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NZ’s involvement in global peace operations

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

18 October 2007

NZ’s involvement in global peace operations
Speech to the Swedish Institution of International Affairs,
Stockholm, Sweden,
4pm, 17 October

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this evening. It is a pleasure to visit Stockholm, and to engage with you on a topic where New Zealand and Sweden share much in common.

New Zealand is a democracy located in the far south of the Pacific. We have Australia to our west, and the Pacific islands to our north. Our neighbours are close friends – we have no history of conflict with them.

Our location in the Pacific is not strategically contentious – as a former Prime Minister once said, ‘New Zealand is a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica’.

However our geographical isolation does not protect us from significant global issues. As with other countries, global challenges such as terrorism, failed or fragile states, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction pose a genuine threat to New Zealand’s national interests.

We have never been isolationist or pacifistic in our outlook. We are outward-looking and active international citizens, seeking to contribute to a stable, peaceful and prosperous world.

Unfortunately, the present international situation falls short of that ideal, and there is sadly no shortage of conflicts or fragile states requiring international assistance.

In response to this, the United Nations’ peace support workload continues to increase. The current level of UN deployments – at 83,300 personnel – is at its highest level ever.

The recent approval of a 26,000-person mission in Darfur, with several other large peacekeeping missions in Africa also mooted, means this figure will increase dramatically.

As demand for peace support increases, the UN is feeling the strain. It does not have the capacity to react promptly and robustly to fresh crises. As a consequence, we have seen a growing number of regional and multilateral interventions, which are not UN-led.

Such operations have been a feature of New Zealand’s neighbourhood.

Regional missions to Solomon Islands and Bougainville – an island in Papua New Guinea – have had UN endorsement, despite it being unable, for a number of reasons, to manage the operations. Similarly, aspects of the engagement in Timor-Leste have been managed as coalition operations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is taking steps to strengthen the UN’s capacity to manage, sustain and increase the effectiveness of peace support. New Zealand is a strong supporter of the Secretary-General’s proposed reforms.

Unfortunately, scepticism among major troop contributors means that smooth implementation of those reforms is not assured.

We also need to be realistic. Reforms may deliver much-needed improvements to headquarters and field management of UN peace support operations. However the sheer numbers required means that the UN will continue to find it difficult to adequately staff missions with personnel who have the right mix of training, skills and experience.

New Zealand has always seen the importance of the international community working together to bring about collective security. We have long supported United Nations’ peacekeeping and peace support efforts, and we continue to support its work in this area.

Contributing to the global search for peace is also a key expression of New Zealand’s national identity. More than a quarter of a million New Zealanders were deployed offshore in the major conflicts of the 20th Century.

Our commitment to international security is as strong today as it has ever been, although the present focus is on peace support operations rather than participation in war.

New Zealand currently has over 400 Defence Force personnel and 75 Police deployed in peace support missions in 14 countries.

Like many of our close friends, the majority of New Zealand’s personnel are taking part in operations not managed by the UN, but which have UN and regional endorsement in one form or another. Our deployments in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands fall into this category.

New Zealand also contributes to multilateral and United Nations missions in Korea, Sudan, Kosovo, and many part of the Middle East.
Just as the number of conflict and post-conflict situations has increased, so too has the complexity of the international responses.

Peace support operations are evolving from the traditional role of keeping the peace between two or more armed forces, to wider “peace-building” operations in complex emergencies.

Increasingly, states such as New Zealand are engaging directly with the reality of working in difficult post-conflict situations. Like others, we are learning to integrate and manage the security, diplomatic and development inputs required to operate effectively in such settings.

The focus of modern peace support operations is moving beyond simply establishing a security presence, towards engaging in the fundamentals of state-building by restoring the institutions that are necessary to preventing future conflicts and providing sustainable peace.

This shift necessitates a long-term approach encompassing a range of functions and personnel. It requires the integration of work from defence forces, diplomats, police and development specialists.

New Zealand is currently engaged in three major integrated operations, in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands.

These deployments absorb close to 400 New Zealand personnel and cost approximately $120 million annually. This represents a significant contribution for New Zealand, which has a Defence Force of only 9000 people.

Since 2001, we have made a substantial commitment to the international effort to secure and rebuild Afghanistan, and to the international campaign against terrorism. We have committed forces – including three rotations of Special Air Services troops – to Operation Enduring Freedom.

