Speech by Ms. Gwyn Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh
29 May 2023
International Day of UN Peacekeepers 29 May 2023, BICC, Dhaka
Honorable Prime Minister, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina.
Honorable Ministers and Secretaries.
The Chiefs of Army, Naval and Air Force Staff.
The Inspector General of Police.
Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Principal Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division.
Military Adviser, Office of Military Affairs, UNDPO
Excellencies and esteemed guests.
UN Peacekeepers, former UN Peacekeepers.
And families of the UN Peacekeepers who are present here,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
As'salaamu Alaikum, shubho shokal (good morning in Bangla),
It is an honor and a privilege to participate in this celebration of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers and pay tribute to the extraordinary contributions of peacekeepers to international peace and security. This year is of particular importance as the United Nations celebrates 75 years of peacekeeping.
Since 1948, more than two million uniformed and civilian personnel have contributed to the global effort to achieve peace and progress for all peoples. Peacekeepers have served in 71 missions, helping countries navigate the difficult path from war to peace.
Today, more than 87,000 peacekeepers from 125 countries serve in 12 operations. They face rising global tensions and divides, stagnating peace processes, and ever more complex conflicts. Collectively they continue to make a tangible difference to the lives of millions of people and have saved thousands of lives.
Let me take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to the contribution of Bangladesh to UN Peacekeeping and to thank you all for the country’s unwavering commitment to support UN peacekeeping operations.
Bangladesh first deployed troops to serve the UN peacekeeping operations in 1988. Today, Bangladesh is the largest contributor of uniformed personnel in UN peacekeeping operations in the world. Over 7,400 Bangladeshi military and police personnel currently serve in 14 countries. As we speak, Bangladeshi peacekeepers are deployed in UN operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Mali, South Sudan, and the Western Sahara. In its contributions, it is noteworthy that Bangladesh has remained steadfast in its pledge to increase female troop participation in line with its commitments in the National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security, adopted in 2019. Today there are 572 women peacekeepers deployed in various operations, bringing this to the total of 2,728 female Bangladeshi peacekeepers that have served successfully. Please join me in thanking all peacekeepers for their contribution and dedication.
As we celebrate their contributions and the role they have played and continue to play in bringing hope, confidence and solace to many war and conflict-affected communities around the world, I would also like us to take a moment to honor the memory of the five Bangladeshi peacekeepers who have given their lives in various peacekeeping contexts over this past year in the cause of peace under the UN flag. These include:
My heartfelt condolences go out to their families, friends and colleagues. Their legacy, like the legacy of all those who lost their life before them, should inspire us all to take action for peace.
Distinguished guests, the sacrifice of these five Bangladeshi peacekeepers, like all those UN Peacekeepers who lost their lives in service in the past year, is testimony that the landscape in which UN Peacekeeping operates is more hazardous today than ever before. Geopolitical tensions at the global level reverberate locally. Conflicts are more complex. Peacekeepers are facing terrorists, criminals, and armed groups who have access to powerful modern weapons and technology, and a vested interest in perpetuating chaos. UN peace operations are also facing a new and growing threat from the weaponization of digital tools with mis- and disinformation fueling violence against our personnel and partners.
In this complex environment, the United Nations has taken good note of the emphasis placed on the protection of Bangladeshi peacekeepers and the need for more to be done in terms of arms and equipment, and for peacekeepers to be taken care of financially, in recognition of the difficult situations in which Peacekeepers are deployed.
It is for all the above reasons that the United Nations is so grateful to Bangladesh for its significant contribution to peacekeeping, as well as for the professionalism and caliber of the soldiers and policemen and women it deploys. Bangladesh’s 35-year journey in UN Peacekeeping provides a plethora of experience of enormous benefit for the larger peacekeeping community. In that respect, I would like to commend the role of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOT), which remains a cornerstone of that effort, not only for Bangladeshi peacekeepers but also for peacekeepers from other troop contributing countries.
Peacekeeping remains one of the most effective tools used by the United Nations to respond to some of today’s most difficult peace and security challenges. These challenges range from protecting civilians, supporting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to advancing political solutions, promoting human rights and securing sustainable peace. In all of these tasks, the United Nations needs the consent and active participation of host governments and the strong, united support of regional and international partners to persuade parties to put aside their differences in the pursuit of peace.
Peacekeepers, like all those in the United Nations, must also build strong and enduring relationships with local communities, women and youth, civil society, humanitarian and non-governmental organizations, and governments. Peacekeepers who come home bring with them the learning and experience of how to uphold United Nations principles and values.
The United Nations peacekeeping relies on strong relationships with the communities we serve, who inspire us with their resilience and persistence in helping resolve tensions, support reconciliation, and to build peace. But peacekeeping cannot do the walk alone. Peace begins with each of us, and we all play a role in preventing violence and working towards a better future. Even when a country is not in conflict, bridges must be built with civil society, indigenous communities, minorities, religious groups and refugees to create an inclusive society and build peace. Linkages and dialogue with others are essential to prevent further polarization and promote a greater understanding of our common humanity.
Let me now close by saying, on behalf of the United Nations in Bangladesh, that I pay tribute to the blue helmets - women and men, from Bangladesh - for their service for peace.