Keeping the Peace: Australia's Leading Role in International Peace and Security

The United Nations was established to maintain global peace and security. Since 1945 Australia has been a key player in making this happen.

By United Nations Association of Australia

Peace & Security

Security Council Considers UN Peacekeeping Operations and Women in Peacekeeping (2019-04-11) by UN Photo/Manuel EliasUnited Nations Association of Australia

Diplomacy, peacekeeping, peace-building and disarmament

Designed to keep the peace, the United Nations Security Council is the most powerful body of the United Nations. The Security Council can authorise deployment of troops from UN member countries, mandate ceasefire during a conflict and impose economic penalties on countries.

First Session of the United Nations Security Council (1946-01-17) by UN PhotoUnited Nations Association of Australia

An early influencer

Australia played an important role in drafting the articles of the UN Charter that deal with the Security Council, arguing against allowing a veto power to the five permanent members - the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, and France.

First Session of the United Nations Security Council (1946-01-17) by UN Photo/Marcel BolomeyUnited Nations Association of Australia

First Session of UN Security Council, January 17, 1946

As a non-permanent member, Australia presides over the Council’s first meeting in London, on what the Hon. Norman J. O. Makin called “the most impressive day of my life.” Rotated among members alphabetically, the presidency of the Security Council was held again by Makin in 1947.

Indonesia (1951-01-01) by UN Photo/SCHUnited Nations Association of Australia

A world-first in Indonesia, 1947-1951

In September 1947 Australians were deployed as military observers in the Dutch East Indies during Indonesian independence to delineate and supervise the ceasefire and repatriate Dutch forces. They were the world’s first UN peacekeepers to deploy in the field.

Unified Forces in Korea (1950-09-01) by UN PhotoUnited Nations Association of Australia

Fighting with the unified forces in Korea, 1950-1956

It was evidence from Australian UN Commission on Korea Military Observers that enabled the UN to intervene when North Korea initiated hostilities against the South. UN Command—Korea was the UN’s first peace restoration (peacemaking) operation, involving some 17,000 Australians. 

UN Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine (UNTSO) (1973-04-24) by UN Photo/Yutaka NagataUnited Nations Association of Australia

Protecting the ceasefire in Palestine, 1956-ongoing

The United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation ensures armistice terms are applied. UNTSO is the UN and Australia’s longest-running peacekeeping mission. Operations Officer Major Allan Windsor of Australia (C) consults with international colleagues in the Operations Room in 1973.

United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UN (1964-10-01) by UN PhotoUnited Nations Association of Australia

On duty in Cyprus, Nicosia, 1964-2017

The UN Force in Cyprus is among the world’s longest running peacekeeping missions. Its Civilian Police include Australians. Since May 1964 a total of 111 contingents involving more than 1,600 officers from all states and territories have served with UNFICYP.

United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) (1992-07-01) by UN Photo/Pernaca SudhakaranUnited Nations Association of Australia

An end to civil war in Cambodia, 1992-1993

The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia supervised the ceasefire and general election following the civil war. A large force of 22,000 personnel was deployed from 32 different countries, with the military component commanded by Australian Lieutenant General John Sanderson. 

Secretary-General Visits East Timor (2000-02-17) by UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeUnited Nations Association of Australia

Laying the foundations for peace in East Timor, 1999-2000

Of the six multinational operations that Australia has commanded—in Kashmir, Cambodia, the Sinai, Iraq, East Timor and the UN Truce Supervision Organisation—East Timor was the largest deployment of Australian Troops since WWII. Major General Peter Cosgrove (C) was international Force Commander, seen here with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (1997-2006) (R).

Secretary-General Visits Australian Police International Deployment Facility (2011-09-08) by UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeUnited Nations Association of Australia

Peace and good governance in the Pacific

Cooperation with international partners contributes to Australia's international law enforcement interests and peacekeeping in our region. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (2007-2016) visits trainee police cadets at Australian Police International Deployment Facility, Canberra.

Delegation of Australia in Security Council Chamber (2014-11-26) by UN Photo/Rick BajornasUnited Nations Association of Australia

Australia on the Security Council, 2013-2014

Delegation of Australia in the Council Chamber. UN Permanent Representative Gary Quinlan (C) was President of the Security Council in November 2014. We have served five two-year terms: 1946–47, 1956–57, 1973–74, 1985–86 and 2013-2014 and are bidding to be on again in 2029-2031.

Council Debates International Cooperation on Combating Terrorism (2014-11-19) by UN Photo/Loey FelipeUnited Nations Association of Australia

Cooperating to combat new threats

Julie Bishop, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, presides over an open debate on combating terrorism and threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters, violent extremism, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).    

Medical Care For Children in Bor, South Sudan. (2016-01-26) by UNMISS/JC McIlwaineUnited Nations Association of Australia

Caring for the newest country in the world, 2011-ongoing

The UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan protects civilians, monitors human rights and delivers humanitarian aid. Under Australia’s Operation ASLAN, Senior Military Liaison Officer Colonel Michael Bond renders medical care at the Protection of Civilians site in Bor.    

Security Council Meets on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (2019-06-18) by UN Photo/Loey FelipeUnited Nations Association of Australia

21st century peacekeeping

Australia was an early supporter of women's meaningful participation in global peace and security. Here Australia's Major General Cheryl Pearce, Force Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), addresses the Security Council.    

International Peacekeepers Day: Medal Parade at UN Headquarters (2018-06-01) by UN Photo/Mark GartenUnited Nations Association of Australia

A culture of peace: more peacekeeper than combatant

Since 1947, over 70,000 Australian peacekeepers, military, civilian and police have been deployed to more than 60 operations around the world - more than in wartime - a commitment to peace that continues to be important today.

Learn more about Australia's leading role in human rights, global citizenship and sustainable development.

Credits: Story

Created by the United Nations Association of Australia (NSW) to celebrate 75 years of the United Nations and the untold stories of Australia's involvement, in collaboration with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New South Wales Government agency Multicultural NSW, using photographs supplied by project partners and sourced from UN Photo.

With special thanks to the UNAA UN75 curation team:
Tahnia Alludin
Maddie Gilholme
Luke Raisin
Sahera Sumar
Andrea Spencer-Cooke

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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