On the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords, which marked the end of Cambodia’s long-running conflict, Asialink and the Australian Institute for International Affairs hosted a conference bringing together diplomats, scholars, and government officials, including those with personal involvement in the peace agreement process, to reflect on the agreement - its implications, its legacy, and its lessons. The resulting conference report was released in 2022.
In 1991, Australia played a pivotal role in the negotiation of the Agreements on the Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict, signed at a conference of 19 nations in Paris on 23 October that year. The production of the so-called ‘Red Book’, which laid out a blueprint for a UN-led peace settlement, backed by a determined diplomatic campaign, cast Australia at the centre of international negotiations to end the Cambodia conflict. The two-day conference last November on those events set itself the goal of assessing the wider implications for diplomacy, democracy, and peacebuilding in Southeast Asia and the lessons for Australian diplomacy in the region.
The conference - convened with funding support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence - brought together some of the Australians who had vital roles in those events. They included then foreign minister Gareth Evans, who drove Australia’s engagement in the issue, Michael Costello, who was the lead Australian negotiator in the complex diplomatic work which led to the Paris Agreements, and Lieutenant-General John Sanderson, who commanded the 16,000-strong UNTAC military contingent. They were joined by others from around the region, including the former foreign minister of Indonesia Marty Natalegawa, the former secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore Bilihari Kausikan, and Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, a former member of UN standby team of senior mediators. The sessions focused on the Accords’ lasting impact on Southeast Asia, and the lessons which future peacebuilders can learn from the Accords’ successes, and its shortcomings.
The product of the conference was a number of essays written by its participants, compiled in the report ‘Peace Building in Cambodia: The Role of the Paris Accords,’ released on October 6th of 2022. The launch event, held at AIIIA’s Canberra offices and online, featured Costello and Sanderson alongside distinguished former diplomat John McCarthy and peacebuilding scholar Dr. Katrin Travouillon.