Speech by Ms. Gwyn Lewis UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh at the International Seminar on the International Day of UN Peacekeepers
Evolving Models of Peacekeeping Operation: Need for Transformation to Meet the Necessity of Time: Speech by Ms. Gwyn Lewis UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh
Chief guest: Major General Tarique Ahmed Siddique, Advisor to the Honorable Prime Minister on Security Affairs;
Hon'ble State Minister for Water Resources (H. E. Mr. Zahid Faruk, MP);
Hon'ble Parliament Members;
Chief of Army Staff;
Eastern Army Commander, Indian Army;
Military Adviser, Office of Military Affairs, UNDPO;
Armed Forces and Civil Officials
As'salaamu Alaikum, and good day to you all,
It is a little over a week since I joined the UN family in Bangladesh, and it is my privilege and honour to join this celebration of International Day of Peacekeeping as my first major public engagement:
to pay tribute to the contribution of Bangladesh to UN Peacekeeping,
and to say thank you for the country’s unwavering commitment to the UN Secretary General’s priorities for peacekeeping.
The events of the day today – the Peacekeepers’ Run in the morning and the commemorative event at the BICC with the participation of Her Excellency the Prime Minister, both offered opportunities to celebrate the contribution of over a million peacekeepers – men and women – who have served under the UN flag since 1948, and to offer our tributes to nearly 4,200 of them that were killed in the line of duty.
We have also an opportunity to commemorate over one lakh and eighty-three thousand Bangladeshi peacekeepers who have served under the UN’s flag since 1988.
At this seminar we have additionally, an opportunity to reflect – to reflect on the lessons learned, the role and needs of peacekeeping in a rapidly evolving and increasingly uncertain world. I thank the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training for organizing this very timely seminar that creates an opportunity for collective reflection.
I thank the other speakers that have already given us all very rich and important analysis.
While preparing for this celebration, a photograph grabbed my attention. It depicts two Bangladeshi female pilots, with a helicopter in the background serving as UN peacekeepers.
An image is powerful: the photograph highlights how women are active and important agents of peace in armed conflict, and it illustrates the importance of UN Peacekeepers Contribution and their Commitment.
Each Peacekeeper leaves their home and risks their lives to promote peace across the world.
Since 1988 till today 1,83,378 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have participated in 55 UN missions in 40 countries.
Bangladesh is now the highest-ranking troop contributing country in the world with a present strength of 6,825 peacekeepers. Among them are 2,322 women peacekeepers have served in Bangladesh, and 519 women peacekeepers are currently deployed in various peacekeeping operations.
I express my deep gratitude to these men and women of courage currently deployed in some of the world’s most challenging hotspots to protect the vulnerable and help to build peace.
Theme for UN Peacekeeping:
This year’s observance focuses on the Power of Partnerships while the title for today’s seminar is the Need for Transformation to Meet the Necessity of Time. Both themes point towards a fundamental issue – that peace demands more than just peacekeeping, and in a rapidly changing world with complex drivers of violent conflict, the nature of peacekeeping itself must evolve.
Building and keeping peace takes multiple interventions, of which peacekeeping is but one. Making and maintaining peace needs strong democratic institution, participatory and responsive governance, rule of law and access to justice, all of which create spaces for peaceful resolution of conflicts.
The interlinkages between peace, conflict prevention, rule of law, justice, participatory democracy and governance are embodied in the 2030 Agenda with its specific focus on leaving no one behind.
While several the sustainable development address these correlates of peace, SDG16 specifically addresses these interlinkages.
Peace also demands partnership among multiple actors including women and youth, communities, humanitarians, UN agencies and other development partners, civil society, religious and political leaders, troop and police contributing countries, member states and many others.
It was to address the multiple drivers of violent conflict and engage the entire toolbox of peacemaking and peacekeeping, that the Secretary General launched the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) on 28 March 2018 to renew mutual political commitment to peacekeeping operations.
