Strengthening UN Peacekeeping

Shipping container being unloaded from plane
A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster unloads humanitarian supplies in South Sudan, January 2014. (Credit: Commonwealth of Australia)

Our term on the Security Council coincided with a period of unprecedented demand for UN peacekeeping. By the end of our term, over 130,000 personnel were deployed across 16 operations – most in Africa, most with a mandate to protect civilians. Two-thirds of these peacekeepers were operating in active conflict zones. Increasingly, peacekeepers are being deployed in inhospitable areas, performing ever more demanding tasks in places where state capacity and authority are severely limited.

Australia responded decisively to these challenges by consistently making the case for the UN peacekeeping system to be strengthened in a way that allowed it to conduct robust peacekeeping and use of modern technologies as a necessary means of protecting civilians trapped in conflict. We also supported the establishment of the first-ever “healthkeeping” mission: the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

Australia brought greater global attention to UN policing, an area vital to building the rule of law in conflict-affected societies. Australia authored and secured unanimous agreement to Resolution 2185 in November 2014. The resolution was the first dedicated to UN policing and will ensure an enduring focus on the significant contribution which effective policing makes to peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The work of police is vital to building the rule of law which is in turn decisive to long-term stability and to allowing peacekeeping operations to eventually transition out of a country.

When conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, where Australian Defence Force personnel serve, Australia strongly backed the UN’s decision to throw open the doors of its bases to protect civilians at risk of slaughter. This action saved thousands of lives and was a defining moment for the UN. In response to the crisis, Australia advocated for an increase in troops for the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, including by deploying air assets to mobilise reinforcements. Australia pushed successfully for protection of civilians to be the primary objective of the renewed mandate for the mission and for accountability for those responsible for crimes against humanity. We were among the first Council members to push for a sanctions regime to buttress the peace process, guard against spoilers and curb human rights violations. The Council eventually adopted a resolution establishing a sanctions regime in March 2015.

During our term, Mali and the broader Sahel region emerged as a central theatre in the fight against Al-Qaida linked terrorism in Africa. Australia strongly supported the creation of a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA) to prevent mass atrocities and minimise loss of civilian lives – the first peacekeeping mission to deploy into such an asymmetric threat environment

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Australia pushed strongly for the March 2013 establishment of a proactive combat element to the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). This force, known as the “Force Intervention Brigade” was a first for the UN and the risks of mandating a combat role for UN peacekeepers was justified by the defeat of one of the main groups of armed rebels (the M23) which had occupied the capital Goma and threatened peace in the eastern DRC.

Australia was a strong supporter of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and the Somalia and Eritrea sanctions regimes. We supported boosting the troop strength of AMISOM which allowed the mission to deliver strong gains against the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Australia was successful in pushing for strong human rights provisions, including prevention of sexual violence and exploitation, and robust language on improving public financial management, and combatting illicit arms and trade in charcoal in the UNSOM renewal in May 2013 and 2014. We also supported a landmark authorisation for the maritime interdiction of weapons and charcoal off the coast of Somalia: an important new means to cut off funding and weapons to Al-Shabaab in October 2014.

Australia was active in the early stages of the current crisis in Central African Republic. Australia was one of the first on the Council to call for a UN peacekeeping mission following reports of the deteriorating security situation and widespread human rights violations in many parts of the country in June 2013. We supported the Council’s authorisation of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which formally commenced on 15 September 2014, following the transfer of authority from the African Union-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA). We worked to ensure the mission was adequately resourced, with a robust mandate focused on the protection of civilians.

Find out more:

Last Updated: 18 March 2015