From 28-29 May 2012 the Australian Civil-Military Centre hosted the Civil-Military Affairs Conference. The conference bought together 230 participants from 18 countries to consider the theme, Peace and Stabilisation Operations: Learning from the past to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
The conference provided a forum for policy makers, practitioners and academics to explore the lessons from peace and stabilisation missions in Asia and Pacific and examine key challenges and emerging solutions to responses to fragile and conflict affected states in practice, including the role of women in building peace and security; the impact of stabilisation operations on humanitarian action; approaches to strengthening local ownership; and the evolution of deployable civilian capacities.
To frame these discussions expert speakers were assembled from across academia, government and the humanitarian and development communities, including from Australia, Afghanistan, the United States, France, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom, as well as organisations such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, International Committee of the Red Cross, World Vision International, the Stockholm Institute of Peace and the Hiroshima Peacebuilding Centre.
The conference identified that for the international community it is no longer a question of whether civilian, military and police organisations need to collaborate to support fragile and conflict affected states; it is now a question of how we do this most effectively, recognising the different mandates, responsibilities and priorities of partners, within the context of affected state priorities.
Over the last 15 years there have been a range of new initiatives designed to address the challenges of peace and stabilisation operations, including the Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (also known as the Brahimi Report), the mainstreaming of protection of civilians, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the establishment of deployable civilian and policing capacities.
Across the two days of the conference, a number of common themes emerged, including the importance of understanding context and the need to recognise that we cannot seek to impose solutions of affected communities; that interventions in complex environments need to be outcome focused and allow sufficient time for these outcomes to be achieved, while maintaining realistic expectations; that the most effective civil-military-police cooperation cannot overcome failures of grand strategy; and that as policy, makers and practitioners, the onus is on all of us to provide frank, expert advice and not just the advice that decision-makers want to hear.
Conference participants heard that while there is much work to do before the international community can fully address the lessons from the contemporary history of peace operations, significant progress has been made.
The Civil-Military Affairs Conference 2012 provided an opportunity for all participants to generate and disseminate knowledge on this important topic and to continue to build collaborative relationships and understanding between military, police and civilian actors.
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