After a year of ostensible stagnation in 2018, New Zealand has risen one place to 17th in The Soft Power 30 after tragic circumstances earlier this year. New Zealand’s dignified response to the mass shooting in Christchurch in March thrust the country and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern into the spotlight. Ardern used the global swell of emotion to positive effect, co-hosting the Christchurch Call summit in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron which called on social media companies to “end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism”. Although it did not seem to have any impact on the country’s polling score in the ranking, New Zealanders can be proud of their laudable and unified reaction to adversity. Away from the spotlight, their hold on the 10th place in the Government sub-index is a cornerstone of New Zealand’s soft power prowess. Their ten-spot climb up the Digital sub-index could have resulted in a better overall result for New Zealand, but falls in the Education and Enterprise sub-indices have hampered progress.
Retaining their top ten place in the sub-index, Government has long been the bedrock upon which New Zealand’s soft power is built. Ardern’s robust social democratic and environmentalist agenda will only serve to strengthen it further. The Government’s digital government initiative is also paying dividends, despite the consideration of a Digital Services Tax.
Due to its geography and small population, New Zealand continues to struggle to engage expansively, although the Prime Minister’s impressive performances and ability to build a consensus on the world stage helps to raise New Zealand’s profile on the global stage.
Continuing the steady progress in leveraging New Zealand’s culture and making good on environmental pledges will serve New Zealand well, preserving its world-renowned landscapes, rivers, and lakes for generations of citizens and tourists to enjoy. Addressing the slips in Enterprise and Education sub-indices should also be a priority for Ardern as her party looks ahead to the 2020 election.