Building Defence Ties With Fiji

04/02/2021 News

A Ministry of Defence Policy Advisor aims to strengthen Defence ties between New Zealand and Fiji, during a six week deployment to the Pacific Island nation.

When Kate first started working at the New Zealand Ministry of Defence 18 months ago, she never imagined she’d end up in Fiji embedded in its Ministry of Defence.

But that’s just where Kate has been, working with her Fijian counterparts to help them develop a new national Peacekeeping Strategy.

Her six week secondment, which wound-up late in 2020, also saw her work with her Fijian peers on a range of security policy issues, including human trafficking, arms trading, narcotics, and maritime security.

These are the sorts of trans-national policy issues that countries around the world are grappling with right now,” said Kate.

“Increasingly, the security issues that we are facing at home are trans-boundary in nature, and no one country can deal with them alone. I think a posting like this helps New Zealand to have a better understanding of how Fiji might respond to a shared security challenge in the Pacific, and in turn how we might be able to work better together,” said Kate.

Kate flew to Fiji with a large group of Defence Force personnel, who provided training to their Fijian counterparts in advanced combat first aid, hydrographic surveying and leadership, as well as mentoring from a defence psychologist on recruitment and selection. This was the first time in many years such a large Defence group from New Zealand had deployed to Fiji to work with their counterparts.

“One of the most significant and long-standing Defence partnerships New Zealand has in the Pacific is with Fiji – so it makes sense that the Ministry of Defence’s first deployment of this kind is to Suva. Fiji’s Defence sector is set up in a very similar way to New Zealand, with their Ministry of Defence acting as the lead civilian advisor to Government on defence matters.”

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence works with Defence partners and Government counterparts around the world to deepen Defence ties. The Ministry’s International Branch, in partnership with other Government agencies like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, works with countries across the Pacific to deepen mutual understanding of security priorities and build regional civilian Defence capability together.

“The people who work at the Fijian Ministry of Defence are the experts in their own issues, with really good ideas and solutions. I basically came into the Ministry with a fresh set of eyes, and helped to peer review their work and contribute to policy development discussions. I used the same analytical skills I would I use back home – reading policies line-by-line - looking at whether their logic or assumptions could be challenged or made clearer.”

Kate says the posting was a massive learning experience, professionally and personally.

“Every country has its own unique issues and variables to work around, so you could never come in with a template and say, “Hey, this is how we do it in New Zealand, try this”. That wouldn’t work. Every country needs to go through the policy development process, a sort of trial and error, in order to get the right outcome.”

“It was such a privilege to be able to help my peers in Fiji in this small way, and I am so grateful for their support. This has been a real career highlight for me, building upon my previous work in the Pacific for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and in the NGO sector.”

Covid-19 travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in both New Zealand and Fiji meant Kate’s posting was extended to six weeks.

“It was a really positive outcome for both New Zealand and Fiji and built upon the relationship of trust and support that we have,” she said.

The posting has proven so valuable, the Ministry of Defence is exploring future secondments in the Pacific, like the one Kate completed.