24th annual conference for the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e rau rangatira mā

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

Nau mai haere mai ki Aotearoa ki Tamaki Makaurau

And, if I might, on behalf of our Pacific Island family, also say “Bula”, “Malo e lelei”, “Talofa Lava” and Kia Orana”.   

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour to be here today, to welcome you to Aotearoa New Zealand, for the 24th annual conference of the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres.

It is a great privilege to welcome you all to the Pacific for this conference, to contribute to international understanding on peacekeeping, as well as to celebrate the contribution our region has made globally in this area.

In the Pacific we talk about our ‘Blue Pacific identity’ as the cornerstone of collective action.

The Blue Pacific is all about people (civil society, academia, policy makers, government representatives) working together in partnership for the betterment of our people.

The Blue Pacific identity provides a strong foundation for the conversations we will have this week.

Partnership, collective action, and inclusivity, are all critical features of peacekeeping.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping.

Seven decades ago, leaders from across the world came together around a shared vision for collective action.

They recognised at that time that we needed a new way to collectively respond to challenges to peace. 

And for 70 years, people from all corners of the world have demonstrated immense dedication, courage and professionalism in the service of peace through contributions to a diverse range of peacekeeping environments.

Contributing to peacekeeping missions has been an important experience for New Zealand personnel serving overseas, and for many from neighbouring countries in the Pacific.

During my own service career I was honoured to be included in the initial group of New Zealand peacekeepers sent to establish the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai in 1982.

My 13 month experience in the Sinai taught me at first-hand, at a young age, about how diverse nations can come together to work in the service of peace. Something which stood me in good stead for the five more years I was to serve in Oman.

Over the years we have seen dramatic changes in the peacekeeping environments to which our people are deployed.

Peacekeeping is increasingly conducted in highly volatile, high-risk environments where there is no peace to keep.

Peacekeeping missions and personnel must demonstrate great agility in this constantly evolving environment.

As peacekeeping stakeholders, you all face evolving and complex issues on a daily basis.

You are looking for solutions to challenges of a scope and magnitude not previously seen in peacekeeping environments.

This conference is an opportunity to consider and tackle some of these challenges.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Innovative Capacity Building for Effective Peace Operations”.

We have a great line up of speakers – experts in their field – who are here to share their experiences, to inspire debate, and to confront some of the biggest challenges to peacekeeping training.

I welcome the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for South Sudan, New Zealander and a former parliamentary colleague David Shearer, who will launch the conference this morning with his keynote address. David, I am very much looking forward to hearing you speak and hearing you share your experience with us today.

He, and other distinguished guest speakers, including the United Nations Police Advisor, Luis Carrilho, and the United Nations Military Adviser for Peacekeeping Operations Lt Gen Carlos Loitey, will speak to some of the key challenges facing peacekeeping training.

Earlier this year New Zealand partnered with the African Union to host a high-level meeting on Peace Operations Training and Capacity Building.

We held the event in Addis Ababa in recognition of the pre-eminence of the African Union in peacekeeping.

The African Union manages peacekeeping missions across the continent.

Africa is also home to half of all United Nations peacekeeping missions, and five of the top ten United Nations troop contributing countries are from Africa.

A key focus of the event was the changing character of conflict.

The message from the participants at the event was loud and clear: that peacekeeping training must reflect the evolving security environment.

Peacekeeping mandates have broadened to include diverse and complex tasks, such as protection of civilians, human rights monitoring, institution building, and assistance in restoring rule of law.

Missions are no longer uniquely composed of military personnel.

Peacekeepers include experts ranging from humanitarian workers, police officers, administrators, economists, to legal experts.

Police, military, and civilian personnel need to be prepared and able to operate in these challenging environments alongside each other and with each other.

As the roles and tasks of peacekeeping missions evolve and expand, we are also seeing a rise in fatalities and injuries of peacekeepers.

This is a solemn reminder that the issues we will discuss this week matter profoundly and touch many people around the world very directly.

In this regard I would acknowledge all those who have given their lives for the cause of global peace and the many others who have been maimed or mutilated in the performance of their duties and whose lives will never be the same, let alone normal. We salute them and their families and we thank them for their service and their sacrifice.

[pause]

We are all here today because we acknowledge that training is a critical part of how peacekeeping missions perform.

We know that peacekeeping personnel may sometimes lack the training to meet new and evolving threats.

We know that collectively we can and must do better in a fast changing environment.

We have such a wealth and diversity of knowledge and experience in this room.

This is an opportunity to better understand one another’s perspectives, to gain a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, to identify ways we can effectively move forward together.

As part of these discussions, I urge you all to look to the commitments made by the international community under the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

In this resolution, the international community reaffirmed the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction.

We have to increase the participation of women in peacekeeping training, and incorporate gender perspectives in all our peace and security efforts, to unlock and maximise the operational potential of greater female representation.  

This forum is an opportunity to better understand what these commitments on women, peace and security mean for peacekeeping training.

Before I close, I would like to acknowledge the President of the IAPTC, Ashraf Swelam of Egypt. Thank you for your excellent work as president. [Arabic greeting to Ashraf Swelam welcoming him to New Zealand].

We look forward to taking up the responsibility of this important work.

I know that New Zealand’s Colonel Helen Cooper will do a great job as the next President of the IAPTC.

We are proud to celebrate her appointment as the first female president of the Association in its 24-year history.

As a small nation, New Zealand relies on multilateral approaches to boost our contributions to global peace and security.

Hosting this conference, and taking on the presidency of the IAPTC, is one way we can demonstrate our commitment to multilateralism and the value we place on peacekeeping.

We look forward to a successful conference week.

We should be ambitious, engage openly, challenge assumptions, cut to the heart of challenging issues, and seek innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges in peacekeeping training.

There is much to gain if we collectively make a positive impact on peacekeeping performance.

Thank you