We are also an active contributor to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and like Sweden, we are operating a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Our team has been based in Bamyan province, in central Afghanistan, since August 2003, and we recently extended our commitment there to late 2008.

In addition to security, economic and social development are critical to Afghanistan’s future. The Afghan people will only support an international presence if they believe that it will improve their lives, security and prosperity.

This means the international community’s approach must integrate the political, security, economic and social aspects of peace-building.

In Bamyan, the New Zealand Defence Force works closely with the New Zealand Agency for International Development and the New Zealand Police.

Our aim has been to make a practical difference – to improve the lives of the people of Bamyan – and we have done this by building schools, roads, bridges, and a maternity ward at the provincial hospital, as well maintaining peace and security.

Afghanistan faces serious challenges. The ongoing insurgency requires serious resolve on the part of the international community to maintain a long-term security presence there.

Opium is also undermining the future of Afghanistan, and alongside eradication projects, the international community must commit itself to developing alternative, sustainable livelihoods for rural communities.

Much has been said internationally about how to solve the problems of Afghanistan. It is apparent there is no military solution by itself; development and diplomatic solutions are also required.

Current levels of effort seem likely to ensure only a continuation of the current struggle, with limited progress, over many years. It is therefore vital that we find ways in which the overall international effort can be better coordinated to make more rapid gains.

In addition to our contributions further afield, addressing instability in the Pacific is a high priority for New Zealand.

We are, after all, a Pacific nation, and we share close cultural, family and political links with all the islands of the region.

For those reasons, as well as humanitarian concern and commercial interests, the Pacific will always be a central feature of New Zealand’s security, defence and diplomatic policies.

The Pacific faces major challenges. Disagreements over land; the clash of traditional values with those of a rapidly globalising world; limited economic opportunities; poverty, and governance issues have all created tensions in parts of the Pacific.

In several countries these tensions have led to breakdowns in civil order and violence, and New Zealand, together with Australia, has become a major contributor to stabilisation and state-building missions as a result.

Traditionally, our work in the Pacific has emphasised good governance, and economic and social development. However the last few years have seen us also engaged in efforts to stabilise and rebuild states after periods of conflict or fragility.

I have already mentioned New Zealand’s engagement in the Solomon Islands, Bougainville, and Timor-Leste, and to that list we can add the island of Tonga, which had its commercial centre destroyed during riots last November.
Each situation has called for a different response, drawing on military, policing, diplomatic and development, humanitarian and civilian inputs.

Two of the most serious instances have been in Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

In 1999, New Zealand committed a battalion of peace-keepers to Timor, to help restore a country nearly destroyed by the militias following the referendum over its future earlier that year.

We celebrated with the Timorese people when they achieved self-determination and democracy in 2002, after 25 years of struggle and an apparently successful UN-led transition to independence.

Timor-Leste’s return to violence in 2006 underscored the difficulty and complexity of state-building. Defence forces from Australia and New Zealand and police from 38 countries have once again assisted Timor-Leste to establish law and order.

New Zealand is now working with the UN and regional partners in a sixth UN mission in Timor-Leste to try to achieve durable social and political stability. We currently have an army company there, supported by two Air Force helicopters, and 25 police.

New Zealand helped restore stability and we provided security for the recent elections. But the longer-term challenge remains of building sustainable state institutions that are strong enough to sustain stability without the need for an international presence. We are committed to supporting Timor-Leste in this process.

New Zealand has also played an important role in helping to restore stability in Solomon Islands, as part of a regional assistance mission known as RAMSI. Led by Australia, RAMSI is a collective effort by 15 countries of the Pacific Islands Forum to assist another member in a time of need.

Defence and Police personnel from around the Pacific have helped prevent further conflict and to restore law and order. Their presence in the Solomon Islands is an important stabilising factor.

Sustainable peace requires more than simply a foreign security presence, however. Robust institutions of governance, such as a functioning judiciary, legislature and government executive, are all important.

Public demand for the proper exercise of authority and accountability in government is important. Sustainable livelihoods and economic resilience also help.

RAMSI has worked to support Solomon Islands as it seeks to rebuild a shattered economy, and the key institutions of governance. That assistance has included substantial efforts to build capacity in the areas of economic governance, the machinery of government, and law and justice.

