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29 May, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Bangladesh in the United Nations peace operations in 2019 and beyond

Brigadier General Saleem Ahmad Khan

Bangladesh became a member of the United Nations (UN) on 17 September 1974, some three years after independence. While addressing the UN General Assembly on 24 September 1974, just seven days after becoming a member, Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman referring to our Constitution said, “...We may prosper in freedom and may make our full contribution towards international peace and cooperation in keeping with the progressive aspirations of mankind.” The nation shed blood for its language, three million lives for its independence, and passed through a struggle under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to become a member of the UN. Such struggle continues to remain to this date to remain in the forefront in the UN led peace operations.

Since 1988, when Bangladesh was first called upon to support UN peace endeavours, the government involved its military and police forces in peace operations as an extension of its proactive diplomacy and contributed in almost all the UN peace operations thereafter. Being blessed with the prompt decision making process at the strategic level, timely political guidance, Bangladesh would continue to remain a trusted partner to the UN in pursuit of global peace.

Bangladesh has an experience of thirty-one years assisting in maintaining world peace. Known as, ‘Humanitarian Peacekeepers’, by now Bangladesh has become one of the key players in the world peace. In Africa, America, Europe and Asia, Bangladesh is everywhere in forty-one countries so far. Bangladesh has become one of the leading peacekeepers due to our wholehearted commitment at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of engagement. Bangladesh had to compete and earn its participation in peace operations. An extensive and proactive diplomatic engagement takes place at the UN headquarters to prove our competence before participating in any UN peace operations. The partnership between our Permanent Mission in the New York, Armed Forces Division, Army, Navy, Air Force and Police Headquarters remain the key for our timely, continued and effective engagement in peace operations. Our deployments are simply operational in the conflict-ridden countries.

Bangladesh has always maintained deployment timeline indicated by the UN Security Council Resolution(s). In December 2013, civil war broke out in South Sudan and due to the call of the UN and directive from the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh had shown the world how within forty-eight hours one infantry unit was ready for deployment in South Sudan. Three Air force helicopters were deployed from the DR Congo to South Sudan within short notice and two Police units were deployed also from the Congo to South Sudan within seventy-two hours. Additionally, in the past Bangladesh deployed medical and engineer units in Liberia within two to three weeks’ timeframe. In Mali, Bangladesh was the first to deploy infantry unit under blue helmet in 2014. In Cambodia, Sierra Leone and the DR Congo, when no other countries were willing to enter into rebel held territory, Bangladesh was the pioneer to negotiate, enter into rebel held territory and maintained safe and secured environment throughout the duration of UN presence. Bangladesh signed the UN ‘Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS)’ and keeping required outfits ready for deployment at the short notice since 2015.  

In 2014, Bangladesh took leadership role in the Triennial Contingent Owned Equipment Working Groups Meeting at the UN Headquarters with one of the issue papers, ‘Rotation of equipment under UN expense’. After a long two weeks intense debate of all UN member states, due to our tenacity, knowledge and ground experience on peacekeeping, negotiation skills, and above all, the trust and confidence of majority member states, the issue was adopted through consensus by all the member states. For this achievement, not only Bangladesh, all the troop and police contributing countries of the world have been benefitted.  

Bangladeshi peacekeepers worked in countries in the Asia, Africa, Europe, and America to achieve UN mandated tasks related to verifying ceasefire agreement and monitoring border violations; monitoring safe areas, demilitarized zones, and withdrawal of forces; security of corridors, main supply route, and riverine routes. Our peacekeepers assisted in conducting elections in Mozambique, Namibia, Haiti, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Cambodia, Sudan, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and the DR Congo. Bangladeshi peacekeepers also assisted in conducting referendum in Sudan in 2011.

In Mozambique, Bangladeshi peacekeepers assisted in demining approximately two million mines and in Eritrea demined about 782 kilometres borders covering a huge area. Peacekeepers also disposed of Unexploded Ordnance for instance in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Liberia, and South Sudan. In Angola, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and the DR Congo, our peacekeepers undertook construction and repair of bridges, culverts, road networks, launching of two bailey bridges (East Timor), development of airport, airfield, seaport, and landing sites.

Bangladeshi peacekeepers also collaborated with NGOs in UN missions. For instance, through the initiative of Bangladesh army, BRAC established its footprint in South Sudan. A good number of projects in the field of health, education and agriculture sectors were jointly undertaken by army units and BRAC. Through this initiative sustainment and local ownership of the projects have been ensured in absence of peacekeepers.

Bangladeshi peacekeepers operate under extremely high-risk environment. Our peacekeepers were inducted in hostile and volatile environment in the trouble prone conflict zones in the DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Mali. Acting against rebels, militias with different culture and religion—through our professionalism, training and experience, we step into such conflict areas and came out successful in achieving UN mandate. Additionally, peacekeepers worked in the countries with risk of health hazard.

Different stakeholders of Bangladesh need to work as a team to get maximum from a peacekeeping. We need to incorporate different dimension of peacekeeping in the national strategy so that diplomacy and military are well coordinated and linked for achieving national interest as well as the UN objectives. Bangladesh needs to take younger generations with the achievement of peacekeeping. Our universities and institutes need to develop courses and curriculum for equipping younger generation to enhance civilian capacity in the peacekeeping. We need to utilize our expertise and experience of peacekeeping. Our thirty-one years of experience need to be valued. Therefore, we may look for capacity-building of rising troop and police contributing countries. Bilateral agreements for military training cooperation, business opportunity in the mission areas, participation in peacebuilding efforts—all these needs appropriate coordination, understanding and persuasion by different stakeholders. We need to also work with regional organization such as AU, ASEAN, ECOWAS, SADC, and other similar entities to get more dividends in the peacekeeping.

The writer is a senior officer the Bangladesh Army and is presently doing his PhD in Canada



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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