May 29 is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. On this day we pay tribute to the invaluable role played by UN peacekeepers all across the globe and honour the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 102 last year. In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres lauds Bangladeshi peacekeepers for their indispensable contribution to world peace
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has lauded the Bangladeshi peacekeepers for their contribution to world peace by participating in peacekeeping missions abroad.
In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune, Guterres said: “The people of Bangladesh should be very proud of their women and men, who serve the cause of peace in some of the world’s most difficult places such as Darfur, Mali and South Sudan.
“Each time we call on Bangladesh’s support, your country responds.”
How are Bangladeshi peacekeepers viewed within the UN peacekeeping fraternity? What is their reputation?
I extend my deep gratitude to the people of Bangladesh on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, which we mark on May 29 each year.
Bangladesh has been one of the strongest supporters of UN Peacekeeping efforts for over 30 years.
More than 6,400 Bangladeshi troops and police, women and men, are currently serving with the highest dedication in our missions. This makes Bangladesh the second largest troop and police contributing country to peacekeeping. Bangladeshi service women and men serve in a variety of roles and specialized areas, from quick reaction to helicopter units, from policing to engineering. They protect civilians, support peace efforts and capacity building.
Bangladesh has championed an increase in women’s participation in peacekeeping, and has spearheaded these efforts, including through the all-female Bangladeshi Formed Police Unit that served in Haiti between 2015 and 2017, and the two female combat pilots deployed to our mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bangladesh has also been a critical partner in preventing and addressing misconduct. As a donor to the Trust Fund in support of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, Bangladesh has shown commitment to my victims-centered approach and is a member of my Circle of Leadership and the Voluntary Compact on the commitment to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse.
Bangladesh has on many occasions publicly acknowledged its interest in ensuring the good conduct of its troops while on peacekeeping duty. Like all countries, we look forward to Bangladesh continuing to play its part so that UN peacekeeping can live up to its highest standards.
Today, I will honor two Bangladeshi peacekeepers who died in 2019 with the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal, along with peacekeepers from other countries who died while serving under the blue flag. Each loss weighs heavily on us, and we grieve with the families and the people and Government of Bangladesh.
Are there some missions in which Bangladeshi peacekeepers have served with special distinction? Can you share some of the highlights of Bangladesh’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions?
Bangladeshi peacekeepers are currently deployed in eight missions across the world. The people of Bangladesh should be very proud of their women and men, who serve the cause of peace in some of the world’s most difficult places such as Darfur, Mali and South Sudan.
I want to specially highlight the impressive willingness of Bangladesh to adapt and contribute to the new needs of peacekeeping. We are adapting our missions to the challenging environment in which they are deployed. We need new capacities, new methods, more technology and better information. Each time we call on Bangladesh’s support, your country responds, as was exemplified by the recent deployment in the Central African Republic of a Bangladeshi helicopter unit and a quick reaction company, two much needed assets.
The work of Bangladeshi peacekeepers is well recognized within our missions as well. In Darfur, the Bangladeshi Formed Police Unit received the Best Police Unit Award in November 2019 for providing security to the Nyala Super Camp in South Darfur.
What role are UN peacekeepers playing in the worldwide fight against Covid-19 and specifically what role are Bangladeshi peacekeepers playing?
As the world faces the crisis stemming from Covid-19, the entire United Nations system is mobilized, and our peacekeeping operations and special political missions are playing an important role.
The response of our Missions to Covid-19 are guided by four core objectives. We are protecting our personnel and their capacity to continue critical operations. We are helping contain and mitigate the spread of the virus, ensuring that our own people are not a contagion vector. We are helping protect vulnerable communities and continue to deliver on our mandates.
Our men and women are also adapting and supporting national and local efforts to fight this pandemic. From South Sudan to the Central African Republic to Lebanon and Kosovo, they are running sensitization campaigns.
They are donating and distributing protective gear and essential equipment in communities. They are building handwashing stations and renovating hospitals and educating children out of school through UN radio stations airwaves.
Our missions are also encouraging parties to conflict to silence the guns, in line with my call for a Global Ceasefire. Hostilities must cease in this critical time, in order to facilitate humanitarian access and to dedicate all efforts towards the prevention and mitigation of the spread of Covid-19. I have specifically called for a ceasefire in Myanmar, where the continued fighting is a concern not only for the response to the COVID crisis but also for the voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees in safety and dignity.
Public communication by our missions is also critical to countering misinformation about the virus and providing local populations with timely and accurate information.