By Arul Louis
United Nations, March 30 (IANS) With 27 peacekeepers killed last year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pledged to strive for making peacekeeping missions safer.
Speaking at the Peacekeeping Ministerial meeting on Friday, he appealed for help from member countries to achieve this goal through contributions of equipment and training programmes.
The UN deployed Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie to bring a celebrity spotlight to its needs and connect to a broader audience. She joined Guterres in appealing for help.
“The need for peacekeeping troops to have the best possible training and equipment and the highest standards of personal conduct becomes obvious,” the actress said. “It is in the hands of the governments you represent to enable peacekeeping to live up to its ideals and the needs of our time.”
Responding to Guterres’s appeal, about 50 countries made pledges to the peacekeeping programme during the meeting and these ranged from deployment of specialised personnel and equipment to training and a US donation of $13 million for a Bangladesh drone project.
Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Mala Dutt, said: “India has committed an infantry battalion as a Rapidly Deployable Battalion, one engineer and signal company, Force Military Police Platoon and three Formed Police Units in UNPCRS (Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System).”
In response to the Guterres’s appeal for more women to be deployed as peacekeepers, Dutt said: “We are always prepared to exceed the targets set in this regard, as laid down in Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy. We are also fully prepared to deploy a Female Engagement Team comprising of 22 women officers and soldiers as part of Rapidly Deployable Battalion in MONUSCO by August 2019.”
MONUSCO is the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
One of the earliest participants in peacekeeping operations and the country which has historically sent the most number of blue helmets,.
“India has always employed its rich UN peacekeeping experience and expertise to partner with UN and other member states for training and capacity building initiatives,” she said.
India has set up the Centre for UN Peacekeeping (CUNPK) fthat conducts pre-deployment training and it has conducted field training exercises with 18 African nations, Dutt added.
Guterres said: “Making our missions stronger and safer is one of the key elements of my Action for Peacekeeping initiative, together with refocusing peacekeeping with more realistic expectations, and mobilising greater support for political solutions.
“As conflicts become more complex and high-risk, our operations must keep pace.”
He added that as a result of the efforts so far, “our missions are more agile and more proactive” with a reduction in casualties.
Since the inception of peacekeeping operations, 1,026 peacekeepers have been killed in action while on UN missions and 16 of them so far this year.
A total of 3,826 peacekeepers have died from various causes while on UN peacekeeping missions, 164 of them Indian.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)