Peacekeeping after the Cold War
The end of the Cold War enabled the United Nations (UN) to make better use of its collective security provisions. As a result, the number of peacekeeping missions and similar interventions increased dramatically in the 1990s. Between 1989 and 1992 alone, New Zealand personnel took part in more than 20 peace support operations.
New Zealand Defence Force contributions included an army engineer who worked as part of the UN Mine Clearance Team in Afghanistan, an observer in the UN group overseeing the end of the Iran–Iraq War, and a small detachment of army engineers who served as part of an Australian contingent in the UN Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia.
After the Cold War armed conflicts were increasingly within rather than between states. This required a change in the nature of UN peacekeeping. A 2000 UN report noted that peacekeeping had evolved rapidly ‘from a traditional, primarily military model of observing ceasefires and force separations after inter-State wars, to a complex model of many elements, military and civilian, working together to build peace in the dangerous aftermath of civil wars.’1
In 1992 New Zealand made its largest peacekeeping contribution yet, when 97 troops were sent to take part in the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). As well as helping secure a fragile peace and oversee democratic elections, New Zealand strengthened its key bilateral defence relationship with Australia.
A medal was awarded to New Zealand troops who served under NATO in the former Yugoslavia between 1996 and 2002. It was one of a number of medals recognising service in peacekeeping missions, which from the 1990s became the standard overseas posting for New Zealand Defence Force personnel.
In 1992 the UN asked the New Zealand government to contribute troops to a peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia. The UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was attempting to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians. New Zealand sent nine military observers in response to the UN’s initial request.
As the military and humanitarian situation on the ground worsened during 1993, the UN Security Council decided to send a larger force with more robust rules of engagement. New Zealand contributed a 250-strong infantry company (known as Kiwi Company) based at Vitez, north-west of Sarajevo. The deployment was New Zealand’s largest overseas mission since the end of the Vietnam War.
Most of the troops returned to New Zealand by 1996 following the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. A small number of observers and other personnel remained attached to EU and NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia for more than a decade.
New Zealand sent peacekeeping troops to Somalia in 1992 to support the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), initiated when civil war broke out after the Somalian president was overthrown the previous year. Ongoing conflict prevented troops from succeeding in their mission to protect humanitarian relief activities and the United States-led United Task Force (UNITAF), which included New Zealand troops, took over the operation. In 1993 UNITAF was replaced by an expanded United Nations force (UNOSOM II). New Zealand troops remained in Somalia until 1994. The operation ended in 1995. In the 2010s the New Zealand military advisor in Kenya regularly visited Somalia.