Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Released on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support

The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Dr Mike Kelly, will deliver an opening address today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the International Symposium on the Protection of Civilians in Conflict Zones.

The three-day African Union Symposium, supported by the Australian Government and the African Union's Peace and Security Commission, brings together the expertise of more than one hundred high level African and international experts to consider guidelines designed to improve coordination between civil, military and police participants to enhance the protection of civilians in conflict zones.

"The guidelines have been developed to assist the African Union in planning and implementing a more coordinated approach to the protection of civilians in African Union and United Nations peace operations", said Dr Kelly.

"The challenges of maintaining peace and security are enormous, and the tragic reality is that civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflict.

"Peacekeeping missions have become more complex over time. To be effective missions must integrate a range of civil, military and policing elements that embrace the promotion of human security, confidence building, capacity building, the provision of electoral support, programs to strengthen the rule of law, and economic and social development. The protection of civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups, is essential to the credibility of peace operations," said Dr Kelly.

The Australian Government is committed to enhancing Australia's civil-military capability to respond to conflict, disasters and crises overseas. Two initiatives support this aim - the establishment of the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence in 2008 and the creation of an Australian Civilian Corps. The Australian Civilian Corps will facilitate the deployment of civilian specialists in support of stabilisation and reconstruction activities in countries affected by conflict or disaster.

The Australian Government through the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence played a key role in the lead-up to the African Union Symposium. In December 2009 the Centre facilitated the development of the draft Guidelines that are under consideration in Ethiopia this week.

This initiative reflects Australia's commitment to enhance its engagement with the countries and institutions of Africa through strengthened political and diplomatic contacts, trade and investment promotion, increased development assistance, and cooperation on peace and security issues.

"Australia has a proud history of supporting peacekeeping operations. Since 1948, more than 55,000 Australians have served in more than fifty United Nations and multi-lateral peacekeeping missions including missions in Africa," said Dr Kelly.

"Peace operations are no longer the exclusive domain of the United Nations. Non-United Nations peace operations are undertaken by other multinational or regional groupings such as the African Union.

"The contribution we will make this week is a positive one aimed at better equipping peacekeepers and making a practical difference to the lives of people affected by conflict." said Dr Kelly.

Media Contacts::

Mark Sjolander (Dr Mike Kelly) 02 6277 4840 or 0407 102 220
Defence Media Liaison 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence.