Public lecture | UN Peacekeeping Today: Legal Challenges and Uncertainties

The Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (APCML) was pleased to host Mr Stephen Mathias, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, on his visit to Australia as the 2017 Sir Ninian Stephen Visiting Scholar. Mr Mathias presented a  public lecture at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday 10 October 2017, and a lecture at the Department of Defence, Canberra on Wednesday 11 October 2017 on legal challenges and uncertainties of UN peacekeeping operations, including the application of international humanitarian law and the use of force.

The APCML is a collaborative initiative between Defence Legal, Department of Defence and Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne. The role of the APCML is to facilitate cooperation among military forces of the Asia Pacific region in the research, training and implementation of the laws governing military operations. The mission of the APCML is to promote greater understanding of, and increased respect for, the rule of law in all aspects of military affairs within the ADF and within militaries throughout the Asia Pacific region.

The visiting scholar program was established in 2003 in honour of the Foundation Patron of the APCML, the Rt Hon Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE.  The purpose of the program is to bring a leading scholar in the field of military law to the Centre every year to interact with the APCML’s military and academic nodes, as well as Defence more broadly.

The theme of Mr Mathias’ lecture was: “UN Peacekeeping Today: Legal Challenges and Uncertainties”. UN peacekeeping operations have become multidimensional and are no longer limited to “keeping the peace”. They are increasingly deployed in contexts and with mandates that increase a risk of exposure to direct threats from armed groups and spoilers (those actors who actively seek to hinder or undermine peace processes through the use of violence). Their mandates also increasingly call for the use of force for purposes other than self-defence.  This has led to new questions about whether and how international humanitarian law applies to UN peacekeepers, including whether and when UN peacekeepers could become lawful targets in an armed conflict. At the same time, long-time challenges such as sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers continue to require that the Organization improve its response to such challenges.

This video records the lecture given by Mr Mathias on 11 October 2017 at the Department of Defence, Russell, Canberra.