Working with host countries
The relationship with host countries is critical to the success of
peacekeeping operations. To achieve a secure and stable environment in which
local people can build a sustainable peace, peacekeepers need to be in a constructive
partnership with both the host government and the local community. Cultural
differences, changing political priorities and varying or shifting expectations
are a few of the factors that can strain the relationship and adversely affect
a peacekeeping operation.
In this chapter, the committee discusses the nature of the relationship
between those contributing to a peacekeeping operation and the host country. It
seeks to identify the fundamental principles for developing cooperative and
Sovereignty and intervention
The challenge confronting peacekeepers is to help restore, maintain and
build peace and stability while respecting the right of the local people to
determine their own affairs. It is no small matter for a sovereign government
to seek international assistance to establish or maintain internal peace. Professor
Edward Wolfers, a former adviser to the Papua New Guinea Government, provided
some insights into the sensitivities attached to inviting external assistance:
It is hard to describe how difficult it can be for politicians
and officials proud of their country's sovereignty and independence and
sensitive to criticism and perceptions of failure to recognize the necessity
(or, at least, the possible advantages) and agree to an external, third-party
presence and role in the resolution or aftermath of an internal conflict...Acknowledging
the need for a third-party is, in certain respects, both an unwelcome intrusion
into a vision, even a dream, and an unwelcome, discomforting admission of
failure in practice.
Thus, there will always be tensions and sensitivities in the
relationship between peacekeepers and the people of the host state. In this
context, the committee looks at the challenges confronting peacekeepers in resolving
the paradox of promoting national self-determination through outside
- maintaining the legitimacy and credibility of a peacekeeping
operation in light of differing priorities, changing expectations and cultural sensitivities;
- restoring or rebuilding state institutions without reinforcing
the structures that gave rise to the conflict or imposing unwelcome outside
norms and values; and
- building local capacity while avoiding host country dependency on
the participating countries.
Legitimacy and credibility
In Chapter 6 of this report, the committee noted that the legitimacy
conferred on a mission can be fragile if parties to the dispute question the
status of the legal documents authorising the operation; if they re-interpret
the documents; or if they withdraw their consent. Further, it noted that the
public's attitude towards the mission is a key factor influencing the
perception of legitimacy, which is why local priorities and expectations are
important considerations for peacekeepers.
Different views on how an operation works toward achieving its
objectives can lead to vastly different perceptions about the legitimacy of a mission.
A 2006 report by a UN special committee emphasised that the government of the
host country has the sovereign right and primary responsibility 'to determine
national priorities for peacebuilding activities'.
Nevertheless, the hopes and goals of the host country and those of the
participating countries are not always the same. The AFP observed:
It is a difficult task with all peacekeeping operations to
balance the need to enable local government to run its affairs as a sovereign
authority when there is an overwhelming requirement to maintain security and
law and order.
Professor Andrew Goldsmith, Flinders University School of Law, noted
that an initial peacekeeping role, where warring parties are separated and
basic law and order is restored, is something which meets with 'pretty
universal regard from the local populations'. On the other hand, he argued that
as operations progress:
...the longer term and often more politically contested activities
around capacity building and peace building [are] where many of these political
problems and perception problems become more manifest and difficult to engage
Such a situation developed in Solomon Islands where some local groups,
at first favourable to the intervention, changed their minds as RAMSI
progressed. In his research on international state-building, Dr Michael
Fullilove, Lowy Institute for International Policy, noted that even though the
restoration of law and order in Solomon Islands was in everyone's interests,
including the Solomon Islands elite, the 'concentration on economic reform and
clean government threatens some of those interests'.
Associate Professor Wainwright also observed that 'some of the people
implicated in corrupt activity are among those who invited RAMSI in to Solomon
Indeed, the 2005 Report of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Eminent Persons Group
(EPG) categorised some critics of RAMSI as belonging to a group 'who feel that their
individual vested interests are threatened by RAMSI's presence'.
RAMSI also provides a recent example of the friction that may occur
between members of the host government and a participating member after basic
law and order have been restored. During 2007, tensions mounted between Australia
as a major contributor to RAMSI and some members of the Solomon Islands
According to the then Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer,
there appeared to be in Solomon Islands 'a deliberate push to undermine RAMSI,
to tarnish its reputation, and make it hard for it to continue its work'. He
indicated that RAMSI personnel and their families were having difficulties entering
and remaining in Solomon Islands. He also mentioned that the Solomon Islands
Government had 'spoken about removing the legal protection which allows RAMSI
personnel to undertake their work efficiently and independently'.
