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Dr. Guy Wilson-Roberts

A recent Political Studies Ph.D. from the University of Auckland, Dr. Wilson-Roberts was last year appointed to the position of Deputy Director of the Center for Strategic Studies.* As one of the country's few academics specializing in arms control issues, Dr. Wilson-Roberts works for what is essentially New Zealand's only security-focused think tank. The CSS also coordinates New Zealand's representation on the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia- Pacific (CSCAP). The Center is directly involved in official and public debate on a wide range of international relations and security topics. It is also a frequent contributor to submissions on related policy, and a major vehicle for programming in international relations and security subjects. Dr. Wilson- Roberts plays a very active role in the Center's activities, organizing seminars for security audiences, editing the Center's publications and, in the absence of the Center's Director, frequently commenting in the media on current security issues.

As one of New Zealand's few academics specializing in arms control issues, Dr. Wilson-Roberts works for what is essentially New Zealand's only security-focused think tank.
Multilateralization:  The Phased Approach

Dr. Guy Wilson-Roberts, of New Zealand's Centre for Strategic Studies, appeared at PNNL's Richland campus on May 24 to present his views on New Zealand's contributions to global nuclear disarmament. His presentation, titled, "Multilateralization: The Phased Approach," portrayed New Zealand as a strongly anti-nuclear state which has identified an opportunity to enhance its position within the global community by taking on the role of maverick facilitator in world arms control negotiations.

Dr. Wilson-Roberts traced New Zealand's anti-nuclear roots to the 1970s, when nuclear power and energy issues surfaced to the forefront of world debate. Of particular significance in forming New Zealand public opinion on the nuclear debate were France's shift of its nuclear weapons testing from the Atlantic to the South Pacific off the shores of French Polynesia, considered by New Zealanders to be their "own back yard" and the United State's deployment of nuclear vessels, including ships and submarines either armed with nuclear weapons, or powered with nuclear energy, to the South Pacific with stop-overs in New Zealand ports. The strong "neocolonialist sentiments" raised by the actions of the French, coupled with anger over the United States' policy of withholding information as to which of its vessels were nuclear, quickly boosted the issue to the top of New Zealand's political agenda, manifesting in strong official support for the public's anti- nuclear views, which extended to both nuclear arms and power. The result was New Zealand's adaptation of a nuclear free-status and its refusal to host nuclear vessels in its ports. The issue was again spotlighted in 1996 when, after years of abstaining from nuclear weapons testing, France resumed testing in the South Pacific, reinforcing New Zealand's anti-nuclear position.

Since the 1970's, New Zealand has been an active supporter of nuclear disarmament, with a preference for multilateral agreements. Nevertheless, New Zealand has three major criticisms of the process:

1) It believes that nuclear states are not committed enough to the disarmament process.

2) It finds the nuclear disarmament process to be too slow.

3) It considers the results of the disarmament process to be insufficient.

In spite of its misgivings, however, New Zealand supports existing nuclear disarmament efforts because it believes that the nuclear threat is a global one and that multilateral efforts to remove the threat lend increased legitimacy to the process. Also, as a small nation with few bargaining chips, New Zealand believes that it is best empowered to promote its anti-nuclear agenda through multilateral efforts. Lastly, New Zealand considers multilateral nuclear arms control agreements to be the most effective manner of gaining universal support for nuclear disarmament.

In regards to diplomatic opportunity, New Zealand has long recognized itself to be a nation of limited power whose security and influence is derived through its participation in various alliances. Thus, the most effective way for it to protect and promote its interests is recognized to be through multilateral efforts. Its strong interest in nuclear disarmament is seen as best served through utilizing the country's proven diplomatic skills to identify blocks in the negotiation process and to help parties construct treaty language which is satisfactory to all, thus eliminating negotiation bottlenecks and moving the process forward. Although New Zealand must often compromise its own anti-nuclear convictions in favor of steps which are more incremental and less direct than it would like, the public's gauging of the issue focuses primarily on the nation's adherence to its anti-nuclear stance, thus providing a good amount of flexibility to representatives who find certain negotiation sacrifices to be worthwhile as long as overall negotiations can be moved forward to next level of disarmament. Furthermore, the ability to serve as a "maverick" facilitator is viewed as an opportunity for the nation to carve an "identity niche" for itself, creating a clearer role for itself within the community of nations.

Thus, New Zealand hopes to continue its role of "building bridges between states" in order to move the nuclear disarmament process forward, simultaneously nearing its objectives of attaining a nuclear free world, and increasing its international recognition. It is believed that this will enable the country to push the edges of its alliance allotted "bounded independence," and more freely create and voice its own foreign policy decisions, and enjoy greater acceptance as a world player.


  • "An Asia-Pacific Security Crisis: New Challenges to Regional Stability" (ed), CSS, 1999
  •  "Non-Intervention and State Sovereignty in the Asia-Pacific" (eds, with David Dickens), CSS, 2000;
  • "The Koreas Summit: Runaways, Reconciliation and Reunification" in New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, (Vol. II, No. 1, 2000)
  • "Reducing the Need for Ballistic Missile Defense in the Asia- Pacific" forthcoming book chapter
  •  "The Southeast Asia Nuclear- Weapon-Free Zone and its Role in Regional Arms Control" conference paper and forthcoming book chapter
  • Regular articles for The New Zealand Herald (daily newspaper) on nuclear arms control and proliferation issues

*Dr. Wilson-Roberts is Deputy Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Wellington, New Zealand. The Centre is the only security- focused think tank in New Zealand and is an active participant in debates on New Zealand's international and national security policy. It is also responsible for coordinating New Zealand's representation in the Council for Security and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP), an important regional forum.

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