More regional cooperation is required among the five troop- contributing South Asian nations to collectively put forward their proposals on policy changes in United Nations peacekeeping operations, experts told a conference in the capital yesterday.
If the five countries – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal – join hands to address their issues over peace missions, at a time when UN peacekeeping is undergoing a policy change, then they would be able to maintain their high profile in the global security arena, they said while addressing an international conference on United Nations Peacekeeping and South Asia: Trends and Prospects at the Dhaka University (DU) senate auditorium.
DU International Relations department and the American Center in Dhaka jointly organised the two-day conference.
Adam Smith, research fellow at the International Peace Institute in New York, said there has been a policy shift in peacekeeping in recent times, with the UN adopting a capability-driven approach that focuses on maximising the capability of troops, instead of increasing their numbers in war-torn regions.
“The UN is more focused on increasing the number of troop- contributing countries that has effectively reduced the presence of South Asian countries in UN missions. At present, troops from South Asian nations constitute 33% of the total peacekeepers, down from 51% in 2007, while the number of troops in peace operations from three sub-regions increased substantially,” Smith said.
The three sub-regions are West Africa, South-East Asia and East Africa.
As the largest troop contributor, Bangladesh should have a say while the UN is setting the capability standards for its peacekeeping operations, Smith said.
“A regional-level strategic engagement might help the country to advance their cause,” he added.
Brigadier General Abu Sayeed Khan, Director General of the Armed Forces Division’s Operations and Plan Directorate, said the UN needs to address the root causes of conflict in war-ravaged regions, where consultation with troop-providing countries would come in handy.
The Bangladesh Army has been doing a praiseworthy job in UN peace operations. The country’s constitution encourages upholding the ideals of peacekeeping, he said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Benazir Ahmed said although the UN missions continue to shrink in size, the challenge of security is increasing day by day.
“To address the mounting challenge, a coordinated approach is needed, which would help us share our resources and tap into our regional potential,” he said.
Presenting the India paper, Major General (retd) Dipankar Banerjee expressed his concerns at the “non-representation” of South Asian countries at the higher levels of UN peacekeeping.
He also noted that the UN should come forward to devise policies to address the challenges of cyber security threats.
DU Vice-Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique and Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque also spoke at the conference.