This dispute resulted in the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
using the local media to publish an open letter to the people of Solomon
Islands seeking their continuing support for the mission. The Solomon Islands
Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, strongly objected to this approach, finding
it 'absurd for the Foreign Affairs Minister of a foreign state to have the guts
to appeal to the people of Solomon Islands to allow their laws to be trampled
on by foreigners'.
In October 2007, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Solomon Islands raised in
the UN General Assembly the matter of RAMSI and his country's sovereignty:
However disguised and rationalized, intervention and occupation
allow assisting nations to spend and earn substantial revenue for their
supporting businesses and industries. My Government is too nationalistic to
become captive to the fortunes that justify our perpetual retention under a
state of siege. My Prime Minister and my fellow ministers and parliamentarians
remain unmoved by Australian resistance to our attempts to reclaim our
sovereignty and independence.
The Australian Government refuted these assertions as 'completely
Although relations between the two governments have since improved, these
incidents highlight the potential for conflict to arise between host and
The Pacific Islands Forum EPG was of the view that those in Solomon
Islands who feel as though their vested interests are under threat from RAMSI
are 'clearly adept in their usage of the media'. The committee also notes the EPG's
observation that communication with the people of Solomon Islands is an important
means of staying on top of misinformation.
Peacekeeping operations in both East Timor and Solomon Islands also show
the importance of managing local expectations. A number of commentators have
referred to the unrealistic hopes generated by the deployment of peacekeeping
operations in East Timor.
For example, Sergio Vieira De Mello, Special Representative of the
Secretary-General, noted in 2000 that the high expectations of the East
Timorese people had not 'translated into immediate, visible, large-scale
development results' causing frustration, impatience and disappointment.
A similar trend can be detected in Solomon Islands. The 2005 Pacific
Islands Forum EPG report found that RAMSI's 'initial successes were strongly
felt on the ground' and that support and appreciation for its work was
'overwhelming'. Success, however, had generated high expectations: according to
the report, there seemed to be 'broadening expectation that RAMSI will be
responsible for, or will fix, everything'.
The report argued that this misperception needed to be addressed 'to
avoid the further growth of unrealistic expectations'. In its view, it was important
for Solomon Islanders to understand that the role of RAMSI was 'to help create
the conditions necessary for a return to stability, peace and a growing
In this regard, the committee draws attention to the comment by the EPG,
cited earlier, on the importance of communication with the local people in
countering negative views of the mission.
The committee also notes a recent Oxfam report that found that, while many
Solomon Islanders welcomed RAMSI's role in ending conflict, the wider population
appeared to have little understanding of the full range of the mission's
activities and how these extended beyond policing.
East Timor and Solomon Islands provide examples of the importance of respecting
a host country's sovereignty. They point to the need to ensure that accurate information
about the mission, its goals, progress and limitations is disseminated widely to
keep local people fully informed about, and to help manage expectations of, a
mission. In this regard, the committee notes that transparency and open
communication in a peacekeeping operation is an effective means of garnering
support and strengthening the perceived legitimacy of the mission. The committee
believes that developing policies and strategies for managing local
expectations is a major consideration when planning a peacekeeping operation.
Establishing effective means of conversing with local authorities and the
community more broadly also has implications for the mix of skills required of
Conduct of peacekeepers
The conduct of peacekeepers also has the potential to affect the
credibility of an operation. Inappropriate behaviour can weaken local support
and provide fuel for those seeking to discredit or otherwise spoil an
operation. Dr Breen commented that an 'elite lifestyle of partying' and
fraternisation, in particular, are 'not a good look'. He said:
These operations emphasised being a guest in someone's country
and behaving appropriately. I think it has to be understood by our troops that
that is a winning card, a very positive thing. It requires a certain amount of
discipline but, again, it goes back to family respect. You are there to help
families, so you behave yourself. You are not there to party on in nightclubs.
At this point, the committee notes that a number of UN reviews have been
conducted to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN
peacekeepers in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Haiti, Sierra
Leone and Timor-Leste.
These incidents severely damaged the reputation of the UN and international
The revelations prompted re-thinking and reform of the UN's approach to
preventing and punishing violations of its standard of conduct.
