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Speech: Mitchell - Shangri-La Dialogue


Hon Mark Mitchell

Minister of Defence

Speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue

My thanks to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Dr John Chipman, and the Singapore Ministry of Defence for what has been a very rewarding event.

This forum is one of the world's pre-eminent institutions for defence diplomacy.

It provides a chance for friends and neighbours from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond to talk openly about the challenges and opportunities we face in our region.

Responses to global threats are only effective when all states, no matter their size, have the opportunity to share their views and perspectives, for we all have a role to play.

I’ll begin by briefly touching on the global threats which impact the prosperity and security of every country here today.

Our 2016 White Paper highlighted the fast-moving international security environment which continues to test us on several fronts.

We are now faced with a number of challenges which combine multiple threats, actors and competing security interests, and which have global application.

Localised, conventional challenges are no longer the norm.

We have discussed nuclear proliferation, particularly the current threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing, which New Zealand condemns in the strongest terms.

We have discussed the ever-growing threat of violent extremism, which reaches across the globe, including the problem of returning foreign terrorist fighters, from Iraq and Syria.

We know that terror organisations look to galvanise support and exploit porous borders, disenfranchised individuals and the access provided by the internet and social media.

This a clear and present security threat to us all, and there’s no clearer reminder of this than the horrendous attacks in London today.

May I express our deepest sympathies to our friends in the United Kingdom.

Once again, London has experienced a terror attack with the loss of innocent lives, and we send our condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

This dialogue is timely in allowing us to focus on how we show resolve in the fight against ISIS and address the threat this corrupted ideology presents.

We have also discussed how the dual processes of globalisation and the digital revolution cross borders to produce immediate connection to families, companies and countries.

But these same connections also provide instant links between attacker and victim, actor and target.

And we have seen recently how harmful cyber attacks can be, and what damage can be inflicted on civilian life and infrastructure.

New Zealand, as a connected global citizen, is not immune to these threats.

These are clearly issues of significance.

We are constantly challenging ourselves on how best to use our resources and capabilities to contribute, credibly and effectively, to countering global threats.

We are a very strong supporter of the rules-based order, and of international norms.

For example, we co-drafted the United Nations Security Council-led Resolution 2286 for the Protection of Civilians.

This Resolution was the first of its kind to focus on the prevention of attacks against medical personnel and healthcare facilities in armed conflict.

Eighty-four states joined New Zealand in co-sponsoring the text, making it one of the most widely supported Security Council Resolutions ever.

It is now being implemented in theatres of conflict, including, for example, Syria.

New Zealand’s support for an international rules-based system is not a rhetorical statement.

It is real, and it is critical for our economic well-being.

Enjoying the benefits of such a system means that New Zealand, like other countries, has an obligation to fulfil the responsibilities associated with it.

We are a maritime nation.

We have the fourth largest exclusive economic zone in the world.

Ninety-five per cent of New Zealand's goods trade is by sea, linked to markets far from our shores.

We place great importance on both freedom of navigation and maintaining open trade lanes.

New Zealand has a fundamental interest in ensuring that the legal framework and protections provided by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea are universally upheld.

And across the Asia-Pacific, we all have a collective stake in maritime security and stability.

This provides clear incentives to manage maritime and territorial disputes peacefully.

The South China Sea may be some distance from New Zealand, but, similar to other countries, over half of our trade transits this area.

We therefore have a direct interest in how tensions are managed and miscalculations avoided.

New Zealand is concerned by actions that undermine peace and erode trust.

We continue to call on the parties to manage the situation peacefully and will continue to support initiatives, including a comprehensive ASEAN-China Code of Conduct on the South China Sea to manage tensions.

We are active and focused on building regional architecture to counter security concerns.

Most recently, New Zealand initiated a proposal to hold a South-West Pacific Heads of Maritime Forces Meeting aimed at developing coordination and capability, to test whether this would be a useful piece of architecture.

