Australia stands shoulder to shoulder with the African Union and the United Nations in our joint efforts to provide peacekeeping operations with a clear mandate to prioritise the protection of civilians in conflict zones in the African Union.
Australia has a long and proud tradition of serving in peace operations – we have contributed to more than fifty missions since 1948, including missions in Rwanda, Somalia, East Timor and the Middle East.
The Australian Government is committed to stronger protection of civilians in conflict zones and to supporting and enhancing Australia’s civil-military capability in preventing, preparing for, and responding to conflict and natural disasters overseas.
The Australian Government is also committed to expanding engagement with Africa across a range of issues including enhanced trade and commercial investments, strengthened diplomatic links and increased development assistance. Our enhanced aid will focus on areas in which Australia has expertise or which build on existing support, including food security, maternal and child health, and water and sanitation. Australia looks forward to utilising our expertise in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, particularly in fragile states, to support African peacebuilding challenges.
The Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence is already playing a central coordinating role, providing the missing link on the way Australia participates in, and conducts, operations, thinking through the end-state we’re looking to achieve and how each agency contributes to achieving a desired end-state.
The Centre’s Executive Director, Mike Smith, has played a leading role in championing the issue of the Protection of Civilians in Conflict Zones in the African Union. The Centre co-hosted an African Union Workshop where the ‘African Union Draft Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians by Peace Support Missions’ were developed in Australia in December 2009.
By supporting the International Symposium on the Protection of Civilians in Conflict Zones, the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence provided an opportunity whereby Australian and African and international experts and stakeholders could come together to share ideas and exchange views on how to best protect civilians in peace support operations. Africa is at the forefront of global peace operations. The international community is very interested in these developments and the forward-looking approach of the African Union on Protection of Civilians.
Organised from the 2nd to the 5th of March 2010, the Symposium was aimed at the consideration of the African Union Draft Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians by Peace Support Missions as well as reviewing the steps that have been taken by peace support operations to provide protection to civilians (POC) in the African context, amongst others.
The Draft Guidelines reflect the values, principles, laws and conventions of the AU, particularly the ‘Policy Framework for the Establishment of the African Standby Force’.
It is divided into three key parts: the first section outlines the fundamental principles, including the definition of key terms; the second part outlines the best practice in relation to planning, mandating and supporting peace support operations; and the last part provides guidance in relation to the operationalisation of a POC mandate at the mission level.
Participants at the Symposium shared views on a number of issues such as the contemporary experiences from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) on the protection of civilians; the responsibilities and expectations for Heads of Missions, including leadership; development of a Protection of Civilians directive and its content.
Multi-dimensional approaches to implementing protection tasks for different mission components, including political process, physical protection, rights based protection and the establishments of a secure environment amongst other things were equally discussed during the symposium.
The Symposium brought together experts in the domain of peace and security from the AU Commission; the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Center of Excellence, Australia; the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO); the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); and key AU troop and police contributing countries as well as AU Partners.
The Symposium ended with a Press Conference at the African Union headquarters, addressed by: Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity and former Prime Minister of Tanzania; Mr. Michael Smith, Executive Director of Asia Pacific Civil-Military Center of Excellence, Australia and Mr. Sivuyile Bam, Head of Peace Support Operations Division, Department of Peace and Security, African Union.