreements - many of them now abandoned by the US - would be "catastrophic".

Jacinda Ardern makes her speech directly challenging the view of the world outlined by US President Donald Trump.
PMO
Jacinda Ardern makes her speech directly challenging the view of the world outlined by US President Donald Trump.

 Ardern began her speech with a greeting in Māori after entering the General Assembly carrying an orator's comb, gifted to her by Ngati Rehia. It is worn by leaders at prominent events and is an acknowledgement of her mana.

READ MORE:
* Jacinda Ardern ramps up NZ climate change pledge
* Jacinda Ardern, Canada and Chile leaders talk trade at UN
* The world laughed at Donald Trump - we won't be laughing
* Jacinda Ardern's ticket to the hottest party in New York
* UN gathering puts further distance between Ardern's NZ and Trump's America
* What lies behind Jacinda Ardern's appeal in the US? To her followers, it's hope

Her speech stood starkly at odds with Trump's speech to the general assembly on Tuesday where he delivered an excoriating critique of international institutions and scorned multilateralism as a threat to US sovereignty and patriotism.

While Jacinda Ardern delivered a speech at the United Nations her partner Clarke Gayford holds their baby, Neve, during the United Nations General Assembly.
STEPHANIE KEITH/GETTY IMAGES
While Jacinda Ardern delivered a speech at the United Nations her partner Clarke Gayford holds their baby, Neve, during the United Nations General Assembly.

It placed her among a growing "club" of world leaders who have taken a stand against Trump in their defence of multilateralism and rejection of his world view.

Ardern acknowledged that the effects of globalisation had been "massive" for nations and "the people we serve".

"While that impact has been positive for many, for others it has not. The transitions our economies have made have often been jarring, and the consequences harsh. And so amongst unprecedented global economic growth, we have still seen a growing sense of isolation, dislocation, and a sense of insecurity and the erosion of hope.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed in the UN General Assembly on Friday morning. She received applause when the PM called for a global response to the “#Me Too” movement, saying “Me too must be we too “.
AP
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed in the UN General Assembly on Friday morning. She received applause when the PM called for a global response to the “#Me Too” movement, saying “Me too must be we too “.

"As politicians and governments, we all have choices in how we respond to these challenges.

"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 also talked about how New Zealand's size and remoteness shaped our view of the world.

Jacinda Ardern speaking at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
AP
Jacinda Ardern speaking at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

"We are a remote nation at the bottom of the South Pacific. Our nearest neighbours take three hours to reach by plane, and anywhere that takes less than 12 hours is considered close. I have no doubt though, that our geographic isolation has contributed to our values.

"We are a self-deprecating people. We're not ones for status. We'll celebrate the local person who volunteers at their sports club as much as we will the successful entrepreneur. Our empathy and strong sense of justice is matched only by our pragmatism. We are, after all, a country made up of two main islands - one simply named North and the other, South.

"For all of that, our isolation has not made us insular. In fact, our engagement with the world has helped shape who we are."

Jacinda Ardern began her speech with a greeting in Māori after she entered the General Assembly carrying a gift from Ngati Rehia. It is worn by leaders at prominent events and is an acknowledgement of her mana.
PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE
Jacinda Ardern began her speech with a greeting in Māori after she entered the General Assembly carrying a gift from Ngati Rehia. It is worn by leaders at prominent events and is an acknowledgement of her mana.

Her speech focused on some of the issues that shaped her own world view.

"I am a child of the 80's. A period in New Zealand's history where we didn't just observe international events, we challenged them. Whether it was apartheid in South Africa, or nuclear testing in the Pacific, I grew up learning about my country and who we were, by the way that we reacted to international events.

"Whether it was taking to the streets or changing our laws, we have seen ourselves as members of a community, and one that we have a duty to use our voice within."

Making waves - Jacinda Ardren arriving for Donald Trump's speech to the UN with baby Neve earlier this week
CRAIG RUTTLE/AP
Making waves - Jacinda Ardren arriving for Donald Trump's speech to the UN with baby Neve earlier this week

Ardern also referred to her pride in being a New Zealander - but challenged Trump's view of national pride and patriotism.