Although there has been no suggestion of such misconduct by Australian
peacekeepers, the committee recommends that the Australian Government and
relevant agencies exercise constant vigilance to minimise the risk of it
occurring. The committee notes that as personnel from a number of agencies, including
contractors, now contribute to peacekeeping operations, it is important that
standards of behaviour are maintained across Australia's whole contingent. The
behaviour of personnel, both on specific duty and during their own free time,
is critical to host country perceptions of an operation.
Peacekeepers in the local community
Civil Military Liaison Officer assists a child to take a mark at the Burns
Creek district in Honiara, Solomon
Islands (image courtesy Department of
In a 2006 article, Dr Michael Fullilove spoke of the 'profile' that is
adopted by different international missions. He noted that 'one of the striking
things about RAMSI to an outside visitor with experience of other international
interventions is the relative lightness of touch it exhibits'. He observed that
compared to some other international missions, RAMSI has adopted a 'fairly low
profile' with the main contingent housed in an old resort near the airport. Dr Fullilove
contrasted this modest accommodation to the 'grand government buildings in the
centre of town occupied by the UN in Dili and the Coalition Provisional
Authority in Baghdad'. He wrote of RAMSI:
One result of this basing decision was that the infamous white
four wheel drives are out of sight. A 'no-fraternisation' policy, designed to
avoid prostitution and other unattractive spillover effects, has largely been
Nonetheless, he accepted that 'RAMSI's presence is noticeable,
especially in Honiara, where the influx of expatriates has increased certain
The committee recognises that the presence of peacekeepers in a small
island state such as Solomon Islands affects the local economy and may cause
resentment among some of the local people. Such a situation highlights the need
for Australia, as the main contributor to RAMSI, to ensure that the local
people are equipped to take charge of their own affairs as soon as practicable.
This matter is discussed later in this chapter.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider the
lessons from RAMSI regarding the positive local reaction to the mission's
'relatively low profile' with a view to adopting this approach as policy and
Local values and institution building
A number of submitters emphasised the view that to engage effectively
with the local community and to create a favourable impression, peacekeepers
must also be aware of, and sensitive to, societal and cultural differences.
This awareness is most important where peacekeepers are helping to restore or
rebuild local institutions. According to Dr Breen:
...the measure of success...is whether our peacekeepers make contact
in a way that quickly restores the public's confidence in their security and therefore
has the knock-on effect of getting them back to being productive, to going
home, to planting crops, to getting the kids off to school. From the
peacekeepers' end, if they are culturally sensitive and linguistically
competent they facilitate that process much faster.
Professor Edward Wolfers similarly noted the importance of understanding
the local and political context of a conflict in order to be able to assess the
peace process. He observed in Bougainville:
The fluid and evolving character of the Bougainvillean factions
is pertinent to explaining the impatience, amounting at times to frustration,
displayed by foreigners (including members of peace missions) not familiar with
Melanesian forms of social organization and mobilization when they could not
discern what was happening at key points, pressed for greater activity, and
expressed fear that the entire peace process might break down. What they did
not always appreciate was that the communities and the organizations involved
in the Bougainville peace process were not command systems...In practice, almost
everything had to be negotiated, especially if more than one local community
were involved. For this to happen, mutual confidence and sufficient trust to
co-operate had to be built, even among leaders and commanders identified as
members of the same faction.
Dr Peter Londey, Australian War Memorial, suggested that sometimes
peacekeeping operations try to 'introduce a culture of government which is just
completely alien, in a sense, to the local culture'.
Indeed, Dr Jeremy Farrall, ANU, highlighted the short-sightedness of
introducing systems without regard to the customs and traditions of the local
people. He argued that the foundations for rule of law institutions can be
strengthened by basing them as much as possible in the local context.
In his view:
...there is a real danger that, if these institutions are set up
according to foreign models and supported by foreign actors, when the
international community withdraws, as it must one day do, these institutions
Similarly, Professor John Braithwaite, ANU, observed that 'Where there
is a need to establish a new system, it needs to be grounded in the local
society for it to become accepted'. He observed that this approach was taken in
Bougainville where the police service has been built on a village community
policing model, with part-time police trained by the New Zealand police in each
The process of reconciliation in Bougainville provides another example of where
strategies and solutions were adapted to local conditions:
...the Bougainville political and justice system leadership have
chosen to go down that informal reconciliation route. It is more of a
restorative justice route, if you like. That has worked well and has connected
to their traditions of doing justice.
