Vision for a Peaceful World: Bangladesh in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations

“Peace is an imperative for the survival of humanity. It represents the deepest aspirations of men and women throughout the world. And peace established on justice can last forever.”

—Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in UNGA 1974

Following the War of Independence, Bangladesh emerged as a symbol of hope and stability for nations striving for peace. Under the visionary leadership of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh embarked on its path as a ‘nation of peacekeepers’. In a historic moment at the 29th United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 1974, Bangabandhu became the first Bangalee to deliver a speech in Bangla, emphasizing the imperative of peace and justice amidst global crises.1 He unequivocally expressed Bangladesh’s unwavering commitment to fostering global peace and justice, echoing the sentiments of the nation’s martyrs.2 This commitment was further solidified in the national constitution, affirming Bangladesh’s dedication to contributing to international peace and cooperation in alignment with the progressive aspirations of humanity.3

Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Bangladesh’s remarkable journey in peacekeeping began in 1973, just two years post-independence, with its international humanitarian efforts. Providing aid such as rice, medical supplies, and a team of doctors to Damascus, Syria, during the Arab-Israel War marked the beginning of Bangladesh’s illustrious history.4 In 1988, the Bangladesh Army embarked on its peacekeeping journey under the blue helmet, deploying 15 military observers to the United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG). Since then, Bangladesh has remained unwavering in its dedication to UN peacekeeping endeavours. In 1992, the Bangladesh Army’s first contingent was deployed under the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), initiating a trajectory of increasing involvement over the subsequent 36 years.5 This commitment has encompassed various contributions, including military and police personnel, as well as civilian experts. Among the 71 UN peacekeeping missions since 1948, Bangladesh has notably participated in 56 missions across 40 different areas spanning four continents.6 To date, a total of 194,837 peacekeepers, including 3,040 female peacekeepers from the Bangladesh Armed Forces and Police, have contributed to UN peacekeeping missions.7

Bangabandhu’s Maiden Speech in the UNGA on 25 September 1974

Bangladesh stands out as a prominent troop contributor to the United Nations, renowned for its outstanding professionalism, neutrality, and unwavering commitment. As a top Troop-Contributing Country (TCC) from 2021 to 2023 Bangladesh underscores its significant role around the globe.8 Presently, Bangladesh has deployed military and police personnel in 13 locations across the world, showcasing its proactive involvement in conflict resolution and the promotion of peace.9

Bangladesh’s contribution to UN peacekeeping extends well beyond troop numbers. We are committed to supporting the capacity building of other nations involved in peacekeeping affairs. The Chief of Army Staff of the Bangladesh Army emphasises maintaining mutual trust and respect to uphold global peace, prosperity, security, and stability. Under his leadership, in June 2023, the Overseas Operations Directorate of Army Headquarters conducted thorough assessments of the readiness of Gambian troops on the field to guarantee optimal joint deployment for the peacekeeping mission, awaiting UNHQ’s invitation. Acknowledging the threat posed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) within MINUSCA operations in the Central African Republic, the Bangladesh Army has recently provided the Peruvian Armed Forces with a domestically manufactured Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). This equipment aims to enhance the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capabilities of the Peruvian EOD platoon serving within MINUSCA. On  another note, in response to a request from the UNHQ, Bangladesh deployed an EOD platoon in 2023 and an Armed Helicopter Unit to MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2024, which bears a testament to our preparedness and eagerness to uphold global peace.7

Contribution of Bangladeshi Peacekeepers to UN missions7

Bangladesh strongly advocates for the increased involvement of female peacekeepers and actively facilitates their deployment to UN peacekeeping missions, recognizing their pivotal role in peacekeeping efforts and their unique ability to connect with local communities, especially women and children, in conflict areas. With over 3,040 women peacekeepers already deployed, Bangladesh is committed to maintaining and further enhancing female participation in line with the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy 2018-2028.7 Besides UN deployments, Bangladesh Army contingents have been assigned various tasks such as landmine and unexploded bomb removal, maintenance of Kuwait Armed Forces’ vehicles, equipment, arms, and ammunition, as well as providing medical and dental support post-‘Operation Desert Storm’. Worth mentioning that Qatar Armed Forces and Bangladesh Armed Forces have signed an MoU titled ‘Implementing Agreement between Qatar Armed Forces and Bangladesh Armed Forces Concerning the Deputation of Officers and Military Personnel from Bangladesh Armed Forces to Qatar Armed Forces’.10