"I am an incredibly proud New Zealander, but much of that pride has come from being a strong and active member of our international community, not in spite of it.

"And at the heart of that international community, has been this place.

Speaking at  a business summit - Ardern has been in high demand on the speaking circuit in New York.
Seth Wenig
Speaking at a business summit - Ardern has been in high demand on the speaking circuit in New York.

"Emerging from a catastrophic war, we have collectively established through convention, charters and rules a set of international norms and human rights. 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. "

Given the challenges the world faced today, and how global they were in their nature and impact, the need for collective action and multilateralism had never been clearer, Ardern said.

"And yet, for all of that, the debate and dialogue we hear globally is not centred on the relevance and importance of our international institutions. Instead, we find ourselves having to defend their very existence."

From The Late Show to the United Nations - after a whirlwind of media appearances and speeches, Ardern delivered her first speech to UN general assembly in New York on Friday NZT.
SCOTT KOWALCHYK/CBS
From The Late Show to the United Nations - after a whirlwind of media appearances and speeches, Ardern delivered her first speech to UN general assembly in New York on Friday NZT.

Generational change

Ardern talked about New Zealand not having the option of going it alone - and said generational change were an added pressure.

"It should hardly come as a surprise that we have seen a global trend of young people showing dissatisfaction with our political systems, and calling on us to do things differently – why wouldn't they when they themselves have had to adapt so rapidly to a changing world.

"Within a few short decades we now have a generation who will grow up more connected than ever before. Digital transformation will determine whether the jobs they are training for will even exist in two decades. In education or the job market, they won't just compete with their neighbour, but their neighbouring country.

"This generation is a borderless one – at least in a virtual sense. One that increasingly see themselves as global citizens. And as their reality changes, they expect ours to as well - that we'll see and understand our collective impact, and that we'll change the way we use our power."

Climate change was one area where they were looking for government's to change.

In the Pacific, rising sea levels presented the single biggest threat to the region.

"For those who live in the South Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not academic, or even arguable. They are watching the sea levels rise, the extreme weather events increase, and the impact on their water supply and food crops.

"We can talk all we like about the science and what it means, what temperature rises we need to limit in order to survive, but there is a grinding reality in hearing someone from a Pacific island talk about where the sea was when they were a child, and potential loss of their entire village as an adult.

"Our action in the wake of this global challenge remains optional. But the impact of inaction does not. Nations like Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, or Kiribati – small countries who've contributed the least to global climate change – are and will suffer the full force of a warming planet.

"If my Pacific neighbours do not have the option of opting out of the effects of climate change, why should we be able to opt out of taking action to stop it?

"Any disintegration of multilateralism – any undermining of climate related targets and agreements – aren't interesting footnotes in geopolitical history. They are catastrophic."

Yet instead of acting as a rallying cry, the debate had been marred by "a calculation of personal cost, of self interest".

" But this is not the only challenge where domestic self-interest is the first response, and where an international or collective approach has been diluted at best, or rejected at worst."

Ardern acknowledged, however, that international institutions that nations like New Zealand had committed themselves to were not perfect.

"But they can be fixed. And that is why the challenge I wish to issue today is this – together, we must rebuild and recommit to multilateralism. We must redouble our efforts to work as a global community. We must rediscover our shared belief in the value, rather than the harm, of connectedness. We must demonstrate that collective international action not only works, but that it is in all of our best interests.

"We must show the next generation that we are listening, and that we have heard them.

Ardern also talked about the "#me too" movement of women coming forward about sexual and emotional abuse and said government's needed to show they were responding.

"Me Too must become We Too."

She also urged governments to put kindness, ahead of "isolationism, protectionism, and racism".

"I accept that the list of demands on all of us is long. Be it domestic, or international, we are operating in challenging times. We face what we call in New Zealand 'wicked problems'. Ones that are intertwined and interrelated.

"Perhaps then it is time to step back from the chaos and ask what we want. It is in that space that we'll find simplicity. The simplicity of peace, of prosperity, of fairness. If I could distil it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand it is simple and it is this. Kindness.

"In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism – the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism, might just be as good a starting point as any. "

 

Stuff