Professor Braithwaite contrasted the reconciliation process in Bougainville
with that in Solomon Islands where the traditional systems were susceptible to
Thugs were using traditions to try to get compensation payouts,
which was sort of a monetarising of traditional, customary reconciliation, so
that maybe the more formal rule of law path in the Solomons was the right way
to go. So it was one of those areas where we perhaps did better than in some
areas because we were listening rather than having some template for the right
way to do rule of law capacity development throughout the region.
Clearly, when helping to re-build or create new institutions,
peacekeepers must be careful that, while respecting local customs and norms,
they do not replicate a system that gave rise to the conflict in the first
place. Thus the capability, capacity and willingness of the local population to
embrace reforms is another major consideration for a peacekeeping operation. Professor
Braithwaite used Solomon Islands and East Timor to make the point that each
mission is different, requiring tailored-made solutions to nation building.
Referring to Solomon Islands, he said:
...the positives would be that the central banking institutions
work terrifically well under indigenous leaderships. The courts also work
terrifically well. The prosecution and defence part of the system works very
He stated that, in contrast, the introduction of the central banking
institutions, the courts and judicial system did not work in Timor.
This observation was reinforced by Professor Hilary Charlesworth, ANU:
The UN did not grapple sufficiently with specific Timorese
social networks that refused to map readily onto the Western model of citizen/state
relations, where the idea of branches of government, such as the judiciary, the
legislature and the executive, structure political life.
Adding weight to these views on the importance of understanding how the
local community works, Professor Goldsmith observed that in Timor-Leste:
We were training police in basic investigative notebook
maintenance and things like this while the ministry of interior was
self-destructing, leading to the implosion of the police more generally...I think
this re-emphasises the fact that it is not technical issues that we need to be
strengthening our hand in in many respects; it is really about the deeper
politics and the more broadly based cultural context in which we are trying to
do what we regard as often being very basic police development activity. We
cannot decouple our police training from these contextual political issues.
When it comes to rebuilding a state's institutional infrastructure, each
peacekeeping operation is unique. The long-term success of a peacekeeping
operation relies on proper planning based on a sound knowledge of the local
context and a comprehensive analysis of the mix of factors that contributed to
the conflict. There must be a strong understanding of the political and socio-economic
context in order to align the peacekeeping process with the host country's
priorities, its capacity, local capability and commitment to manage and
administer the system. It also needs to be embedded in the host country's
society and political structures without reinforcing the structures that gave
rise to the initial conflict.
Australia's dominance in the region
Evidence before the committee indicated that the perception of Australia
as a commanding presence in a peacekeeping operation could also undermine the
credibility of a mission. According to a number of analysts and submitters, Australia's
dominance in the region heightens sensitivities to Australia's lead role in
peacekeeping operations, particularly in RAMSI, and has the potential to
adversely affect the local attitude toward the mission. Oxfam noted:
...there is a danger that intervention in Solomon Islands is very
much an action by outsiders, driven by external imperatives, with little
engagement of the people in whose name they act. Some Solomon Islands critics
have argued that, in many areas, the reform process is being driven not by
local need, but by the needs of Australia as the key regional power.
Professor Goldsmith also noted that 'one can visit Honiara or go to the Solomon
Islands and be struck by the huge Australian footprint that the mission
There is a natural regional dominance. We have the relative
scale and ability to respond. One would have to ask: along with that capacity
to respond, what is our commensurate cultural and political aptitude to do
so?...Australia faces an almost inevitable perception in the region of being a
kind of symbolic big brother, and that poses a number of legitimacy problems.
It raises the question of how Australia does engage—whether there are ways of
tackling some of these issues that do not pose the big bully or big brother
symbolism that is easily generated out of these kinds of engagements, even with
the best will in the world of the Australian side of the engagement.
The United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) also referred to
recent non-UN-mandated interventions by Australia in the Pacific region and the
problem of the perception of dominance. It suggested that Australia's dominant
political and economic position in the region allows these interventions to be
characterised more easily as 'self-serving'.
Local ownership and capacity building
Establishing good relations with the local population is vital to the
credibility of, and continuing local support for, the mission. Ultimately,
however, the people of the host country will assess the operation on how
successfully they believe it is moving toward lasting peace and stability and
creating the conditions that would allow them to take charge of their future. To
manage their own affairs effectively, the local population need to have the necessary
skills and resources. Thus, a peacekeeping operation must consider how best to assist
the local population build its own capacity for self-government.