Maritime domain security is important to us, given that our Defence Force must cover a search and rescue zone that stretches from north of the Equator, all the way to the South Pole, halfway to Australia, and halfway to South America.

We also work hard to make sure we contribute to the shaping of discussions around global threats, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

In the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+) we are working with our partner the Phillipines to shape the region’s response to cyber attacks through the inaugural Experts’ Working Group on Cyber Security.

This Working Group will draw on the comprehensive work from the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, amongst others.

This is a sensitive topic for all, and there will be a variety of approaches to how states individually respond to cyber threats.

However, we are confident that with the opportunity for frank discussion as provided by regional security institutions like the ADMM+, we can achieve collective outcomes.

Multilateral platforms provide small states with the ability to be part of a collective approach that contributes to regional and global solutions.

Advancing the role of small states has always been a priority for New Zealand.

For example, in the year 2000, the Pacific Islands Forum faced a security environment which had deteriorated to a point where patterns of lawlessness, political upheaval and economic uncertainty were the norm.

The Forum adopted a comprehensive collective responsibility approach, and a key result was the Biketawa Declaration.

This Declaration codifies a number of guiding principles, including equal rights for all citizens, the importance of equitable economic, social and cultural development and a commitment to good governance, including democratic processes, institutions and the rule of law.

The Pacific Islands countries collectively built the possibility of a regional response in the form of the Declaration and with the help of others, including Australia and New Zealand.

This instituted mechanisms to support the rules-based order.

With this came action, and progress.

Many of you will be aware that the withdrawal of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) occurs this month, after 14 years.

RAMSI was established in 2003 at the request of the Solomon Islands Government, under the auspices of the Biketawa Declaration.

It followed a five-year period of destabilising conflict in the Solomons, known as “The Tensions”.

RAMSI’s mandate was to restore civil order, stabilise government finances, promote longer-term economic recovery and rebuild the Solomon Islands’ machinery of government.

New Zealand is also committed to collective responses to threats outside of our immediate region.

We recognise the interdependency between global threats and the security of our “neighbourhood”.

We recognise, for example, that the threat of ISIS is a threat to our regional security, the tenets of international law and a rules-based order.

It is in response to these imperatives that we contribute to countering the threat of ISIS by both military and non-military means.

In 2015, together with our Australian partners, New Zealand formally established its Building Partner Capacity training mission in Iraq, as part of the United States-led Operation Inherent Resolve.

Our Joint Mission provides training to Iraqi Security Forces to defeat ISIS.

The over-arching Operation Inherent Resolve is a prime example of contributions from across the globe, large and small, to collective responsibility and international cooperation.

We have joined over 60 countries in the US-led coalition, including a plethora of small states from Slovenia to Qatar and Bahrain.

We are all able to contribute in a diverse range of ways.

From the Pacific Islands to Iraq, Syria and beyond, the value of collective responsibility is apparent.

A strong multilateral system provides the opportunity for small states to contribute to broader conversations.

Small states can bring a perspective and view that can help build and develop responses to some of the world’s biggest threats.

New Zealand’s approach to security is grounded in the conduct of constructive discussions paired with real action.

We will continue to work towards an environment where all states can make credible contributions, which will strengthen the resilience of the regional security architecture, and its ability to counter global threats.

I believe there are always opportunities for progress, even in discord.

The Government in which I’m proud to serve is very firm in its belief that it is critical for New Zealand’s future that we remain outward-looking and engaged with the world.

We take an optimistic view, and reject the thinking that we have reached a point where our threats have overwhelmed our opportunities.

That optimism is the story of the Asia-Pacific; the engine of world economic growth for the last 50 years.

It is the story of ASEAN; a body that has brought peace and harmony to a region previously rocked by conflict.

It is a powerful story of struggle, challenge, passion and success.

The next chapter is being written and we all have a hand on the pen.

What we write is what our children will read.

We must get it right.

Thank you.

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