The UN effort:
Action for Peace includes a set of mutually agreed principles and commitments to meet and respond to these challenges and to ensure UN peacekeeping at its best remains a remarkable enterprise of multilateralism and international solidarity.
150 Member states have so far endorsed the Declaration of Shared Commitments and I am proud that Bangladesh is one of them.
The Action for Peace initiative focuses on eight key areas where we collectively need to improve on. The areas are 1) Political solutions to Conflict 2) Women Peace and Security 3) Protection 4) Safety and Security 5) Performance and Accountability 6) Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace 7) Partnership 8) Conduct of Peacekeepers and Peacekeeping Operations.
Key Messages - UN & BD collective commitment:
While noting that peacekeeping operations are undertaken at different countries, the preparation begins at home. Keeping the preparation and eight key areas in mind, few points stand out that I would like to highlight.
- Bangladesh played a key role in the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security (WPS) in 2000 when the country was Chair of the Security Council.
- In November 2019, the National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security was also launched to expand women’s roles in peacekeeping, peacebuilding, disaster management, and preventing violent extremism in Bangladesh. This is a huge and important milestone and commitment from the Government of Bangladesh.
- However, while the photograph of female pilots serving at peacekeeping stands out, and 2,322 women peacekeepers have served from Bangladesh, including 519 women peacekeepers are working in various peacekeeping operations currently which is only 8% of the total.
- More women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping. Women peacekeepers improve overall peacekeeping performance, have greater access to communities, help in promoting human rights and the protection of civilians, and encourage women to become a meaningful part of peace and political processes.
- Therefore, I urge the distinguished audience present here today to ensure full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of the peacebuilding and peacekeeping process and at the same time urge you to implement the Women Peace and Security agenda.
- Another key issue to address is the safety of the Peacekeepers: every effort needs to be made to avoid fatalities in the future. Recognizing the evolving challenges in today’s conflict environments, here it is important to highlight the Secretary-General’s Peacekeeping Training Plan.
- Today’s occasion also gives me a chance to honour the memory of 161 Bangladeshi peacekeepers and more than 4000 globally, who lost their lives in the cause of peace. In their memory, training of Peacekeepers to ensure their protection is essential.
- Bangladesh has taken the right steps in establishing the Peacekeeping Operations Training Centre (PKOTC), subsequently remodeling it to incorporate much needed changes, and establishing the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training (BIPSOT) – the organizer for this event.
- As part of that capacity development, human rights are also a cornerstone and a core pillar of the United Nations.
- Human rights are important because they reflect the minimum standards necessary for people to live with dignity.
- Human rights give people the right to choose how they want to live, how to express themselves and what kind of government they want to support, among other things.
- Peacekeepers must promote human rights values and as an endorsed party to the Action for Peace, Bangladesh has committed to support pre-deployment preparations of personnel and the existing human rights screening policy.
- The UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy must be adhered to.
- I know increasing numbers of women in Peacekeeping and greater promotion of human rights by Peacekeepers can be achieved in Bangladesh.
- Bangladesh’s leadership on the “Culture of Peace” resolutions, its strong support for multilateralism and its recent election as the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, are all testaments to the peace and security credentials of the country and reflects its commitment to strong coordination, coherence and cooperation between Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission during peacekeeping mandates.
- Bangladesh and the UN collectively commitments also mean that personnel and leadership will be held accountable for proper conduct, including through support to the UN zero-tolerance policy with its victim-centered approach on all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.
To conclude, Distinguished Officers -
Let us work to ensure we are continuing to strengthen the instrument of peacekeeping, and indeed multilateralism itself, by implementing our shared commitments.
With multipronged challenges – lives and a peaceful future for our children are at stake
These challenges require strong, collective action.
When Peace is the Prize, we have every incentive to play as a team.
Hence why our focus this year is on the Power of Partnerships.
I would therefore like to conclude with one of the UN Secretary General’s messages.
“We know that peace is won when governments and societies join forces to resolve differences through dialogue, build a culture of nonviolence, and protect the most vulnerable”.
Thank you all!