NZ reviews peacekeeping

MICHAEL FIELD AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 15:01 17/06/2014

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New Zealand wants to give up doing peacekeeping work for the sake of being a good global citizen and instead pick missions that benefit our international interests.

A review of peacekeeping options also suggests dropping a formal guideline that peace support operations (PSOs) must "be acceptable to the New Zealand public".

The review, by the staff of the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and police, released under the Official Information Act, says the military should "seek opportunities" to work aboard with Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada.

Parts of the report that are redacted on the grounds of security and defence, hint at the future involvement of non-military government agencies in peacekeeping missions.

The review comes as New Zealand forces on peacekeeping missions fall to just 77 military staff and 29 police, the lowest level of deployment since the early 1990s.

In the paper, officials say contributing to peacekeeping operations has traditionally been viewed "primarily through the lens of being a good international citizen".

"These reasons endure today, yet threats to New Zealand's national interests are now also more overtly global in nature. The increase in globally connected supply chains, the rise of non-state actors, international terrorism, porous national borders, and the diffusion of geo-strategic power all contribute to to a complex and challenging security environment that can directly affect New Zealand's interests from afar. In this environment, conflicts outside our region now have a more direct relevance to our economic, trade and security interests and to the safety of New Zealanders abroad. A commitment to collective security efforts outside our region can, therefore, support New Zealand's national security interests."

NOT MORE DEPLOYMENTS

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the prioritisation would not mean more deployments but outlined the criteria that would need to be met before the Government deployed troops.

"There'll be parts of the world where it makes sense for New Zealand to participate, places where we can support operations far more easily than we might in other parts of the world. So it's saying hey, let's be sensible about this, if theres a place where we are asked to go, do we have an interest there, can we support an operation, what are the implications [not only] for the NZDF but the New Zealand government."

The approach also included alternative contributions to peacekeeping operations such as policy engagement and capacity building.

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LABOUR REACTION

Labour's Defence spokesman Phil Goff said that with overseas peacekeeping deployments at a 20 year low, New Zealand was "scarcely fulfilling the international obligation that we've got for being a good international citizen".

The Government was too focused on wooing diplomats rather than on its international responsibilities as it bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

"The truth is we haven't been pulling our weight in that regard and that won't actually assist, sadly because I'm very much in favour of us campaigning for the Security Council, but it doesn't help our case if the only thing we can refer to is what we used to do rather than what we're currently doing."

There was also a risk that the New Zealand Defence Force could not sustain multiple deployments because of its "run down nature" and high rate of attrition.

"So while this paper says yes they should adopt a proactive stance and go out and look at a way of contributing, actually what the Defence Force tells us is they are at real risk of not being able to sustain a deployment... That's a real concern."

Coleman denied this.

CONCERNS IN WELLINGTON

The paper says there are concerns in Wellington over the resourcing and mandates of some UN missions, including over the quality of some contributors.

Some missions, such as those on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria, were facing growing complexity and risks.

Meanwhile, the paper warns that New Zealand's closest neighbours "face chronic social, economic, environmental and governance stresses meaning that the outlook for the South Pacific over the next 25 years is one of fragility".

New Zealand deployments in Timor and the Solomon Islands have been wound down, but the paper, with a redaction, points to the need to provide military and police at "short notice".

The paper also argues for New Zealand to get more involved in peacekeeping policy at the UN headquarters in New York.

"The UN would also welcome greater New Zealand policy engagement on peacekeeping issues in New York as New Zealand is often seen as having an objective, pragmatic approach to issues," it says.

The paper does not explain why the new guidelines should drop the requirement that a deployment should be "acceptable to the New Zealand public".

It adds: "No publicity is planned, although media and close security partners have already expressed an interest in the outcome."

- Stuff

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