Indo-Pacific Explainer: What does First Nations foreign policy mean?

First Nations foreign policy seeks to embed the unique experiences and perspectives of indigenous people into a country’s international policy priorities and programs.

When a country adopts a First Nations foreign policy approach to their interactions with the world, it is often based on the principles of mutual respect, collaboration, co-design and reciprocity. This relational approach to diplomacy aligns closely with indigenous ways of knowing and being.

First Nations foreign policy can also be framed as a means of leveraging the diplomatic skills, knowledge and capacities of indigenous peoples, cultivated over thousands of years prior to colonisation. In this framing, indigenous peoples are considered a strengths-based resource that can strengthen the quality and authenticity of a country’s engagement with other nations, communities and peoples in an interconnected world.

A number of countries weave indigenous perspectives into the fabric of their international engagement, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Chile and the US.

Foreign ministries engage regularly on indigenous issues as part of their work – from shaping international norms and standards to benefit indigenous peoples, to seeking ways to maximise economic opportunities for indigenous peoples in trade and investment, or promoting sustainable development for indigenous peoples globally.

Sitting above these national efforts is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, wellbeing and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.

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