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New organisation says New Zealand should play a role in preventing armed conflict

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A new organisation set to launch on 23 October aims to widen the public conversation about the role of Aotearoa New Zealand in the world.

New Zealand Alternative will do research, policy development and advocacy to help shape a truly independent, values-driven foreign policy for Aotearoa as a South Pacific country.

The organisation’s first publication, “Aotearoa New Zealand and Conflict Prevention”, will be released on 24 October, United Nations Day. It draws on interviews with 30 experts in New Zealand and overseas, including former Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Foreign Minister, Sir Don McKinnon, and documents released under the Official Information Act.

It examines our country’s history of peace, reviews the international landscape of peace mediation and conflict prevention, and outlines a detailed set of recommendations for the role Aotearoa New Zealand should seek to play in this area. The key recommendation is that the government should establish an independent Conflict Prevention Unit.

The recommendations are in line with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s recent commitment to international peace and conflict prevention work at the United Nations.

New Zealand Alternative co-founder and Director, Thomas Nash, says that the Prime Minister should deliver concrete foreign policy initiatives that will give effect to the values of “peace, prosperity and fairness” espoused in her high profile United Nations address last month.

“The Prime Minister rightly aspires to lead a transformative government,” Nash says. “To make that happen, we encourage her to follow up her foreign policy ambitions with solid policy initiatives. This new publication outlines one promising option we think she could take.”

History indicates a level of bipartisan support on this topic, with OIA documents showing that both the Clark and Key governments took initial steps towards an expanded role in conflict prevention and peace mediation. However, the development of enduring and consolidated capacity has not materialised.

New Zealand Alternative urges the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters to take up this report’s recommendations on international conflict prevention and peace mediation. Doing so would demonstrate a commitment to multilateralism, fresh thinking and independent foreign policy.

New Zealand Alternative co-founder Dr Nina Hall added: “Like our nuclear-free status, a New Zealand conflict prevention role could, in time, become a flagship pillar of a truly independent New Zealand foreign policy.”

  • Source: A New Zealand Alternative release