Peace operations seminar essential

Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), CPL Janine Fabre (photographer)

Location(s): Weston Creek

Commander Greg Swinden is the Reserve officer at the Sea Power Centre – Australia. (photo: CPL Janine Fabre)
Commander Greg Swinden is the Reserve officer at the Sea Power Centre – Australia.

Participants from as far away as Egypt and Jordan attended a peace operations seminar at the Australian Defence Force Peace Operations Training Centre at Weston Creek in Canberra in early March.
Commandant Australian Command and Staff College, Air Commodore Matt Hegarty said in his opening address the United Nations peacekeeping system was facing increasing challenges with the rise in the complexity of the multi-dimensional aspects of contemporary peacekeeping operations.
“The scope and scale of UN peacekeeping is huge, with more than 117,000 military, police and civilian personnel deployed across more than a dozen peacekeeping missions,” he said.
“Increasingly, peacekeepers are being deployed to conflict areas in difficult operating environments, where often there is little peace to keep, host state capacity is weak and local stakeholders are openly hostile to the UN’s presence.”
Air Commodore Hegarty said the nature of peacekeeping had changed.
“Originally developed as a means of dealing with inter-state conflict, UN peacekeeping has been increasingly applied to intra-state conflicts and civil wars,” he said.
“Peacekeepers are increasingly required to protect civilians and non-combatants in mission areas rather than observe buffer zones.
The seminar covered key themes including fundamentals of peacekeeping operations, legal framework of these operations, protection of civilians, women, peace and security and a case study of Rwanda.

The peace operations seminar was a “real eye-opener” to the inner workings of the United Nations, particularly the relationship between the United Nations and the many and varied non-government organisations, according to one officer who attended.

Reserve officer at the Sea Power Centre – Australia Commander Greg Swinden worked with the United Nations on operations in East Timor in 2000 and Afghanistan in 2014.
He said he thought he had a good understanding of how the organisation worked.
“But since completing this seminar I’ve realised how rudimentary that understanding was,” he said.
Military officers from Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Jordan, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam also took part, sharing their experiences in peace operations in various African nations, the former Yugoslavia and Haiti, greatly enhancing the learning of all.
“I would strongly recommend this training to any Australian Defence Force personnel intending to work with the UN in the future.
“As it is likely more multi-dimensional peace operations will occur in the future, this training is essential for Australian Defence Force members.”
Commander Swinden said the United Nations would not lead them to heaven, but would stop them going to hell.
“The UN has been criticised in the past and this seminar revealed some of the shortcomings of previous peace operations,” he said.
“The future of peace operations was discussed in depth and many of the mistakes of the past, such as highly restrictive rules of engagement and dysfunctional troop contributing nations were discussed at length.
“Training such as this should improve the Australian Defence Force’s performance on future peacekeeping operations.”