Bangladesh’s Leadership In UN Peace Operations: Why Is It Indispensable?

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Bangladesh has shown its true value and standards by being a shining star in the United Nations (UN) peace operations. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to maintain international peace and security.

Bangladesh has repeatedly proved its commitment to world peace and stability over the past thirty-four years. Bangladesh has established a strong reputation and distinct identity in the global arena, specifically as a significant contributor of personnel to various United Nations peacekeeping missions. The Bangladeshi military demonstrates exceptional dedication by overcoming difficult circumstances, including challenging terrain and unpredictable weather conditions. The individual’s persistence remains steadfast, as they persist in exhibiting resolute commitment, allegiance, and exceptional aptitude.

Moreover, the leadership role of Bangladesh in peacekeeping missions enhances its importance, both for the nation and the United Nations in its entirety. The active engagement and proficient direction of the nation are crucial elements in moulding the landscape of peacekeeping. Bangladesh’s significant role in promoting collaboration and ensuring the effective implementation of peacekeeping operations goes beyond its troop contributions.

Against this backdrop, a high-level UN official, Mr. Jean Pierre Lacroix, Under Secretary General Department of Peace Operations (USG DPO) is going to visit Dhaka during 25-26 June 2023. The visit is primarily a part of joining the preparatory discussion of 2023 UN Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting (UNPKM) to be held in Accra, Ghana on 5-6 December 2023. While the visit is concerned with the preparation of the UNPKM in Ghana, it is expected that the UN Peace Operations Chief will take the opportunity to ensure deployments of more peacekeepers from Bangladesh. The UN faces a crisis of peacekeepers due to deteriorating threat environment in the mission areas. Many countries have been pulling out their peacekeepers from risky missions. Besides, there is a new demand for peacekeepers. Mr. Lancroix will definitely ask Bangladesh to support the UN by sending more peacekeepers who have earned great reputation from all stakeholders.

Historical Context: From Struggle to Peacekeeping

Bangladesh, a country that went through experiences of wars and genocide during the 1971 Liberation War, has emerged as a significant actor in international efforts to maintain peace and maintain peacekeeping operations. Bangladesh’s leading position in peacekeeping represents its unique viewpoint as a country that understands the pain of victims and the necessity of sustaining stability in conflict-ridden areas. Bangladesh’s participation in peacekeeping is rooted in the principles of peace and empathy, and it reflects the nation’s distinctive perspective. The Bangladeshi armed forces, which are well-known for their optimistic and humanistic approach to conflict resolution, play an important part in the global effort to maintain peace and security.

Peacekeeping Contributions: A Remarkable Track Record

It is clear that Bangladesh is committed to maintaining peace as a result of the important role it plays in various peacekeeping operations across the globe. Since 1988, Bangladesh has sent almost 181,000 troops to 56 different peacekeeping missions in 40 different countries across five continents. This number includes more than 1,800 female soldiers. At this time, about 7,000 members of the military and police force are actively engaged in 10 different responsibilities associated with peacekeeping. These figures demonstrate Bangladesh’s unwavering dedication to the cause of preserving international peace and security.

The Bangladeshi Peacekeepers: A Model of Modesty and Sensitivity to Culture

One of the distinguishing qualities of Bangladeshi peacekeepers is their humility, as well as their respect for the norms, beliefs, and ethics of the nation in which they are stationed. They develop a culture of togetherness and collaboration among the areas they are tasked with serving by embracing those communities. The Bangladeshi peacekeepers assist to the efforts of community development by spreading the cooperative Bangladeshi standards from their home country, which resound with the populace of the area. As an example, the Bengali language has advanced to the position of second language in Sierra Leone, and many highways in the country have been given names that refer to Bangladesh. This is an indication of the profound cultural influence that their presence has had.

The Choice of African Nations in Regards To the Amount of Trust

When it comes to maintaining peace, many African countries, many of whom had first-hand experience with the exploitation of colonial powers, often perceive Bangladesh as a more trustworthy partner. Bangladesh is considered as a country that can sympathize with and comprehend the issues encountered by other nations because of their common history of struggling against foreign influences. This history gives Bangladesh this ability. Because of this common adversary, there is already a foundation of trust between the two countries, which makes Bangladesh an attractive candidate for participation in peacekeeping operations.

