This article traces the history of Australian peacekeeping since its beginnings in September 1947. It shows that, while there have always been Australian peacekeepers in the field since 1947, the level of commitment in different periods has varied greatly. The article sets out to explain this phenomenon, chiefly in political terms. It argues that Australia's early involvement in the invention of peacekeeping owed much to External Affairs Minister H.V. Evatt's interest in multilateralism, but that under the subsequent conservative Menzies government a new focus on alliance politics produced mixed results in terms of peacekeeping commitments. By contrast, in the 1970s and early 1980s, for different reasons Prime Ministers Whitlam and Fraser pursued policies which raised Australia's peacekeeping profile. After a lull in the early years of the Hawke Labor government, the arrival of internationalist Gareth Evans as Foreign Minister signalled a period of intense peacekeeping activity by Australia. For different, regionally-focused reasons, Australia was again active in peacekeeping in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In recent years, however, Australia's heavy commitment to Middle East wars has reduced its peacekeeping contribution once again to a low level.
Since 1999, in the aftermath of the tragic failures in Rwanda and Srebrenica, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has readily and consistently entrusted UN peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs) with robust mandates and the authority to use force beyond self-defense for the protection of civilians. In the ensuing decades, it has also sought to provide more robust resources including vehicles, weapons, equipment, and technologies to enable UNPKOs to implement and fulfill their mandates. What is only now being addressed, however, is the need for more robust performance. This presentation describes the mindset, understanding, and attitudes that are required to achieve an effective level of performance.
THE PEACEKEEPING EUPHORIA OF THE EARLY POST-COLD WAR ERA HAS ENDED. PEOPLE MUST LEARN FROM BOTH THE SUCCESSFUL AND THE FAILED MISSIONS. DOES PEACEKEEPING HAVE A FUTURE? PERHAPS SO, YET IN THE END IT WILL NOT BE THE UN ITSELF, BUT RATHER ITS MEMBER STATES--AND ESPECIALLY THE MOST POWERFUL ONES--WHOSE COMMITMENT TO PEACEKEEPING WILL DETERMINE ITS FUTURE.