Involving the host country
The United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines
state clearly that national and local ownership is 'critical to the successful
implementation of a peace process'.
Reviews and submitters to this inquiry further underlined the importance of
promoting local ownership. They recognised that while peacekeepers may
be able to enforce security, peace needs to be made, owned and supported by
host countries. For example, although a 2007 review by a PIF Task Force found
'strong and widespread support' for RAMSI throughout Solomon Islands, it
...while RAMSI's presence in Solomon Islands was designed to
strengthen Solomon Islands sovereignty through support to key institutions,
questions of sovereignty and sustainability have emerged as key issues. The
Task Force found a sense among Solomon Islands elected political leaders that
they did not have full control of the direction their country was moving.
Notwithstanding the extensive consultation that has taken place at officials'
level between the SIG [Solomon Islands Government] and RAMSI, the absence of
effective information flows and the inadequacy of mechanisms for engagement at
the higher levels of SIG emerged as a constant theme. 
The Task Force review process itself initiated reforms in this area,
including the appointment of a Solomon Islands Government Special Envoy to
RAMSI to work with the RAMSI Special Coordinator and PIF Representative. It
recommended a regular meeting of this group with the SIG Cabinet, to 'ensure
that Ministers are fully informed of RAMSI activities and take ownership of its
work, to ensure full understandings of RAMSI's operations and to facilitate the
resolution of any differences'.
Professor Wolfers focused more broadly on the importance of engaging the
wider community in the peacekeeping process. He was of the view that while the
support of international operations in Bougainville was critical, peace was
made by the people of the host country:
The foundations of peace have been twofold: (1) the beliefs and
actions of thousands of people, women, children and men, on the ground,
praying, reconciling and taking practical steps to promote peace, including by
putting pressure on others; and (2) the determination 'to secure lasting peace
by peaceful means' at the national level on a bipartisan—in reality, a truly
Oxfam reached similar conclusions about Solomon Islands:
...if Solomon Islanders at all levels of society are not genuinely
engaged in the process of reconstruction and reconciliation, the causes of
conflict will not dissipate but instead retreat to the shadows and margins of
the state building enterprise.
Although international observers on peacekeeping agree with the general
view that the principle 'of 'local ownership' is central to the success of a
peacekeeping operation, they also accept that 'its practical realization
remains very difficult'.
For example, Associate Professor Wainwright commented on the need to provide
the breathing space or the window of opportunity for the host country to endeavour
to solve the deep-seated problems causing the conflict. She argued, however,
that the task is 'enormously fraught and complex' but needs to be done, because
if the problems are not resolved, 'you are going to continue to see the kinds
of flare-ups we have just seen in East Timor in the last year'. She concluded:
...the challenge for an assisting country such as Australia needs
to be to work with the governments of the affected states to help generate the
local political will and the demand within the affected populations for
solutions—to find and to implement solutions to these crises.
A number of analysts have cited UNTAET as an example of a mission that 'did
not promote local ownership and failed to give sufficient attention to existing
local structures and how they might interact with the new ones'. Mr David Harland,
UN Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit, has stated:
Other than at the level of the political elites, UNTAET was not
good at building local ownership of the transition process.
He cited several factors that exacerbated this failure to engage
Timorese in many day-to-day activities where Timorese support was needed and
Timorese capacity needed to grow. These included lack of UNTAET personnel with
relevant language skills and lack of translation service. He concluded:
...future missions need to be able to communicate effectively from
the beginning, and to bring host country nationals into decision-making at all
levels, not just at the elite level.
The discussion about local ownership again highlights the dilemma facing
peacekeeping personnel. They must establish the correct balance between
developing the administrative capacities of the host country while allowing the
host country to manage its own affairs. For example, in some peacekeeping
operations, local capacity may be so lacking that mission personnel are needed
to fill key positions, including in the areas of law and order. Indeed, a
number of Australian peacekeepers have and are currently working in line
positions in various institutions in host countries.
RAMSI provides a case study. It has been structured with local capacity
building and strengthening of host country institutions as a central part of
the mission. For example, experienced Australian public servants have been placed
throughout the justice system in Solomon Islands 'to strengthen the country's ability
to deal with the large number of arrests going through the court and prison
There are also advisers in line positions 'to get the bureaucracy functioning again'.