The partnership between RAMSI and Solomon Islands government is intrinsic to RAMSI’s presence. Consolidation of progress in the Solomons depends on a continuing consent environment for RAMSI, and there remains overwhelming and positive popular support for its work.

New Zealand – and the international community – has learnt much from these and other peace support experiences.

A holistic approach is essential. Insecurity and violence are the most obvious and pressing problems. But they are generally manifestations of deep-seated issues – ethnic or religious tensions, weak or corrupt central authorities, and lack of economic opportunity – that also need to be addressed.

Military and policing inputs need to be complemented by development initiatives aimed at rebuilding state institutions.

Interventions must be inclusive. The relationship between the intervening countries and the host nation needs to be a partnership in pursuit of shared goals.

Being invited by a host government and maintaining consent environments are important to the success of an operation. This is not always straightforward, especially where local governance institutions have collapsed.

Post-conflict societies are often pre-conflict societies. Conflict causes vulnerability. It corrodes the institutions of fragile states, and brutalises the people that live in them.

Its effects are felt across all levels of society – from political institutions to community groups. The effects are also indiscriminate in who they touch – from the men inevitably caught up in conflict to the women and children whose lives are so often negatively affected by it.

Post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction rarely follows a positive linear trend. There will almost always be setbacks in the long road back to security, peace and prosperity. Partners providing assistance need to be prepared for this.

In addition, engagement needs to be long-term. The causes of conflict are rarely recent, but have built up over years. Similarly, recovery is often the work of a generation, rather than just a few years.

Engagement is not static: the emphasis changes according to circumstances and over time, requiring a mix of peace-building and medium- and long-term state-building.

Defence and police may play a central initial role, whereas once capacity-building is possible, development agencies come to the fore.

Maintaining consent environments can be very difficult. Conflict or post-conflict environments are often characterised by political instability, weak institutions, vested interests, and an ongoing appetite for conflict as a means to achieve political ends. This can prove challenging for those delivering assistance.

Coordination, coherence and cooperation are essential. The domestic agencies involved; the contributing countries; the partner government, and other donors all have differing perspectives that need to be taken into account.

Drawing on these lessons, New Zealand is currently looking to improve its whole-of-government framework, with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of our engagement with fragile and post-conflict states.

This requires complete coordination between departments responsible for security; political and economic affairs; and development and humanitarian assistance.

International experience suggests such a whole-of-government approach can improve the coherence and effective governance of peace support a engagement working in partnership with the government of a failed state.

It can also assist the mission’s alignment with partner country strategies and the work of other donors and actors, including UN missions and agencies.

The coordination of diverse inputs can help deliver more effective longer-term development and stability, and reduce the risk of objectives being compromised or not met.

Coherent approaches, agreed with partner countries, may also increase legitimacy, potentially reducing political sensitivities and improving consent environments.

The international community is working to draw together lessons like these into coherent examples of best practice. The OECD Development Assistance Committee’s Principles for Engagement in Fragile States are a good example of this work. New Zealand will continue to contribute to – and learn from – this type of cooperation.

Similarly, we welcome the recent establishment of the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission. The integrated and comprehensive efforts that the Commission is mandated to provide are essential if we are to assist countries in making the difficult transition from violence to peace.

The Commission has the potential to deliver the sort of comprehensive support that states need in post-conflict situations. However its long-term success is not yet assured, and it will require on-going support, because much will depend on its ability to achieve tangible results.

One thing remains clear. Simply improving coordination is not enough. The international community also needs to work together, through the multilateral system, to meet the political challenges of helping states that risk descending into conflict, and to help prevent conflicts from re-occurring.

For example, the situation in Sudan remains of grave concern. The establishment of the UN-African Union Hybrid Mission for Darfur is welcome, but long overdue.

The Sudanese government’s attempts to thwart that mission flew in the face of international opinion. Even now the Sudanese are delaying the deployment of an effective force. To address this, the international community will need to not only work in concert, but to demonstrate collective resolve.

From the Pacific to the Middle East, New Zealand, like Sweden, is committed to playing its part to bring about a more peaceful world.

That involves active participation in peace support work – both operationally and in international discussions about best practice. It involves learning practical lessons, adapting to incorporate best practice, and working closely with our natural partners.

It also involves drawing on a long national tradition of supporting others as they seek to move from conflict to peace. I can assure you that New Zealand’s commitment to this role remains unstinting.


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