Speech to the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue, on Ensuring a Resilient and Stable Region

  • Hon Ron Mark

Tuhia ki te rangi                               

Tuhia ki te whenua                           

Tuhia ki te ngakau                            

O nga tangata                                 

Ko te mea nui                                    

Ko te aroha                                                 

Tihei (wa) Mauri Ora!                                                   

E nga tangata whenua                               

Tena koutou                                    

E te iwi o te Moana nui a Kiwa                          

Tena koutou                                    

Apiti hono, tatai hono                      

Ratou kua wehe atu kit e po            

Apiti hono, tatai hono                      

Tatou e tu ana ki te ao                        

Greetings colleagues, fellow panellists, ladies and gentlemen, friends, whanau.

Firstly, thank you to our Singaporean hosts for your warm hospitality, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies for the invitation to speak on a topic very important to New Zealand.

As with my esteemed colleagues on the panel today, I will share with you my nation’s perspectives on how to assure long-term stability in relations among states with vital interests in the security of the region.

The greatest challenges confronting our nations at present are global, but in order for us to address them, we need to act local.

We must create better links between our communities and our nations because together we are stronger in the face of the many challenges facing our region and world.

In New Zealand that thinking manifests itself through our Community, Nation, and World framework that guides our work and engagement.

Today I wish to put forward New Zealand’s view on this topic, across four themes:

  • tackling global challenges;
  • understanding our individual motivations;
  • forging genuine people-to-people links; and
  • maintaining agile and contemporary security architecture.

Tackling global challenges

Our international rules based order is under pressure.

Strategic competition and territorial disputes threaten to compromise our national interests.

Our defence forces are increasingly responding to more frequent and powerful natural disasters.

Transnational crime and violent extremism threaten our social fabric, and cyber-attacks compromise our financial, communications and political integrity.

During this period of turbulence, we must always remember the small nations who are particularly susceptible to these complex and compounding challenges.

We are particularly seeing this dynamic play out in areas where our national interests converge, such as the busy maritime trade routes of this region.  

We all want a safe, secure and prosperous region, regardless of any of our geographic locations.

And one clear global challenge that requires a collective response, including from our militaries – is the climate crisis.

New Zealand’s 2018 Defence Assessment on climate change and security, laid out the very real security implications of climate change.

When the effects of climate change intersect with a complex array of environmental and social issues, they threaten to undermine human and social development.

They will likely be a significant contributor to both low-level instability and more violent conflict.

Climate migration has the potential to heighten security concerns, in the Pacific, and extend into both maritime South East Asia and South Asia.

Militaries are a key player in our response to this.

Because we are involved in both ends of the scenario.

We bring enviable resources and value, specifically in HADR responses and in stabilisation activities.

But we are also some of the heaviest consumers of fossil fuels and polluters through carbon emissions.

This is where collective action comes in, and real work has already begun on this issue. 

Through strong honest relationships we have a better chance to address these challenges.

Our combined efforts will be pivotal in maintaining resilience and achieving long-term stability in the region and more globally.

Understanding individual motivations

But to meet these challenges, we must all be clear and transparent in communicating our individual motivations.

How New Zealand articulates our motivations and views our strategic environment is set out in our Strategic Defence Policy Statement.

It reinforces how we see the world, and the fundamental principles underpinning our Defence policy,

It reflects New Zealand’s longstanding interests and deeply held values.

And it proudly states how our military delivers value for Community, Nation, and World.

As you all know, New Zealand is a Pacific country.

We are linked by history, culture, politics, and demographics – we are in and of the Pacific.

It is personal – we are family.

And our own prosperity and security is intrinsically linked to that of the Pacific.

On that note I want to thank Dr John Chipman and the IISS for hosting the first special session on the South Pacific, and look forward to this being a fixed part of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

In February 2018, my Government announced a Pacific Reset.

The Reset is both a vision, and a commitment to lift our ambition as part of the Pacific community.

It is about changing our mind-set to address the increasingly complex issues in our region.

It emphasises both what we are doing in the region, as well as how we operate.

Foremost, it is about genuine partnership and mutual respect. 