For example, integrating RAMSI personnel, with the same powers as their Solomon
Island counterparts, within the existing law and order and governance
structures, was seen as important for both early results and longer-term
RAMSI's police component (the Participating Police Force) is headed by AFP
Assistant Commissioner Denis McDermott, who is also appointed as a Deputy
Commissioner of the Solomon Islands Police Force.
In 2004, Mr Nick Warner, then RAMSI Special Coordinator, noted that over time in-line
advisers 'will be training up their counterparts to take on these functions to
ensure the change in practices is sustained and sustainable'. Referring to Solomon
Islands, Mr Warner was of the view that:
In-line powers were vital to our ability to ensure that the
justice system functions effectively in the short term, while being
strengthened in the long term. A lesson from RAMSI is that these powers were
crucial in achieving the fast turn-around in law and order and public finances.
In 2005, the Pacific Islands Forum EPG agreed with this assessment but
on a broader scale:
Since assistance was extended to the Department of Finance and
Treasury there has been a substantial improvement in revenue performance,
expenditure control and debt-servicing. This in our view has been achieved
because RAMSI also provided expertise to fill the vacant in-line positions in
the Department as well as appropriate advisory support. It is clear to us that
this success would not have been possible without the intervention of RAMSI
personnel in the hands-on implementation of its assistance to the Department.
It is important to involve Solomon Islanders but there is a lack of qualified
and experienced staff. We offer this same view in the case of the Ministry of
DFAT acknowledged, however, that deploying experts within local
administrations may create difficulties for local capacity building. Mr Potts,
DFAT, identified the problem of displacing or turning advisers into administrative
staff almost by default, particularly in a fragile environment like Solomon
Islands or even in larger countries such as Papua New Guinea. He said it was
not something 'we would want to do without at least knowing it is happening and
then assessing the implications'.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) referred to the challenges
the AFP experienced in training Solomon Islanders to be self-sufficient and to
take on the responsibility for functions such as law enforcement. Mr David Crossley,
Executive Director, ANAO, provided the following example:
Police officers would go along to an event and say, 'I'm here to
watch your RSIP [Royal Solomon Islands Police] member take a sworn statement
from this witness', but the RSIP member had no idea of how to do that. So the
police officer would get frustrated and do it himself. We are saying: 'That is
not exactly capacity building. We understand that you've got to do it'.
Where peacekeepers are called on to supplement or even substitute for
particular capabilities, the ultimate goal is to replace them with local
people. The UN Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines states
clearly that the aim must always be:
...to restore, as soon as possible, the ability of national actors
and institutions to assume their responsibilities and to exercise their full
authority, with due respect for internationally accepted norms and standards.
The experience of the police in RAMSI highlights some of the tensions
around local capacity building. Although integrating personnel within local
structures has helped achieve results, Professor Goldsmith also considered it
has led to perceptions of dominance:
...there is the perception—not just a perception, in this
case—that Australians are running both the Royal Solomon Islands Police and the
Participating Police Force, the PPF. It does not take any great observer of
events there to sit back and say, 'It looks like there are a lot of Australians
running both sides of the operation there.' In hindsight, that underlines
something that one might want to think about if one were to do it again or
Clearly, integrating Australian personnel into local institutions may
compensate in the short term for a lack of experienced or skilled local people
but may create longer-term problems of dependency or the perception of
dominance. In Chapter 12, the committee pointed to the importance of Australian
peacekeepers involved in local capacity building having the ability to impart
their skills and knowledge.
The above consideration of integrating Australian personnel into local
structures strengthens the committee's findings.
Working with community groups
Civil society and community groups are particularly important in
building an environment conducive to long-term peace. Dr Breen observed that
the success of peacekeeping operations in the region is 'about engaging local
civil society, especially women, clergy and traditional leaders in facilitating
the peace process or creating the preconditions for one'.
He saw room for Australia to engage in this process at a deeper level:
...concurrently [with peace enforcement], not sequentially, we
should make sure we engage as soon as possible with civil society, which has
often been hit for a six in these settings, in order to reassure and build
confidence. I think it goes beyond peacekeeping, peace enforcement and peace
building in the area of engagement—as neighbours, we should engage with our
neighbourhood to try to look at the deeper problems.
Austcare also commented on the importance of engaging at a deeper level.
