Armistice Day – conflict and peace in 2018

Written by Denise Evans

This Sunday, 11 November 2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. The world is a very different place today to 1918 when an armistice agreement famously called an end to fighting at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. While 100 years have since passed, conflict continues to ravage today’s world. On the world stage, many nations are dealing with conflict, both domestically and internationally.

While Armistice Day or Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on conflicts past and present, it is also a time to look forward. Armistice Day remains as an enduring reminder that peace can be forged even in the most brutal and entrenched conflicts. Across the world, a roaring chorus will ring out and people will gather to commemorate the moment that conflict subsided and peace could be found. It is a symbol of hope.

What brings me renewed hope this Armistice Day is fresh calls for New Zealand to take a leadership role in international conflict prevention and mediation. The New Zealand Alternative have recently issued a report entitled Aotearoa New Zealand and Conflict Prevention: Building a Truly Independent Foreign Policy. Their first report looks at the role peace mediation and conflict prevention could play in New Zealand’s foreign policy, and it recommends the establishment of a Conflict Prevention Unit.

This report is an interesting read regardless of your background. It chronicles New Zealand’s involvement in hosting peace negotiations between armed groups in Bougainville and the Papua New Guinean government in 1997. It looks at our own understanding of peace through the lens of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and also from the te ao Māori perspective of how we understand peace. Through extensive research and interviews, the report makes a case for the design and possible positioning of a peace mediation and conflict prevention unit.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clarke has also contemplated the possibility of New Zealand becoming an international centre for dispute resolution. Speaking at AMINZ Conference in August 2018, she said New Zealand “has the cred” to play a major role in mediating international disputes, noting a need for greater resources at a government level.

In many ways, New Zealand is well placed to lead this conversation on the world stage. We may be a small island-nation on the fringe of the world, but we can look at world events from a wider perspective and we are recognised for our ability to proactively participate in peace keeping missions around the world. 

We have a unique perspective on peace making which is founded on the recognition that we are a nation founded upon the negotiation embodied in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We have demonstrated our ability to maintain strong relationships with world powers and to have the courage to take a firm stand such as the stand taken against nuclear weapons with the passing of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987. This was a major statement and something we can use in world conversations as a basis for a shared interest conversation.

This Armistice Day, will New Zealand answer the call to resolve conflict and preserve peace internationally?

About the author

Denise Evans is Principal, Dispute Resolution at FairWay. As part of this role, Denise provides Dispute Resolution leadership within FairWay and champions the use of Dispute Resolution services in New Zealand and internationally.

Denise has over 30 years’ experience as a lawyer, mediator and arbitrator. If you would like to get in touch with Denise, please contact her by email at denise.evans@fairwayresolution.com