We are all in this together: Ron Mark reflects on his time as minister and discusses New Zealand's role as a contributor to regional and collective security.

AuthorMark, Ron

Over the past two and a half years as the minister of defence. I have focused on ensuring that the New Zealand Defence Force is ready to respond to a range of operational requirements at the direction of the government. It has been a privilege to hold this position.

In this article I will discuss some specific areas of my portfolio, including the international security environment, the strategic direction for Defence, our international relationships and deployments as well as the role the NZDF has played in communities around New Zealand.

I will begin by identifying the key impacts Covid-19 is having on defence. As we are all aware, the pandemic is having an extreme impact on the world, and in particular the global economy. The World Bank is forecasting the worst global recession since the Second World War and global unemployment is expected to rise to its highest level since 1965. Consequently. New Zealand will continue to navigate an increasingly complex and dynamic international security environment.

The pandemic has resulted in further strain on the international rules-based order, which is foundational to our security. At the point when the world needs a co-ordinated global response more than ever, the global rules and institutions that support and sustain the system are under serious pressure, with consequences for New Zealand's interests across the board. Although the full implications for global security will only become clear over time, the spread of Covid-19 has accentuated geopolitical shifts, tested the robustness of democratic governance and increased social inequalities.

Key forces

The pandemic is one of a combination of forces increasing pressure on the international rules-based order. The three key forces are:

* states pursuing greater influence in ways that challenge international norms and at times the sovereignty of small states;

* challenges to open societies that threaten those states' willingness to champion the rules-based order;

* complex disruptors that disproportionately affect open societies and weak states, and are forces for disorder.

With the backdrop of Covid-19 and a strained international environment, New Zealand is facing intensifying disruptors closer to home. These include climate change, transnational organised crime and resource competition. These forces will disrupt our neighbourhood, including our extensive maritime area. which covers 11 per cent of the Earth's surface, in complex and compounding ways. Further afield, the stability of the Asia-Pacific region is under pressure from a range of factors, from violent extremism in South-east Asia to North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

How can we ensure New Zealand will be able to navigate these challenges? We achieve this through our policy settings, which articulate and define how Defence responds to this evolving security environment.

Over the past two and a half years, Defence has seen significant updates to its policy settings. These have included the introduction of the 'Community. Nation, World' framework. which acknowledges the NZDF's important role in supporting community well-being and national resilience. An important theme that derives from this framework is Defence support to other agencies' outcomes. Ministers from Social Development to Conservation, Customs and Police are all supported by Defence and have a stake in Defence.

Defence principles

The establishment of clear, concise 'Defence Principles' articulates long-standing and widely held expectations of our defence force, and describe at a fundamental level what it is, and how it should operate and promote New Zealand's interests and values. These include:

* ensuring that Defence is combat capable, flexible and ready,

* making sure our personnel have the resources to meet operational and strategic priorities.

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