Maj. Gen. B.K. Sharma, Director, USI
Ms. Pernilla Ryden, Director, Challenges Forum,
Distinguished Speakers and Participants
The Indian Council of World Affairs, India’s oldest foreign policy think tank and United Services Institute (USI), India’s oldest think tank on military affairs have collaborated to organize a series of six webinars on peacekeeping. Two webinars have already been held - on the themes ‘Principles of UN Peacekeeping and Mandate’ and ‘Hostage-taking of UN Peacekeepers’. It is my pleasure to speak at the third webinar, in this series, which is on ‘Effectiveness of UN Peace Operations: Dynamics of Composition of Troops and Diversity on UN Peace Operations’.
Peacekeeping is a critical instrument of the UN in maintaining international peace and security. Countries contribute their troops for Peacekeeping operations, voluntarily. India is one of the oldest contributors to peacekeeping operations. India has contributed more than 250,000 troops in 49 Missions over the years, cumulatively the largest from any country. It is, thus, a vast repository of best practices. It continues to provide eminent Force Commanders for UN peacekeeping missions and has consistently been amongst the top five troop contributors of reliable and trained peacekeepers for UN peace operations since 1998. Recently, in March this year, in solidarity with UN Peacekeeping, India provided 200,000 Covid-19 vaccines for UN peacekeeping personnel worldwide.
It is a reflection of India’s commitment to UN peacekeeping, that one of the three core issues identified during its Presidency of the UNSC in August this year was PKO. The High-Level Open-Debate on Peacekeeping at the Council, on August 18, on the theme of ‘Protecting the Protectors : Technology and Peacekeeping’, the focus was on the use of modern technological tools to enhance the safety and security of Peacekeepers and to aid Peacekeeping Missions to implement their mandates effectively. UNSC adopted a Presidential Statement on ‘Technology and Peacekeeping’, the first such UN Security Council document on this topic, as also a Resolution on ‘Accountability of Crimes against UN Peacekeepers’.
At the High-Level Open Debate, India’s EAM announced the roll-out of the UNITE Aware Platform across select peacekeeping missions in collaboration with UN. This is a situational awareness software programme based on the expectation that an entire peace-keeping operation can be visualized, coordinated and monitored on a real time basis. An MoU between India and the UN was also signed on training and capacity building of peace-keepers in the realm of technology.
Today, peace-keeping operations are called upon to not only maintain peace and security but also to facilitate the political processes, protect civilians, disarm combatants, support elections, protect and promote human rights and restore the rule of law – in other words, they perform a multi-dimensional role. However, the core values of UN peacekeeping endure. These are - the principles of consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force except in self-defence and in defence of the mandate; and these principles have guided many transitions that peacekeeping has witnessed from truce-supervision missions of yesteryears to multi-dimensional mandates of today. The United Nations has over a period of time understood the changing nature of emerging security challenges, yet there is a constant need to work towards pragmatic approaches to ensure UN peace-keeping operations continue to be effective and addresses 21st century challenges.
The fundamental strength for the effectiveness of peace operations is the presence of well-trained and well-equipped peacekeepers, but that does not by itself lead to effective peace operations unless the peacekeepers find acceptance in the host country. Peace-keepers’ acceptance by the host nation is crucial; and is dependent on the host nation’s perceptions of the peace-keeping contingents, which vary from contingent to contingent, its socio-cultural background and the operational ethos of the peace-keepers.
Today’s webinar will deliberate upon the impact of the composition and diversity of peace-keepers drawn from different Troop Contributing Countries, their varying socio-cultural characteristics and operational behavior patterns, on the effectiveness of UN peace-keeping operations. Importance of this factor is generally known to the practitioners but not discussed much in the academic field. Such discussions can contribute to enhanced understanding of the issues involved, on the part of researchers and enable a major troop contributing country like India to make intellectual contributions to enhancing the effectiveness of UN peace operations.
I wish all participants the best of deliberations.