Bangladesh is Taking the Lead in Empowering Women to Serve as Peacekeepers

Bangladesh is very proud of its dedication to ensuring that peacekeeping operations are inclusive of people of all genders. This is a huge step toward achieving a more diverse and inclusive United Nations peacekeeping force, and the nation in question has been in the forefront of promoting the inclusion of women peacekeepers. Countries that host peacekeeping operations and the United Nations itself have acknowledged and praised Bangladesh for its leadership in this field. They have also recognized the significant role that female peacekeeper from Bangladesh plays in maintaining both peace and security.

Recognition and Achievements

The achievements that Bangladesh has made to maintaining peace have not gone unappreciated. In recognition of the Bangladesh Police’s persistent commitment to UN peacekeeping deployments, the Best Police Unit Award was presented to the Bangladesh Police in November of 2019. In particular, the Bangladesh Formed Police Unit (FPU) 11, which was praised for its remarkable efforts in increasing the skills of the police force, was credited for securing the Nyala Super Camp in South Darfur, Sudan.

Additionally, the United Nations has acknowledged the contributions made by the military forces of Bangladesh. About 861 personnel of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, including 19 women, who were serving with the United Nations peacekeeping operation in South Sudan (UNMISS) in 2020 were given medals for their unwavering dedication to protecting the well-being of people in the region. In addition, in 2021, the United Nations Peacekeeping Medal was given to one hundred and ten members of the Bangladesh Navy who had taken part in the operation to maintain stability in Beirut, which was located in Lebanon. It has been 11 years since the Navy’s excellent contributions to the peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, and throughout that time, those efforts have been recognized for their honesty, dedication, and efficiency.

Human Rights and Peacekeeping Missions: Bangladesh Maintains a Shinning Track Record 

The UN has been practicing the ‘code of conduct’ and ‘discipline’ issue for decades before engaging peacekeepers of any country on the ground. It applies a rigorous process based on prior performance and reports of the sending countries. Ironically, the issue of human rights appears to have been used by some people as a tool to influence domestic politics. It is entirely a counterproductive idea to entangle the UN in this debate which is political and self-motivated in nature. Although the UN authority in the peace operations deported peacekeepers of some countries in the past on the issues of violations of code of conduct of peacekeeping, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have never faced such situation. The history of UN peace keeping mission doesn’t face any human rights violation report against Bangladesh in its last three decades history. Rather it has always portrayed as a protector of human rights. Bangladeshi peacekeepers have earned a reputation in the world through their commitment and dedication to their duties to protect people from dangers as well as strict adherence to the code of conduct in the missions.

The growing popularity and demand of Bangladeshi peacekeepers to the local people and international community clearly shows that the Bangladesh maintains standards of human rights, for that matter, any matters related to discipline or code of conduct. It’s not an easy task to win hearts and minds of local people in the host countries. Rather one can argue that the local communities in the host countries are broadly subjects to discriminatory policies and attitudes of powerful actors who dictate terms and conditions of engagements. Many of the host countries, particularly those belonging to African continent have historically suffered from injustice, oppression and discrimination due to hundred years of colonial rule and neo-colonial structures of exploitation in the post-colonial era. This is the most profound violations of human rights in the history. So the big picture of human rights violations must be considered for supporting the people who are still struggling to rectify their sufferings and deprivation that took place in the colonial period.

Bangladesh is considered a key player and a leading nation when it comes to being a global peacemaker and champion. Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been holding the fort in Africa’s parched lands and are still going strong. They have made major contributions in a range of disciplines as security workers, medical experts, engineers, trainers, and consultants while coping with many security risks, obstacles, and challenges. It’s high time for the UN to pull out all the stops and really connect with Bangladesh to pave the way for a harmonious world for generations to come. Lacroix’s visit will open a new visa of collaboration between Bangladesh and the UN in the area of peace operations.

– S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in Eurasia Review [Link] and Modern Ghana [Link]