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The contested space of post-conflict development: Reflections of New Zealand Defence Force Personnel on working at the nexus of security and development in Afghanistan

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posted on 2021-11-15, 16:58 authored by Morris, Samantha

The distinction between the soldier and the humanitarian in insecure environments is increasingly being challenged. The deployment of military units, such as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) to Afghanistan (2001-2013), combine traditional civil and military objectives. These deployed units are tasked with enhancing security and governance, while facilitating reconstruction and development. Critics of the PRT model suggest that by allowing military units to conduct development work, a line is blurred between apolitical humanitarian activities and politicised military intervention, placing civilian practitioners at risk. Further, military organisational culture and identity are suggested to be incompatible with non-warfighting tasks.  Adopting a feminist post-structural approach, I draw on the emergent security-development nexus literature in addition to post-development scholarship, to suggest that the fidelity of such critiques to a concrete distinction between security and development marginalises the experiences of those military personnel already engaged in development practice. The reflections of ten New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel deployed with the New Zealand PRT in Bamiyan Province Afghanistan (2003-2013) are explored in this thesis.  This research concludes that personnel communicate multiple coexisting understandings of both security and development. These understandings inform their perspectives on their role as development facilitators, and shape their practice in the field. Personnel exercise agency to pursue development objectives not accounted for by the activities of the PRT. This exercise of agency is informed by personnel’s understandings of what development means, and is often explained with reference to their identity as both New Zealanders, and soldiers. Personnel draw on this New Zealand-Military identity to reconcile their position as responsible for guaranteeing security and facilitating development.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John