Jacinda Ardern may be the youngest female Prime Minister in the history of New Zealand, but she has been rather surprisingly catapulted to the international stage following the horrific Christchurch terror attacks, Islamophobia-inspired shootings at mosques which claimed 51 lives. Since then, her passionate advocacy for gun-control laws and against religious hatred have been accoladed as a paragon of leadership following such a tragedy. Immediately following the attack, she met with the families of the victims and grieved with them, continuously reaffirming that the Muslim community is one with the people of New Zealand. She also referred to the killer as a “terrorist” and refused to say his name. In a time of growing Islamophobia and xenophobia, she stated that “ Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities - New Zealand is their home - they are us."
Prime Minister Ardern has also committed to ensuring that there will be no more Christ churched. Less than a week after the shooting, she announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic guns and assault rifles like those used in the terror attack, as well as rolling out a gun buyback plan to ensure that “fair and reasonable” compensation be paid to law-abiding gun owners in New Zealand. This was lauded by political figures the world over, including US Senator Bernie Sanders, who stated that “This is what real action to stop gun violence looks Like.”
Although Ms. Ardern may be most known for her swift action following Christchurch, she has also advocated for the cause of human rights across the globe. Speaking in front of the United Nations in September of this year, she covered a vast range of topics from Me Too to climate change. On the former, she said that “I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity”, and that “Me Too must become We Too.” On global warming, she chose not to stick her head in the metaphorical sand, instead referring to the undermining of climate agreements as “catastrophic” and called upon member nations to work together multilaterally to solve this pressing issue. While meeting with Li Xi, the Party Secretary of Guangdong Province in China, she raised concerns over the treatment of Uighur Muslims and similarly did so with Aung San Suu Kyi in regards to the Rohingya crisis, offering the help of New Zealand to fix the latter issue.
Jacinda Ardern may be relatively young, but it is clear she is committed, at least on a vocal level to remember the “lessons of history”, saying that “ In an increasingly uncertain world it is more important than ever that we remember the core values on which the UN was built. “That all people are equal, that everyone is entitled to have their dignity and human rights respected, that we must strive to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom and we must consistently hold ourselves to account on each.” She has clearly worked to uphold these values, and many people both in New Zealand and across the world hope to see her continue to lead with a promise of equality and safety for all people.