On 27 September 2010, Associate Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony, Head of the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies and Mr Kwa Chong Guan, Head of External Relations at RSIS, attended a workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on ‘The Civilian Contribution to Peace Operations: Assessing Progress and Addressing Gaps’. The workshop was jointly organised by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Asia-Pacific Civil Military Centre of Excellence, and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.
The aim of the workshop was to facilitate dialogue among key actors – policymakers, practitioners and academics – in Asia to develop more effective policies and share best practices and lessons learned on improving civilian capacities for peace and stability operations. In particular, the purpose of the workshop was to assess the need for a greater civilian capacity in East Asia, identify the major challenges to achieving this goal, identify the steps to be taken to push the civilian agenda forward, and discuss the specific contributions that Asian nations and organisations have and could make in the civilian dimension of future peace operations.
Participants in the workshop included current and former UN and national army commanders; representatives from various ministries of foreign affairs; commandants and coordinators from training centres engaged in the issue of peace operations, such as the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Centre and the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Centre; researchers and academics from institutions such as ISIS Malaysia, Centre for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS), Jakarta, and RSIS; delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); and a representative from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).
The discussions identified several important issues seen as central to improving the effectiveness of contemporary peace operations, including the need for a more effective system of recruitment of civilian personnel; the importance of integrating the civilian dimension into missions as early as possible; and the need to foster better civil-military relations and coordination. The participants also questioned how the civilian agenda might capitalise on recent developments within the region, such as the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC). Although these preliminary discussions revealed a lack of consensus on how civilian contributions to peace operations should be operationalised – or even conceptualized – there was nonetheless absolute consensus on the importance of enhancing the regional and global civilian capacity for peace operations. The topic of the workshop was seen as both critical and timely, given the inextricable link between the civilian dimension of peace operations, the protection of civilians in conflict or post-conflict situations, and the goal of fostering sustainable peace in these societies.