Active Global Citizen

Daniel Mellsop

SDG #17 Partnership for the goals
High Commissioner, New Zealand High Commission Ottawa
Throughout his diplomatic career, Daniel worked to shape national, regional and global security and economic efforts with the ultimate goal of making the world safer and more prosperous.
A thorough intercultural understanding helps break down the barriers to achieving outcomes that benefit all global citizens.

Daniel Mellsop was appointed New Zealand High Commissioner to Canada in February 2016. Daniel is a career diplomat, having been part of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade working on a wide range of issues, from trade negotiations to counter-terrorism. Previous appointments included postings to the New Zealand embassies in The Hague and Seoul. Prior to taking up his appointment in Ottawa, Daniel was the Head of the International Branch at the Ministry of Defense. Daniel attended the University of Waikato in New Zealand where he studied Korean and Economics graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Management Studies with honours. Daniel is also an AFS alumnus.

New Zealand values education for intercultural understanding and active global citizenship. How are these notions integrated in the country’s education system?

New Zealand is a multicultural society. This is a source of national pride and gives us strength at home and on the global stage.

Our education system is designed to ensure all New Zealanders are strong in both their national identity and their cultural identity. New Zealand school children study and celebrate the cultural diversity in their communities. New Zealand’s indigenous Māori language and culture is integrated into the education system at all levels. There is an emphasis also on New Zealand’s strong connections with the Pacific and, more recently with Asia.

New Zealand is a relatively small economy so we rely on international trade for our prosperity.  We rely on strong international rules to ensure our safety and security. It is essential therefore that New Zealanders are equipped to be active, global citizens. The stated objective of New Zealand’s International Education Strategy is to ensure a thriving and globally connected New Zealand based on world-class education.


After the recent horrific Christchurch events, the country has taken actions to reaffirm its commitment to fostering openness, peace and diversity (“They were New Zealanders. They are us.”) Can you share more about this commitment with our readers?

The March 15 terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch was a shock to all New Zealanders.  It is unprecedented in our country. We were horrified and disgusted by the actions of the attacker.

New Zealand is one of the most multicultural nations in the world. Our diversity is something we value and celebrate. The terrorist attack in Christchurch strikes against our core values.

Following the attack, people all across New Zealand came together in support of our Muslim friends and neighbours. Tens of thousands of New Zealanders joined vigils for the victims and families of this terrorist attack.  New Zealand continues to stand in solidarity with the Muslim Community in New Zealand and around the world against terrorism, extremism and hate.

At the international level, New Zealand has led the “Christchurch Call” to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.  Under this initiative governments and technology companies are working together to make our societies safer and more tolerant.

New Zealand remains a safe and open society which is characterised by religious tolerance and freedom.


How you personally have seen the benefits of intercultural learning in shaping your work and service to society?

As a diplomat my job is all about connections between cultures. Whether it is formal government-government negotiations or broader public diplomacy activities, an ability to navigate between different cultures is an essential skill.

Understanding the culture or cultures of your host country is an obvious requirement for diplomats operating overseas. Intercultural learning through an AFS experience certainly helps with this. In New Zealand’s case we also emphasise the need have a strong understanding of and ability to promote our indigenous Māori culture, which sits at the heart of our national identity.

In order to advance the international rules-based system, countries need to work together.  Even when political objectives are aligned at the strategic level, there are often challenges at the detailed level. These challenges can be based on different priorities, different internal processes, different ways of looking at the same problem, or simply misunderstandings. A thorough intercultural understanding helps break down the barriers to achieving outcomes that benefit all global citizens.

During my career I have had the honour and great responsibility to help shape national, regional and global security and economic efforts. Efforts to make the world safer and more prosperous.

How has your experience studying abroad with AFS changed your life?

My AFS year in Lomonosov, Russia, opened my eyes to the wider world. It was at a formative time of my life. I saw the scope for adventure and the exciting opportunities from living a global life. My year was an intense and intimate experience living in another culture and way of life. Equally influential was engaging with and learning from my fellow exchange students from around the world.

My AFS experience inspired me to pursue a global career and got me into diplomacy. During my year overseas, as one of only a small number of kiwis in the St Petersburg region I was invited to dinner with a visiting New Zealand government delegation. This encounter directly influenced my academic pathway and eventual career choice.

Connect and network with Daniel as well as other Active Global Citizens and leading 21st century education stakeholders at the AFS Global Conference: Active Global Citizenship—and How to Educate for It, 9-11 October in Montreal.   

Register for the AFS Global Conference