The Government has avoided significant commitments on New Zealand troops to United Nations peacekeeping efforts because of safety reasons, departing foreign minister Murray McCully has revealed.
"While we have been prepared to send people to do all sorts of difficult and dangerous things, for the most part we have avoided UN deployments because the UN has resisted the need to change," he said after a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs at Parliament last night.
One of the factors that had made a big impact on him was the fact that 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers had been taken in the Golan Heights in 2014 in circumstances that reflected no credit at all on the UN's department of peacekeeping in New York.
"Through the good work of other parties, those persons who may well have otherwise been executed were returned safely home."
He also mentioned the known fact that one of New Zealand's 8 New Zealand peacekeepers in the same area had also been abducted for five hours in 2013.
"I plead guilty to having been very reticent about picking up any further responsibilities until the UN does us the service of being prepared to put in place the sort of professionalism and the sort of safety mechanisms we would expect with regard to New Zealand service people."
He said the former president of Timor L'Este, Jose Ramo-Horta, led a major review of peacekeeping operations in 2015 "and virtually nothing was done to implement any of the findings of that report."
The last very big UN peacekeeping operation involving New Zealand was in Timor L'Este when 6000 Defence Force personnel were posted there after civil strife flared up in 1999.
New Zealand has however been involved in other peace support operations that have not come under the aegis of the UN including the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands and the Bamiyan Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.
The NZ Defence Force says there are currently 14 operations and UN missions across ten countries, in which New Zealand is involved:
Afghanistan (10 personnel)
•Antarctica (24 personnel)
• Iraq (106 personnel)
•Middle East (UN Truce Supervision Organisation) (8 personnel)
• Sinai (61 personnel)
• South Korea (5 personnel)
• South Sudan (3 personnel)
• United Arab Emirates (10 personnel)