NEWS & VIEWS
THE United Nations General Assembly designated May 29 as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, which is observed every year. The theme for the 2018 International Day of UN Peacekeepers is “70 Years of Service and Sacrifice” to honour more than 3,700 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 129 who died last year. This year, the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of UN peacekeeping, a unique and dynamic instrument developed to help countries torn by conflict create the conditions for lasting peace. The first UN peacekeeping mission was established on 29 May 1948, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of a small number of UN military observers to the Middle East to form the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
At a ceremony held in May 2016, the United Nations honored five Pakistani soldiers for their sacrifices, among over 137 peacekeepers who laid down their lives while serving the cause of peace around the world. On May 29, commemorative activities are held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and at peacekeeping operations and offices around the world. Today, UN peacekeeping deploys 125,000 including 91,000 military personnel, 13,000 police officers as well as 17000 international civilian staff that are serving in 16 operations on four continents. UN peacekeeping operations receive contributions of military and police personnel from 124 Member States as well as critical equipment to sustain the operations. Peacekeeping is truly a global partnership and this number reflects strong global confidence in the value of the UN’s flagship enterprise.
In her treatise captioned ‘UN Peacekeeping Missions: Pakistan’s Soft Power’ research assistant Ume-Farwa stated: “UN peacekeeping missions are, indeed, an invaluable soft power asset for a leading troops contributor like Pakistan. By contributing immensely and consistently to the missions, Pakistan has established one fact: Pakistan stands for peace not for war and, therefore, it has the potential to establish itself as an international peacekeeping and peace building facilitator.” The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was designated by the General Assembly in 2002, in tribute to men and women serving in peacekeeping operations for their professionalism, dedication and courage. Peacekeeping has also proven to be a solid investment in global peace, security, and prosperity. Despite the size and breadth of its operations at just under $7 billion a year, peacekeeping’s annual budget remains less than on half of one percent of global military spending.
In 2013, Pakistan was the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping mission with 8,163 personnel including 7,581 troops, 487 police officials and 95 military experts serving in the UN operations in seven countries. At the present, Pakistan’s troops and advisors are involved in peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan and Western Sahara etc. The UN General Assembly then dedicated May 29 to peacekeepers because it was the date in 1948 when the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), the world body’s first peacekeeping mission, began operations in Palestine. Within one month of its coming into being, Pakistan joined the United Nations and is committed to a world in which upholding human dignity is the highest value and maintaining global peace a sacred duty.
Pakistan envisages a world, which is free of want, hunger and deprivation – a world where justice and fair play govern the affairs of human beings, and inequality, oppression and war are abhorred. Pakistan has put this vision into practice by making significant contributions to the principles and objectives of the UN Charter, in particular the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security, as a member of the Security Council and through its contribution to UN Peacekeeping. Two years ago Pakistan was one of the largest troop contributors, constituting over 9% of UN’s total deployment. Pakistan is also the sixth largest police contributor. Last year, Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to peacekeeping operations of the UN in various conflict zones. The role Pakistan played in UN Peacekeeping Missions in Congo, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Darfur, Haiti, Kosovo and Western Sahara has greatly been appreciated.
The then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had visited Pakistan on the eve of its Independence Day on 14h August 2013, and hailed the country’s lead role in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Ban Ki-Moon had said. “Training is a strategic investment in peacekeeping and here you will build the skills in preparing peacekeepers to take on a new generation of challenges.” Ban Ki-Moon told an audience at the inauguration of the Centre for International Peace and Stability in Islamabad that he was overwhelmed with gratitude: “gratitude as the United Nations Secretary-General and gratitude as a global citizen for what Pakistan and her people have been doing for international peace and security.”
It was a great honour for Pakistan when the Secretary General said that more than 100 countries contributed troops and police for United Nations peacekeeping missions, but Pakistan was number one. He added it was impossible to speak about the history of UN peacekeeping without highlighting the country’s contributions. Pakistani army peacekeepers have participated in 43 UN peacekeeping missions including some of the most challenging ones. As many as 153 Pakistani peacekeepers have sacrificed their lives so far including 23 officers for global peace and stability under UN auspices.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.