Austrians in Peacekeeping Operations
The participation in peacekeeping operations represents one of Austria’s most essential contributions to the United Nations’ efforts to maintain peace and international security. In 1960 Austria participated for the first time in a UN-led operation by despatching a medical contingent for the United Nations Operation in Congo (ONUC). Since then, more than 54,000 Austrians have served in UN peacekeeping troops and six Austrians have been appointed commanders of peacekeeping operations by the UN Secretary-General. In July 2001, an Austrian was appointed head of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Since June 2004 an Austrian has held the office of leading military adviser in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
In 1997, the Federal Constitutional Act on Co-operation and Solidarity in Despatching Units and Individuals Abroad was adopted. This Act, which was adapted to the changed situation and replacing the Act on Despatching of 1965, represents the new constitutional basis for the participation of Austrians in UN operations. Austria fully supports the efforts by the UN to plan peacekeeping operations more efficiently and to be able to respond more effectively to crisis situations through more rapid deployment.
Austria is therefore a member of the UN Stand-by Arrangement System (SAS) established in 1994 and takes part in the UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG), which was set up on a Danish initiative and can be transferred to the operational area within 30 days for a maximum term of operations of up to 6 months.
SHIRBRIG’s headquarters element contributed substantially to building up the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).
Currently some 1,200 Austrian soldiers and 50 police officers are involved in peacekeeping missions. As of the end of 2005 Austria was one of the 30 most important providers of troops to the UN, and among the EU Member States Austria was one of the largest suppliers of personnel.
At present there are up to 450 Austrians taking part in the following United Nations peacekeeping operations:
- UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) in the Middle East: since 1948
- UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) on the Golan Heights: since 1974
- MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara): since April 1991
- UNOMIG (United Nations Observation Mission in Georgia): since 1993
- UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo): since June 1999
- UNMEE (United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea): since 2000
- UNFICYP (United Nations Forces in Cyprus): since 1964
- UNMIS (United Nations Mission in the Sudan): since 2005
- UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan)
Besides, Austria also participates in the following operations authorised by the UN Security Council:
- ISAF (Afghanistan): since February 2002
- KFOR (Kosovo): since June 1999
- EUFOR ALTHEA (European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina): since 2004 (see also ESDP)