“Climate Action for Peace” has been chosen as the theme for this year's International Day of Peace
The United Nations Peacekeeping Missions work to mitigate conflicts around the world in conflict zones. Bangladesh, which has one of the largest delegations to the peacekeeping forces, has been playing an integral role since 1988 to aid civilians, and help maintain the peace.
Today marks the 18th occasion of the UN International Day of Peace. The United Nations General Assembly in 2001 passed a resolution to commemorate peace on the third Tuesday of October.
The theme for this year is “Climate Action for Peace.” In a message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: "Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods, and our lives. That is why it is the focus of this year’s International Day of Peace. And it’s why I am convening a Climate Action Summit."
The UN secretary-general previously praised the role of Bangladeshi peacekeepers, saying: “The women in uniform from Bangladesh are working to reinforce communal harmony. I always cite Bangladeshi soldiers as model examples, whenever I visit any peacekeeping missions.”
As of June 30, 2019, Bangladesh had the second-largest national contingent among the peacekeeping forces.
In over three decades of service in UN Peacekeeping Missions, the Inter-Services Public Directorate noted that 1,63,887 representatives from Bangladesh have completed tours of duty. As of May 29, this year, 6,582 members of police, and armed forces were deployed as part of peacekeeping missions. Among them, 5,078 were from the army, 347 from the navy, 503 from the air force, and 654 from the police.
Women are also making their mark, with 214 active peacekeepers with 64 from the army, 4 from the navy, 16 from the air force, and 126 from the police. Overall, 1,609 Bangladeshi women have served in the missions.
Currently, Bangladeshi peacekeepers are deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Western Sahara, Mali, Central African Republic, Haiti, Sudan, and the United States.
Superintendent of Police Yusuf Ali, who has served on peacekeeping missions, told Dhaka Tribune of the sacrifices, and difficulties faced by peacekeeping forces.
He said: “During a political standoff during the 2010 elections in Cote D’Ivoire, about 120 Bangladeshi peacekeepers were deployed at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan for five months. The incumbent president, and the challenger both declared themselves victors, leading to heavy combat involving mortars, heavy machine guns, and RPGs in civilian areas.
“One of the combat casualties was a Bangladeshi doctor named Sumon, who was shot and flown out of the country. Senior Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Saidur Rahman was afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and had to be flown back to Bangladesh. On the way to his ancestral village, he passed away.”
Moshiur Rahman, a deputy commissioner with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, served in Sudan’s Darfur. During his tour of duty, he performed two different roles. In his first role, he worked to pursue Protection of Civilians, a priority objective for all UN forces on a peacekeeping mission. Afterwards, he served as a peacekeeper observer to ensure security for relief distribution.
Bangladeshi forces have made, and continue to make such sacrifices. Till date, around 146 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have laid down their lives in the line of duty, and another 227 have been injured.
In 2019 alone, Constable Md Omar Faruk died of illness in Mali in August, Additional IGP Begum Rowshan Ara died in a road crash in Congo in May, Trooper Atiqul Islam died in the Central African Republic in July.
With duty, diligence, and sacrifice, Bangladeshi forces have represented the best of the country’s best, and won the hearts of the people in the countries they were deployed in. Sierra Leone, as an example, honoured Bangladesh by declaring Bangla as an official language, and named a road after Bangladesh.