22 May 2013

NZ advised to contribute more to UN missions

8:27 pm on 22 May 2013

New Zealand should do more to support United Nations' peacekeeping missions - regardless of its bid to become a member of the organisation's Security Council.

That was the opinion of some speakers at a symposium on New Zealand's security future in Wellington on Wednesday, who were reflecting on the county's involvement in Afghanistan and other theatres of war.

Of the UN's 193 members, New Zealand is ranked 92nd for its commitment to peacekeeping.

Paul Sinclair, a lecturer in strategic studies at Wellington's Victoria University, says following its involvement in Afghanistan, East Timor and Solomon Islands - which weren't UN missions - New Zealand can now do more to support the UN.

Mr Sinclair said that commitment should be made - regardless of whether New Zealand is elected to the UN Security Council in October 2014.

"There are opportunities to work more closely with some of the Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines (which) are now very active peacekeeping contributors. They're countries that we work well with, we get on together very well with their militaries.

"I would argue, irrespective of our campaign for the UN Security Council, that it's something we need to look at doing."

Robert Patman, a professor of international relations, said New Zealand built a good reputation for its work in Afghanistan and will soon be asked to deploy into other conflict zones.

Professor Patman said New Zealand has a good relationship with the permanent Security Council members and, if elected, could encourage them to exercise restraint when wielding the veto.

However Robert Ayson, a professor of strategic studies, told the symposium the New Zealand Government needs to take a hard-nosed approach when choosing military deployments.

Professor Ayson said New Zealand's national and regional interests should outweigh those of traditional defence partners.

Even if the United States decided to respond to new security problems, that shouldn't automatically draw New Zealand into a conflict, he said.

"If there is not a mission which actually suits our national interests and our sense of what works for the types of things that New Zealand wishes to achieve for its Defence Force and its foreign policy and its strategic interests, then we should be very cautious."

Professor Ayson said he expects New Zealand would want to focus on regional security in the future, particularly in the Pacific, and maintain a Defence Force capable of responding in that theatre.