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Critic and Conscience Award Winner 2024

10 May 2024 | news

2024 Critic and Conscience of Society Award winner speaks truth to power

Professor of International Relations and Inaugural Sesquicentennial Distinguished Chair at the University of Otago Professor Robert Patman is the winner of the 2024 Critic and Conscience of Society Award.

Sponsored by the philanthropic trust The Gama Foundation, the annual award recognises an academic’s role under the Education and Training Act 2020 to act as the critic and conscience of society.

Professor Patman’s areas of research expertise include international relations, global security, US foreign policy, great powers, and the Horn of Africa. For decades, he has spoken truth to power, striving to keep humanitarian issues of international and domestic importance in the public domain.

His extensive knowledge of historical, political and geopolitical matters has made him a sought-after media commentator. During the last two years alone, Professor Patman has made over 1,000 media appearances, including interviews and comments given to television, radio, newspapers and think-tanks, speaking primarily about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US invitation to New Zealand to join AUKUS, and the Israel-Gaza conflict.

On receiving the award Professor Patman says, “As an international relations academic with a strong commitment to public education, this award means everything to me. I am very grateful to The Gama Foundation for recognising my efforts to contribute to a better understanding of this country’s relationship with a disrupted but increasingly interconnected world. I would also like to acknowledge the tremendous on-going support and encouragement of my family, friends and work colleagues.”

“Robert Patman has had a prodigious output of articles and interviews on issues that will, over time, impact on the New Zealand community and future generations,” says Grant Nelson of The Gama Foundation. “His media commentary has undoubtedly played a significant role in educating the public and decision-makers on international and humanitarian issues.”

At a time of increasing geopolitical tension, Professor Patman says, “We need to recognise that all states, including New Zealand, are increasingly confronted by “intermestic” challenges that blur the boundaries between domestic and international politics, and that such issues deserve to be vigorously debated and considered in our society. If, as an academic specialist in international relations, I can help others, in a small way, to make more sense of the world we live in then I am doing my job as an educator and hopefully contributing to a climate where citizens feel more empowered to articulate their concerns in our political system.”

Professor Patman is currently writing a book titled Rethinking the Global Impact of 9/11 and a co-authored volume called Why Political Leaders are Poor at Learning from History. The $50,000 award money will go towards securing research assistance for both books.

About the award:

Established in 2017, the Critic and Conscience of Society Award encourages academics to provide expert commentary on important issues affecting the New Zealand community and future generations. Previous award winners include Dr Dean Knight (2023), Professor Janet Hoek (2022), Professor Alexander Gillespie and Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles (2021), Professor Michael Baker and Associate Professor Anita Gibbs (2020), Professor Andrew Geddis (2019), Professor Ann Brower (2018) and Dr Mike Joy (2017).

Applications for the 2025 Critic and Conscience Award will open in November 2024. The award is administered by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara. It is not necessary to be nominated and academics can apply via an online form.


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