In its view, the Australian Government has 'tended to think primarily in terms
of supporting and strengthening the host government's apparatus'. While
Austcare recognised that such support is important, it considered that this
support is of limited value 'unless underpinned by robust democratic
development strategies focussed at the grassroots'. Austcare considered that
NGOs have a significant contribution to make at the local community level,
underscoring the importance of collaboration between government and NGO sectors
in planning and implementing peacekeeping operations.
Ms Bu Wilson, ANU, also observed:
It may be possible to create a quasi-functioning state that is
able to restore law and order and serve the interests of the intervening forces,
but it often does not address the underlying causes of civil unrest, nor can it
build long-term peace. Almost invariably such external interventions do not
engage extensively with the realities of existence outside the national
capital, and can be characterised by a failure to engage with non-state or
Consistent with this view, AusAID stated that in Pacific communities,
there is often a divide between state institutions and society. It pointed out
the need to enhance not only state institutions but also civil society and the
relationship between the two.
For example, women and women's groups can have a central role in moving the
peace process forward. Their contribution to peacekeeping is discussed later in
Building local capacity—Australian
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) provides a good example of how
an Australian agency is having notable success in developing local capacity by educating
and training local people and involving them in formulating and implementing
The AEC civic education program (CEP) in Solomon Islands was part of a
broader strategy to strengthen and promote good governance and build
accountable relationships between government and society.
Local staff worked on the design of curriculum materials and day-to-day
management of the project. One AEC coordinator was in Solomon Islands full time
and another periodically; the field coordinators and educators were Solomon
Islanders. Mr Maley described one of the positive outcomes:
It is a matter of some gratification to us that some of the
people who worked with us on that operation have since been able to work
internationally in doing capacity building work in other countries. For
example, one of our very best facilitators from the civic education program in
the Solomons has spent quite a bit of time in the last 12 months in Papua New
Guinea, working with the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission. That is the
sort of objective that we try to work towards in putting together these
In 2001–2002, the AEC also carried out an AusAID-funded electoral
capacity-building project in East Timor to support the Independent Electoral
Commission (IEC) set up by UNTAET. The project included an electoral
administrators' course undertaken by all East Timorese IEC staff, with four of
them later becoming accredited to run the course. The AEC commented:
Over the life of the project, 11 international and 37 East
Timorese staff (including 23 district staff and 14 Dili-based staff) were
employed. At the project's completion, a body of trained staff (as many as 4500
people when polling officials are included) had been developed to provide a
pool of trained personnel to be drawn upon in the conduct of future electoral
The AEC's ability to provide supervision and training in host countries
to ensure that electoral processes are free and fair is an important
contribution to Australia's peacekeeping efforts. Its work in regional capacity
building by educating and training local people in election processes is
producing significant dividends, especially as these people are now using their
skills in other Pacific countries. The committee commends the AEC for its work
in international electoral assistance and capacity building.
The committee has identified some key factors that should inform Australia's
approach to, and planning for, a deployment. They include the need to:
- understand and respect the importance that the host country's attaches
to its sovereignty;
- appreciate that Australia may be seen as a dominating force in
peacekeeping operations in the region and take steps to foster greater cooperative
- promote transparency in the peacekeeping process by ensuring that
the local population is fully aware of the mission's short and long-term goals
and the progress it is making;
- have a sound appreciation of culture and local customs when
introducing or rebuilding state institutions to ensure that capacity building
aligns with the priorities, capacity and capability of the host country and
does not replicate systems that gave rise to the initial conflict;
- use all available means to promote local ownership of the
peacekeeping process by involving the local people in decision making, planning
and re-building state institutions, and by encouraging, training and equipping
local people to take over all aspects of the administration of the country; and
- engage with community groups and local leaders and NGOs to help
the mission achieve its objectives.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government commission
independent research to test, against the experiences of past deployments, the
relevance of the factors identified by the committee that should inform
Australia's approach to, and planning for, a regional operation (paragraph
16.61). The committee further recommends that the information be used to
develop a template for the conduct of future missions.
In this chapter, the committee considered Australia's role as a major
participant in a peacekeeping operation and its relationship with the host
country. It examined the complex environment in which peacekeepers and the host
country work as partners to secure longer-term peace and stability. It notes
that the efforts of Australian peacekeepers to assist a country end conflict
and secure peace may fail if the people of the host country are not fully
engaged in, or committed to, the success of the operation. The following
chapter expands its consideration of the partnership to include other
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page