I want to reiterate our full confidence on the human being winning impossible and overcoming difficulties.Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
in the United Nations, General Assembly.
United Nations (UN) was formed on 24 October 1945, immediately after World War II, with a view to shun the repetition of such antagonism and restore lasting global peace. However, the chronicle of UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) began in 1948 when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East. Since then, more than hundreds of thousands of military personnel, as well as tens of thousands of UN police and other civilians from more than 120 countries have participated in 71 UNPKO. Currently, more than 110,000 peacekeepers are deployed in 15 UNPKO around the globe. However, more than 3,326 UN peacekeepers have died while serving under the UN flag.
Our chronicle of UNPKO began in August 1988; while the pioneer team of 15 peacekeepers from Bangladesh Army joined in UNIIMOG. Subsequently, in April 1989, a team of Bangladesh Police peacekeepers joined in UNTAG in Namibia. Later in 1993 peacekeepers from Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Air Force joined in ONUMOZ in Mozambique, and in UNPROFOR in former Yugoslavia respectively. Since 1988, our 1,44,739 peacekeepers have successfully accomplished 54 UN missions in 40 countries around the globe.
Bangladesh is indeed one of the topmost troop and police contributing countries (T&PCC) in UNPKO. It is a tale of commitment, sacrifice and glory for us. However, such glory was truly hard earned. In the last three decades in the service of global peace, 130 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have lost their lives and 200 were severely injured.
THE CHRONICLE OF BANGLADESH IN UN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS
The seven-decades-old history of UNPKO can be subdivided into the Early Years (1948-1963), the Cold War Era (1964-1987), the Post-Cold War Era (1988-1998), and the 21st Century Peacekeeping (1999-present). Each of these episodes is the history of a paradigm shift in UNPKO indeed.
Early Years (1948-1963)
The first two UN peacekeeping missions were consisting of unarmed military observers, and they used to perform observation and monitoring type of operations. However, the earliest armed peacekeeping operation was UNEF I , which was deployed in 1956 to address the Suez Crisis. Whereas, ONUC is the first large-scale mission, which was launched in 1960 with nearly 20,000 military personnel. The supreme sacrifice of 250 peacekeepers in ONUC demonstrated the risks involved in trying to bring stability to war-torn regions.
Cold War Era (1964-1987)
Being affected by Cold War dynamics and a growing financial and political crisis, UNPKO faced serious challenges during this phase; and the number of new operations was extremely low. However, the UN continued to play an important role in regional confrontations during this era. While UNEF II in Sinai and UNDOF in Golan Heights remained as a buffer between belligerent forces, UNIFIL was marked as a hastily dispatched mission in Lebanon. Besides, previously deployed UNFICYP in Cyprus and UNIPOM in India-Pakistan continued as both the conflicts remained unresolved. From July 2016 Major General Mohammad Humayun Kabir from Bangladesh is appointed as Force Commander, UNFICYP. However, in 1988 UN peacekeepers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Post-Cold War Era (1988-1998)
Since the beginning of the post-cold war era, the nature of conflicts began to change. Instead of dealing with inter-State conflicts, UN Peacekeeping was increasingly being applied to intra-State conflicts and civil wars. Accordingly, UNPKO strategy also shifted from “traditional” missions to complex “multidimensional” enterprises ensuring the implementation of a wide variety of complex tasks. Although the military remained the backbone of most peacekeeping operations, other professionals began to join UNPKO.
By 1994 a total of 20 new operations was authorized by the Security Council, raising the number of peacekeepers from 11,000 to 75,000. But the reputation of UN Peacekeeping began to suffer as civilian casualties rose and hostilities continued in three high-profile peacekeeping operations deployed in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Somalia. However, the setbacks of the early and mid-1990s led the Security Council to limit the number of new peacekeeping missions and began the process of self-assessment to ascertain the true limits and potential of UNPSO. At this point, Bangladesh began to contribute to UNPKO. List of UNPKO during Post-Cold War Era is appended below:
21st Century Peacekeeping (1999-present)
At the turn of the century, the UN was asked to perform even more complex tasks. In 1999 the UN served as the administrator of both Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia and in East Timor. In the first decade of the century, UN Peacekeepers were increasingly called upon to deploy to remote, uncertain operating environments and into volatile political contexts. They started to face a varied set of challenges, including challenges to deliver in larger, expensive and increasingly complex missions where a degree of stability was attained but the future was uncertain.
