Navy's role in peacekeeping

Published on Mr John Perryman (author), ABIS Jo Dilorenzo (photographer)

Chief marine Technician Mathew Philp and Leading Seaman Michael Wilson check the oil in the engine room on HMAS Brunei during operations in the Solomon Islands in support of Operation ANODE - the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). (photo: ABIS Jo Dilorenzo)
Chief marine Technician Mathew Philp and Leading Seaman Michael Wilson check the oil in the engine room on HMAS Brunei during operations in the Solomon Islands in support of Operation ANODE - the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Since the formation of the United Nations in the closing stages of the Second World War, much effort has been expended to limit the form and extent of conflict through international treaties and conventions, and Australia has been a leading player.

During the past 70 years Navy has achieved a proud record of participation in international peacekeeping, with peacekeepers serving in the field with the United Nations almost continuously throughout that time.

Not all peacekeeping operations are benign and as such they fall into three distinct categories. The first, peacekeeping, describes non-coercive diplomacy and formally refers to observer and interposition forces. Peacekeeping operations implicitly operate under a mandate and according to conditions which are agreed to by all concerned.

Open ocean peacekeeping operations are rare and, more commonly, naval forces have been used to patrol coasts, estuaries and rivers to monitor ceasefires. Warships have also provided neutral venues for peace talks, while other specialist naval personnel have been employed ashore as military observers, liaison officers, headquarters staff officers, disarmament inspectors or in medical logistics and communications detachments.

The utility, reach and presence of naval forces, particularly amphibious vessels and their embarked air assets, has also seen the provision of substantial logistic support to peacekeeping forces operating ashore.

Peace enforcement operations move a step further than peacekeeping and are defined by a coercive use of military forces to assist diplomatic efforts to restore peace and order.

In some circumstances peace enforcement operations have been undertaken when one or more of the belligerents have not consented to intervention by international forces.

While the level of force exerted is carefully controlled, the possibility of reprisal by the affected party generally requires such operations to be conducted in concert with a range of self-protective measures. The roles played by maritime forces often depend upon the nature and scale of the operation, but may extend to high- level sea control and power projection operations, as well as the provision of logistic support.

Sanctions and embargoes are a major maritime component of peace enforcement. Peacemaking may be defined as operations to secure a ceasefire or peaceful settlement, involving diplomatic action supported when necessary by direct or indirect use of military assets.

The presence of a warship close offshore can assist immeasurably in this context, providing an unmistakable show of military strength and national resolve. Irrespective of the type of peacekeeping mission executed, all have inherent dangers and risks associated with them and consequently a number of Australian Defence Force personnel have lost their lives in the pursuit of peace.

Since 1947, peacekeepers have taken part in more than 50 operations, in more than two dozen theatres of conflict around the world.

Given its size and resources, Australia is also expected to take a particular leadership role in the region when it comes to bringing aid to the victims of natural disasters.

Few if any of these missions could be undertaken without naval support, and the men and women of the Navy have regularly been on the frontline when Australia has sought to display its interest and concern in world events.