Bangladesh is one of the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Bangladesh, according to UN data, first deployed uniformed personnel to serve with the Organization in 1988 when they were deployed to help monitor the armistice between Iran and Iraq. Over the past three decades, the contributions of these Bangladeshi brave men and women in the countries in which they serve have been immense.
Usually peacekeepers come from diverse cultures and speak different languages, but share a common purpose: the protection of vulnerable communities and the provision of support to countries struggling to move from conflict to peace. Over 7000 Bangladeshi troops and police personnel are deployed in 10 missions around the world.
Bangladeshi peacekeepers work in various roles – some provide protection, others heal and design roads – but all serve under the blue flag to support the governments and peoples of the countries in which they serve.
In Haiti, an all-female Bangladeshi ‘Formed Police Unit’ served with the UN mission, known as MINUSTAH, from 2015 until October 2017, when the mission completed its work.
UN peacekeepers from Bangladesh work in some of the world’s hotspots, including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Darfur region of Sudan.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, visited Bangladesh from June 24-26 to thank Bangladesh for its service and sacrifice in the name of peace, as well as to update on ongoing reforms in the UN peace and security reform area, and specifically the UN Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative to make peacekeeping more focused, safer and stronger.
While in Dhaka, Lacroix met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali apart from meetings with other government, military and police officials.
During his meeting with Minister Ali on June 24, he lauded Bangladesh’s strong engagement in ensuring peace around the world with its peacekeepers.
“This was an opportunity for me to thank him personally and Bangladesh for its extremely strong support to peacekeeping and its steadfast engagement in favour of peace around the world,” he said.
“We’re extremely grateful and we’re also respectful of the services of the Bangladeshi peacekeepers around the world,” Lacroix said adding that he had an excellent discussion with Minister Ali.
On peacekeeping operations, he said today’s peacekeeping operations is totally different from yesterday’s one.
The UN senior official said they have a very ambitious plan of action to reduce fatalities and make the operations cost-effective ones.
He said better protection of the peacekeepers means better protection of the people where peacekeepers are deployed.
Lacroix termed Bangladesh as one of the strongest supporters and partners and the UN conveys its message of respect, gratitude and friendship to Bangladesh for its quality services.
In another meeting, Lacroix highly praised Bangladesh Police for its role in establishing world peace.
A five-member delegation, led by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, met Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Javed Patwary at his Police Headquarters office in the city and praised the Bangladesh Police.
Hailing the professionalism and efficiency of the Bangladeshi police members, Lacroix said they have been making a unique contribution to protecting peace in conflict-stricken and war-torn countries across the globe.
The UN Under-Secretary-General said the Bangladesh Police will have to acquire more skills in the face of challenges of the United Nations peacekeeping missions. He also emphasised obtaining fluency in French language in particular.
BD with UN for global peace
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reaffirmed Bangladesh’s firm commitment to remain engaged with the United Nations in its efforts towards preventing conflict and establishing peace in the world.
“Bangladesh always remains ready to contribute troops and police in response to UN call for strengthening world peace and stability,” she said when Lacroix paid a courtesy call on her at her Jatiya Sangsad office.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh also remains prepared to support the UN peacekeeping capability readiness steps.
As per the UN request, she said, the government is also ready with “rapid deployment battalion” for MONUSCO, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Prime Minister underscored implementation of a nine-point reform agenda for the UN Peacekeeping operations presented by the UN Secretary General and assured the UN of Dhaka’s support in this regard.
At the meeting, the UN Under-Secretary General highly praised the role of Bangladeshi peacekeepers, including the female troops and police, in maintaining peace at UN missions in different parts of the world.
Jean Pierre Lacroix recalled that many Bangladeshi peacekeepers sacrificed their lives while they were on duties in establishing peace at the UN missions.
He said Bangladesh is a key member regarding peacekeeping efforts under the world body.
The UN Under-Secretary General assured the Prime Minister of continuing the UN support towards development efforts of the government of Bangladesh.
UN to help Rohingyas
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Lacroix said the United Nations is fully committed to helping Rohingya people and ensure their safe and voluntary return to their homeland from Bangladesh.
“UN is fully committed to helping these people,” he said adding that there is also strong commitment by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who really takes personal interest in this issue in helping in many different ways.
Lacroix, during a press conference, recognised the “immense generosity” in opening Bangladesh’s border for Rohingyas and mentioned that there is a very strong mobilisation of support by the humanitarian actors.
Asked about possibility of deployment of peacekeepers in Rakhine State, he reminded that to deploy peacekeepers in any place, first of all, requires a decision by the UN Security Council and secondly a consent from the host country.
Lacroix mentioned that peacekeeping is not the only solution as there are many ways, including addressing the political dimension of the crisis.
He said the UN chief will be visiting Bangladesh in a few days and a significant of his visit would be Rohingya issue.
While talking about the Rohingya issue with Lacroix, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pointed out Bangladesh’s foreign policy of ‘friendship to all, malice to none’ and said the country wants to maintain peace with all. “Accordingly, the government opened dialogue with Myanmar to solve the Rohingya crisis.”
The Prime Minister regretted that Myanmar authorities agreed to take back their nationals from Bangladesh, but they did not act as per their commitment.
“The presence of nearly 11 lakh Rohingya people is a huge burden on Bangladesh and it is causing sufferings to local people where they have been sheltered,” she said.
The Prime Minister said all, including the army, navy, air force, police, BGB, administration and volunteers have been working to mitigate the sufferings of the Rohingya people.
At the end of the day, it is all about partnership when we talk about global peace. We have to work together to address today’s challenges as today’s peacekeeping is totally different from yesterday’s peacekeeping. Today, it is more dangerous, it is more challenging. It is more demanding as well. We hope Bangladeshi peacekeepers will remain better equipped with required skills to face these challenges under UN support.