New Zealand has a long history of involvement in peacemaking and peacekeeping activities. As a small state, it has a strong interest in a rules-based international order and in the peaceful resolution of disputes. It was a founding member of the United Nations (UN) and supported the organisation’s efforts to promote peacekeeping and peace making.
New Zealand has been continuously involved in UN peacekeeping activities since the 1950s. In 2011, 458 New Zealand Defence Force troops and more than 75 police officers were serving in 19 UN-led or UN-endorsed peacekeeping missions. In addition to providing personnel, New Zealand also helped pay for these operations, contributing $22.2 million to the UN peacekeeping budget in the 2010/11 year.
Development of peacekeeping
In 1945 the UN was created and given the mandate ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’.1 In the UN context peacekeeping has involved the deployment of forces, sometimes unarmed, in order to prevent and contain hostilities and to keep adversaries apart. It is based on principles of consent, impartiality and of not using force except in self-defence. It is different from peace enforcement, which involves the use of coercive measures including military force to bring an end to hostilities, and peace making, which describes diplomatic actions designed to bring conflict to a negotiated end.
Peacekeeping missions are often led by the UN, but they have also taken place under the banner of regional organisations such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or the African Union.
The New Zealand government often uses the broader term ‘peace-support operations’, which includes not only UN peacekeeping missions, but also peace enforcement and some other military deployments based on alliance and other ties.
The largest deployment of New Zealand forces in the 2000s was in Afghanistan, as part of the international response to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. Although the mission was not a UN peacekeeping operation, foreign forces operated in Afghanistan on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions. In 2011 New Zealand had members of its SAS (Special Air Services) and a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Afghanistan.
The 140-strong PRT was based in Bamyan province, north-west of Kabul. Its mission was to patrol and provide security, train the Afghan army and police and provide assistance to the UN in Afghanistan. By August 2012, 10 New Zealand soldiers had died while stationed in Afghanistan: eight in combat and two in non-combat situations.
From the New Zealand government’s perspective, engagement in Afghanistan served three purposes. It supported the UN, offered an opportunity to work more closely with NATO, and was an important part of restoring the bilateral security relationship with the US, which had been strained after New Zealand adopted nuclear-free policies in the 1980s.
While peacekeeping is often seen as a military activity, civilian police are increasingly involved in post-conflict situations. New Zealand police personnel have been posted to Cyprus (1964–67), Namibia (1989–90), East Timor (since 1999), Bougainville (2000), Solomon Islands (2003), Afghanistan (2005) and Tonga (following riots in 2006).
When police were dispatched on peace-support operations, officers were ‘borrowed’ from district commanders around the country. Operations overseas became increasingly common in the 2000s, and it sometimes took as long as nine months before a replacement was found.
The kind of work carried out during these missions has changed. Until the end of the 1990s policing in international peace operations typically revolved around the SMART model (support, monitoring, advising, reporting and training). In the 2000s key tasks for New Zealand police overseas typically involved the ‘Three R’s’– reforming, restructuring and rebuilding the local police force.
In 2012 police remained on deployment in Afghanistan, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, East Timor and Tonga. The danger faced by police deployed in areas of war, danger or emergency was recognised in 2012 when they became eligible for burial in New Zealand services cemeteries.
Criteria for peace support operations
The deployment of troops and police to the Solomon Islands, East Timor and Afghanistan in the 2000s put considerable strain on New Zealand’s limited resources. The government developed four criteria to determine whether or not to contribute to a particular peace support operation:
- the strategic implications of the operation, including its effect on security, the humanitarian situation and New Zealand’s relationships with other countries
- the nature of the mission – the legality of the proposed mission and mandate under international law
- repercussions for New Zealand agencies involved in the proposed operation
- whether New Zealand can assist the fragile or post-conflict state in other ways.