Terence O'Brien

Consolations of Insignificance: A New Zealand Diplomatic Memoir

235mm x 156mm
Publication date:
9 May 2024

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Terence O’Brien was a born diplomat – urbane, clever, adaptable and hardworking, with a talent for strategy and negotiation.

Although born in England, he was a loyal and dedicated New Zealander and spent most of his life working to improve the country’s position internationally. In his 50-year foreign affairs career he lived and worked in Asia, Europe and the South Pacific, and was involved in some of New Zealand’s most important diplomatic achievements of the 20th century, including establishing New Zealand’s first embassy in China, securing trade agreements with the United Kingdom after it joined the EEC, dealing with the fallout from New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy, directing New Zealand diplomacy during the Fiji coups, and gaining a seat on the UN Security Council during the turbulent early 1990s.

This memoir is bursting with anecdotes from behind the scenes, and offers insight into the ways in which New Zealand has used its ‘insignificance’ on the world stage to achieve results which outweigh its size and importance.

'This insightful book on Terence Christopher O’Brien’s life’s work is one that I recommend to all who want a better understanding of how New Zealand and the world developed their thinking over the past 60 years following the end of World War II.' —Jim Bolger, 25th Prime Minister of New Zealand

Terence O'Brien (1936–2022) served as a diplomat with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for over 40 years. He served as High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Ambassador to the United Nations and the European Union, a term at the UN in Geneva including the World Trade Organization, and finally to the UN in New York, including a term as President of the UN Security Council. He was the founding director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. He wrote and lectured widely on international and regional relations, security affairs, and New Zealand foreign policy.

Cover photograph: Terence O'Brien photographed by Judith Ahern
Cover design: Todd Atticus

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