Independent review of the New Zealand Defence Force’s progress against its Action Plan for Operation Respect

Discrimination Defence Defence force personnel Organisational culture Sexual harassment New Zealand

In 2016, the Chief of Defence Force at the time launched the Operation Respect programme in order to eliminate harmful behaviour in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). Three years later it was considered timely to assess the progress against the Action Plan for Operation Respect. NZDF senior leadership also expressed a strong interest in gaining an independent perspective on progress and whether NZDF is well-placed to achieve the objectives of Operation Respect.

Key findings

Overall, the reviewers found that some progress is being made. The review notes the standing up of Operation Respect to foster a culture of respect is a success in itself. However, the review also found significant barriers to progress. The final report notes four fundamental challenges impeding NZDF’s success in realising the Action Plan:

  • a lack of transparency and accountability of NZDF’s progress in addressing and preventing harm;
  • the current culture still encourages a ‘code of silence’;
  • the culture of military discipline and command prevents personnel from raising concerns of speaking out; and
  • the culture also makes it is difficult to call out behaviours or decisions made by personnel more senior in the hierarchy.
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