In many ways the Pacific region is where New Zealand matters most and can have a more positive impact.

It is our neighbourhood, and where we most certainly act locally.

Through our Strategic Defence Policy Statement, we raised the priority placed on our Defence Force’s ability to operate in the Pacific to the same level as New Zealand’s territory, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

Later this month I will unveil a plan to grow our Defence Force capability and capacity to project and sustain operations throughout the Pacific region. 

This is crucial – because our maritime area of responsibility spans nine percent of the Earth’s surface.

Stretching from the Antarctic to the equator.

Yet we are a nation of just 4.8 million people.

Our ability to respond to challenges across this vast area is an issue of foremost importance, as we face concurrent threats across the region.

By communicating our motivations openly in this way, it means you, our international partners, can clearly see what we stand for, and where we are prepared to take action.

If we are all transparent in our motivations, we reduce the risk of misunderstandings and miscalculations.

Forging genuine people-to-people links

The next step is getting to know each other.


It is our shared motivation for a safe, secure, and prosperous region that brings our community together.

And at the heart of our efforts in the Pacific is a focus on building deeper, more mature political partnerships with Pacific Island countries and institutions.

On that note I would like to acknowledge the presence of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Dame Meg Taylor.

The Boe Declaration, issued last year, calls for additional collective Pacific action to address new and non-traditional security challenges, including climate change.

It is one of the most significant statements on regional security by Pacific leaders in a generation.

It is a clear articulation from the Pacific of our security needs.

It gives us a compass for action and we must follow it – and I urge all other nations to heed the same call.

Maintaining agile and contemporary security architecture

For collective action to be effective we need a set of common rules.

In the Pacific

The Pacific’s peak body, the Pacific Islands Forum, is supported by many existing regional architectures, such as the South Pacific Defence Ministers' Meeting.

I attended the most recent engagement with regional Defence Ministers last month in Fiji, where we agreed to adopt ten recommendations aimed to promote information sharing and collaboration on Defence, climate change and security.

In the Pacific, New Zealand is also a key member of an agreement between France, Australia and New Zealand to coordinate disaster reconnaissance and relief assistance in the Pacific.

This is vital as we have seen increasingly harsh weather events, happening more frequently and affecting more people.

We underpin our relationships with exercises – including TROPIC TWILIGHT, SOUTHERN KATIPO and SKY TRAIN – which we use to build confidence and develop practical military to military cooperation for the benefit of our work in the Pacific.

These exercises often include a range of partner militaries – including both the United States and China.

We are also building partnership programmes with the Pacific militaries and security forces to increase their capacity and capabilities in areas of mutual interest, including leadership development, gender integration, and peacekeeping training.

In the Indo-Pacific

But the Pacific is not alone in facing this tapestry of global challenges.

In the Indo-Pacific, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus has gone from strength to strength over the past nine years.

Supporting and continuing to strengthen ASEAN is vital to promoting regional resilience, and the ADMM-Plus remains New Zealand’s principal forum for multilateral defence engagement in Asia.

Reviewing and energising

But our security architecture is only useful, if it remains relevant.

It cannot descend into dialogue for dialogue’s sake.

To maintain relevance we must continuously adjust and adapt to new challenges, working together to ensure our security architecture remains fit for purpose - and energised.


Today, I ask all states with interests in the security of the region:

  • To resolve to come together collectively to tackle global challenges;
  • To be clear on their individual motivations;
  • To forge genuine understanding and people-to-people links; and
  • To maintain agile and contemporary security architecture.

Environmental security concerns - including the intensifying impacts of climate change - is one that, especially as Defence Ministers, we should not ignore.

From my perspective, the best chance we have to maintain resilience and enjoy long‑term stability in the region, is for all countries to embrace ASEAN’s “One Community” vision and commit to collective action globally and to stand strong together.

A famous chief and leader of my Ngati Porou tribe, Sir Apirana Ngata, once said:

He aha te mea nui o te ao

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

We owe it to our people to be successful, because ultimately all they want is to live in a safe and secure world.

And we can do that, if we work together.

No reira

Tena koutou

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