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RAMSI 2012 peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions lessons learned


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Presentation by Graeme Wilson – RAMSI Special Coordinator (2009-2011) to the Australian Civil-military Centre hosted United Nations Permanent Representatives Seminar held in Canberra 22 March 2012

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RAMSI 2012 peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions lessons learned

  1. 1. Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Missions - RAMSI - Lessons Learned Graeme Wilson – RAMSI Special Coordinator (2009-2011)IntroductionIt is a great pleasure to be here with such a distinguished and diverse groupof UN Permanent Representatives and to have the opportunity to discuss asubject that I think is dear to all our hearts given its importance tointernational peace and stability, and given the debates in the UN SecurityCouncil on peacekeeping and the 2011 World Bank report on Conflict,Security and Development.I would particularly like to acknowledge the Permanent Representativesfrom Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste whose insightswill I’m sure make a significant contribution to our discussions today on thelessons that can be learned from peacekeeping and peacebuildingoperations in this part of the world.My focus will be on the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands(RAMSI) which I had the honour of leading from 2009 to 2011 and which UNSecretary General Ban Ki-moon visited in September last year.Hopefully, it will be of interest to you all to hear about a mission that isregarded internationally as very successful, despite the ups and downs overthe past eight or nine years, and that is currently going through a transitionphase involving close consultation with the Solomon Islands Governmentbefore RAMSI’s exit at some point in the coming years. Ban Ki-moonindicated during his visit to Solomon Islands that RAMSI’s evolution andtransition might offer good lessons for others.In my brief presentation, I will provide a quick snapshot of RAMSI – what itis, how it has evolved, where it is at now – before talking about the lessonslearned from Australia’s experience with RAMSI, including what has workedthat might be applicable elsewhere in the world.Mandate and Evolution of RAMSIJust a few of words of context then. Solomon Islands is part of Melanesia,an area in the South Pacific of extraordinary complexity, diversity and 1
  2. 2. challenges. In the years 1998-2003, Solomon Islands experienced a periodof serious ethnic tension that resulted in violence, lawlessness, economicdecline and a dramatic drop in service delivery. In the face of this diresituation, the Solomon Islands Government and the 15 other membercountries of the peak regional political organisation, the Pacific IslandsForum, agreed to form RAMSI to try to rescue the country from the brink ofdisaster.Importantly, from its beginning, RAMSI was a multi-disciplinary, integratedmission involving civilian, police and military components. The mission washeaded by an experienced Australian diplomat but the security operationwas police-led with strong support from the military. While the initial focuswas on restoring security, backed by a large military force, RAMSI civilianadvisers also began working in the Ministry of Finance and Treasury withindays of the arrival of the RAMSI Participating Police Force and Military. Inother words, from the earliest stages, peacebuilding tasks were incorporatedinto the peacekeeping role of RAMSI and the focus on security was not atthe expense of institution strengthening.Just as importantly, from the start, the problem was addressed on aregional basis. The RAMSI initiative was adopted under the auspices of thePacific Islands Forum, and more specifically under the Forum’s BiketawaDeclaration that allowed for collective, regional action in response to asecurity crisis in a member state where that member state soughtassistance. RAMSI arrived in Solomon Islands in July 2003 at the invitationof the Solomon Islands Government. While funded by Australia and NewZealand, RAMSI had broad regional membership and its work wasoversighted by the Pacific Islands Forum. Importantly, RAMSI was alsocommended by the UN Secretary General and welcomed by the President ofthe UN Security Council.In addition to having regional and international endorsement, RAMSIneeded appropriate and unassailable legal cover to operate effectively. Thepassing of the RAMSI Treaty by Pacific Islands Forum states and enablingdomestic legislation, the Facilitation of International Assistance Act, by theSolomon Islands Parliament, paved the way for RAMSI’s deployment.From the outset, RAMSI had both a short-term and long-term mandate. Its 2
  3. 3. short-term mandate was to restore law and order throughout the countryand to stabilise government finances. Its longer-term mandate was topromote economic recovery by creating the conditions for broad-basedeconomic growth; and to rebuild the machinery of government, including bypromoting transparent and accountable governance and by supportingefforts to reduce corruption.In the early stages of RAMSI’s deployment, thousands of guns were removedand there were numerous high-level arrests, the police force wasreconstituted, finances were brought under control and national budgetsbalanced. RAMSI’s short-term mandate was thus achieved in rapid andquite spectacular fashion.RAMSI has been in the longer-term phase of its mission for a number ofyears now and it is difficult, incremental work as it involves buildingcapacity and promoting sustainable outcomes. Police and civilians fromAustralia, New Zealand and across the region have been working with theirSolomon Islands’ counterparts to help the country progress. This work istaken forward under a Partnership Framework that was painstakinglynegotiated with the Solomon Islands Government and finalised in 2009. TheFramework is like a strategic work plan to guide RAMSI’s assistance toSolomon Islands and is a very important document as it provides a clear,structured way forward, guards against “mandate creep”, contains rigorousand independent performance review provisions and serves as the basis of aflexible “exit strategy” for RAMSI.RAMSI is currently in a sensitive transition phase that involves a plannedprocess of handing over of responsibility. This includes its developmentassistance programs where RAMSI’s work on institution strengthening willbe reinforced and increasingly subsumed by traditonal donor partners, andpolicing where the focus will shift from supporting front-line policing tocapacity development of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. For themilitary contingent, transition will in due course involve their withdrawalbut no decisions have been made on this yet. RAMSI was always envisagedas a finite mission but there is no pre-determined end date and RAMSI’stransition will continue to be implemented in a steady and measured way, inconsultation with all stakeholders. In November 2011, the Solomon IslandsGovernment approved the gradual transition of RAMSI and mandated aNational Working Group to work with RAMSI on the transition process. 3