By May 2010, UN Peacekeeping operations had more than 124,000 peacekeepers deployed worldwide. Since then UN Peacekeeping has entered a phase of consolidation with the reduction of peacekeepers for the first time in a decade. Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping missions are integrated in nature, and continue to facilitate the political process, protect civilians, support elections, protect and promote human rights, assist in restoring the rule of law, and assist in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants. However, While the numbers of military peacekeepers may be decreasing, the demand for field missions is expected to remain high; and peacekeeping will continue to be one of the UN’s most complex operational tasks amid the increasingly risky security environment around the world. List of UNPKO during 21st Century is appended below:
OPERATIONAL LANDSCAPE OF ONGOING UNPKO
The global operational scenario for UNPKO is evolving. While UNPKO in Cyprus, Jammu and Kashmir, and Western Sahara remains monitoring and observation missions with limited size and mandate; the UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is the example of a resource-intensive mission in a volatile scenario. However, with the start of the conflict in Syria, the peacekeeping mission in the Golan also warrants a due reassessment of its capability and resources required there.
UNPKO in Central African Republic, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are large, complex and integrated in nature. The critical and demanding tasks for the peacekeepers are to deter and contain violence and protect civilians amid various asymmetric threats. Especially in Mali, terrorist armed groups are directly targeting the peacekeepers.
UNPKO in Haiti, Cote d’ Ivoire and Liberia have successfully created conducive conditions for sustainable peace there. UN will have to find suitable transit and exit strategies for these missions in consultation with the host nations.
UNPKO in Darfur, Sudan and in South Sudan are trying to reduce hostility against civilians, assist humanitarian efforts and implement political settlements. The success of these expensive and difficult missions largely depends on the willingness of the main stakeholders there.
This increasingly dynamic UNPKO are expected to perform multiple, interdependent tasks in adverse operating scenarios. Thus, better mobility, durable equipment, greater self-sustainability, stronger communications, and improved force protection during peacekeeping operations will be highly desired. The state of Bangladesh in ongoing UNPKO is as under:
Also, already 1047 Bangladeshi women have participated as UN peacekeepers, and 207-woman peacekeepers are currently deployed in various parts of the world. We have already deployed two female police contingents in Haiti and D R Congo. We must increase our representation as female individual peacekeepers like observers, UN police and staff officers in future. The state female participation of Bangladesh as UN peacekeepers in UNPKO is as under:
BANGLADESH IN UNPKO: A CHRONICLE OF COMMITMENT SACRIFICE AND GLORY
Besides professionalism and dedication, Bangladeshi peacekeepers are well reputed for their amiability, inherent hospitality, and humane attitude. Over the years, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have earned this credibility. Mr Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of UN, remarked about Bangladesh, “…a model member of the United Nations, providing leadership amongst the least developed countries… and contributing substantially to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.” President of Liberia, Her Excellency Ms Ellen Sirleaf, also conveyed her thankful gratitude to Bangladeshi Peacekeepers for their contributions and commented, “Bangladeshi contingent has gone beyond its protection mandate and helped to build up the manpower capacity of the country.”
However, 130 Bangladeshi made supreme sacrifices and 200 sustained major injuries during their call of duty as UN peacekeepers. The state of deceased and injured Bangladeshi peacekeepers is as under:
Amid the evolving global security scenario and the worldwide expectation, UN peacekeeping is becoming challenging day by day. Peacekeeping missions are asked to be deployed at places where no peace to keep and expectation to the peacekeepers is often more than they can really deliver. Moreover, the extremist groups and militias showing no respect to any peace agreement and targeting the peacekeepers directly to eliminate.
Bangladesh, being one of the topmost TCC, is determined to bolster her role in global peace. Being an active participant and key actor, Bangladesh is also well aware of the changes in global security scenario and peacekeeping spectrum. With the experience of the last 30 years, Bangladesh has taken due measures to keep her peacekeepers trained and equipped for the future challenges ahead.
The glory as a nation of peacekeepers is hard earned through vivid sacrifices. However, taking the spirit of the glory already achieved, Bangladesh Armed Forces and Police are committed to continue to work closely with the United Nations to make their further contribution in promoting peace around the globe. We must be proud of our valiant peacekeepers.
Joachim A. Koops, Norrie MacQueen, Thierry Tardy, & Paul D. Williams. (2017). The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. (Eds.), Oxford University Press.