  4. 4. Lessons LearnedWhat lessons can we learn then from RAMSI’s experience and evolution thatmight be useful for other peace-building missions?There is no doubt that timing is important as is having a clear mandate(that includes longer-term peacebuilding issues from the outset), watertightinternational and domestic legal coverage, and sufficient resourcing.RAMSI’s work is a classic reflection of the proposition that without security,you cannot have development; and without development, it is very difficultto maintain security. Having an integrated mission that includes civilian,police and military elements, and that successfully addresses both thesecurity and development needs of a host population can be extremelyeffective and can build significant credibility in the eyes of the localpopulation. While not the only possible solution, an integrated mission isgenerally more flexible and nimble, and can deploy resources and respondmore quickly to emerging challenges. An integrated leadership structure isbetter able to pursue and implement an overarching strategy. In situationsin which one body is mandated to provide security and other bodies aremandated to look after development, it is harder to ensure coherence andadherence to an overall strategy.Having an integrated mission does not, however, guarantee success.Integrated missions need to have the right leadership structure andapproach, and to ensure coordination works in practice. Civilians, policeand military all come from different backgrounds and have differentinstitutional cultures. There needs to be a conscious and sustained effort tocommunicate regularly and honestly, and to promote mutual understandingamong the various parts of an integrated mission, including on objectivesand ways of working. While essential, this is not always easy. Collaborativeleadership and effective coordination are paramount. It is for good reasonthat the head of RAMSI is called the Special Coordinator!Another critical feature of successful peacebuilding operations in our part of 4
  5. 5. the world has been regional participation. RAMSI’s regional nature hasunderpinned its success. Every member of the Pacific Islands Forumparticipates in RAMSI. In addition, the Pacific Islands Forum provides abroad governance oversight mechanism for RAMSI’s work. RAMSI reportsannually to the Pacific Islands Forum through a Forum Ministerial StandingCommittee while the day to day work of RAMSI is overseen by a body calledthe Triumvirate comprising the RAMSI Special Coordinator, the SolomonIslands Permanent Secretary responsible for RAMSI and the Pacific IslandsForum representative. Regional participation works because it provides forburden sharing and the pooling of different skills. More importantly, it canboost the legitimacy of the mission in the eyes of the host population andpromote regional solidarity and “south-south cooperation”. Pacific islandcountries are rightly proud of their contribution to RAMSI.A further essential feature of successful peacebuilding missions issupporting national ownership and leadership. For outcomes to besustainable, a peacebuilding mission must foster capacities of the hostgovernment and align support with national priorities. RAMSI has supportedsuccessive Solomon Islands Governments to deliver an improved securityenvironment, to strengthen the institutions of state and to provide theeconomic governance framework for better development and service deliveryoutcomes. The Solomon Islands Government-RAMSI PartnershipFramework is a strong example of deliberate alignment with nationalpriorities, within the parameters of RAMSI’s mandate.Individual missions must also tailor their approach to the needs andexpectations of the local population. And host populations need to seeevidence of genuine commitment on the part of intervention missions.Commitment is demonstrated, and credibility is won, as the peacebuildingmission works in partnership with the local leadership, takes the hostpopulation into its confidence, and demonstrates results that change thingsfor the better. Regular communication with ordinary people has been animportant part of this process in Solomon Islands, and RAMSI hasprogressively given more attention to cultural awareness and communityoutreach and engagement.The political environment in the host country clearly has a major impact onthe ability of a mission to do its work. I would like to commend successiveSolomon Islands Governments over recent years for their willingness to 5
  6. 6. make the partnership with RAMSI a genuine one that has stood the test oftime.The shift in focus from immediate stabilisation of security towards longer-term peacebuilding and development, and then a phased transition ofresponsibility requires adaptability and persistence. In the case of RAMSI,the key to a successful transition will be maintaining confidence in thesecurity environment and in the management of the economy, andsustaining and improving the capacity of Solomon Islands to take the lead.In summary, I think that Australia’s experience with RAMSI, and thegenuine partnership it has developed with the Solomon Islands Governmentand people, provides some potentially valuable lessons for otherpeacebuilding missions, at least in terms of broad principles as no twomissions are the same. I look forward to hearing the views and experiencesof others in this room as this is very much an area where we can all learnfrom each other. 6