Medical Campaign by Bangladeshi Contingent in Mali

Bangladesh has made significant investments in preparing peacekeepers to effectively carry out their duties, as evidenced by the increasing importance and involvement of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOT). Apart from providing pre-deployment training for peacekeeping missions, BIPSOT engages in bilateral and multilateral academic discussions, seminars, and international exercises with friendly nations, various UN agencies, and international organizations. Through innovative methods and ongoing capacity-building efforts, Bangladesh continually adapts and innovates, utilizing technology and designing specialized training programs to enhance the efficiency of its peacekeeping operations, thereby contributing to the overall success of UN peacekeeping missions. The global community has acknowledged and commended Bangladesh’s contributions to UN peacekeeping, recognizing the professionalism, dedication, and sacrifices of Bangladeshi peacekeepers.11 In appreciation of these contributions, Sierra Leone designated Bangla as one of its honorary languages in 2002,12 marking a significant milestone in international diplomacy through peacekeeping.13 From Sierra Leone in the east to Sudan in the west, Bangladeshi language, cuisine, and music are gaining popularity among locals. Even the people of these nations, who cherish freedom, draw inspiration from the historic 7th March speech of Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation, showcasing it in their cultural events.14

Presently, guided by the prudent leadership of our esteemed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladesh Armed Forces are undergoing a phase of modernization and capacity enhancement. Stressing the government’s steadfast commitment and robust support for Bangladeshi peacekeepers, our peacekeepers not only represent the UN but also enhance Bangladesh’s reputation. We stand ever prepared to contribute to peace efforts globally under the UN auspices. Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly has unanimously endorsed Bangladesh’s significant resolution on promoting a ‘Culture of Peace.’15

Wreath laying ceremony for the fallen Bangladeshi peacekeepers in the Central African Republic

Despite its notable contributions, Bangladesh encounters significant challenges in its peacekeeping endeavors. The inherent risks involved in peacekeeping missions have resulted in 168 martyrs and 266 combat injuries.7 Additionally, adverse weather conditions, difficult terrain, and logistical complexities occasionally hinder the capabilities of peacekeepers. In summary, Bangladesh’s involvement in UN peacekeeping operations underscores its firm commitment to global peace and security. Through its substantial deployment of troops, police personnel, and expertise, Bangladesh has established itself as a recognized entity and a pivotal partner in international endeavors aimed at resolving conflicts and fostering stability in the world’s most demanding environments. As Bangladesh continues to broaden its peacekeeping commitments, it reaffirms its standing as a responsible and proactive member of the global community, devoted to upholding peace and stability following UN principles.

Written by-

Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman, OSP, SGP, psc
Chief of General Staff, Bangladesh Army

 

References:

  1. TBS News. ‘Bangabandhu’s historic UNGA speech in Bangla was greatest day of Bangabandhu’s life’. The Business Standard https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/bangabandhus-historic-unga-speech-bangla-was-greatest-day-bangabandhus-life-307483 (2021).
  2. A. K. Abdul Momen. Bangladesh’s robust role and commitment towards international peace and security. Dhaka Tribune https://www.dhakatribune.com/opinion/longform/314708/ bangladesh’s-robust-role-and-commitment-towards (2023).
  3. Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. (1972).
  4. S. M. Asadul. Haque, Brigadier General. Preparedness, Challenges and Opportunities of the Bangladesh Army in UN Peacekeeping. in Keeping Peace in a Turbulent World: Reflections from the Field 326–343 (2023).
  5. Armed Forces Division. Bangladesh in UN Peace Operation. UN Peacekeeping https://afd.gov.bd/un-peacekeeping/bangladesh-in-un-peace-operation (2023).
  6. The Daily Star. United Nations Peace Operations and Bangladesh. https://www.thedailystar.net/supplements/celebrating-50-years-bangladesh/news/united-nations-peace-operations-and-bangladesh-2066693 (2021).
  7. Overseas Operations Directorate Archive. UN Peacekeeping Missions of the Bangladesh Army. UN Archive (2023).
  8. Armed Forces Division. Position of Bangladesh in UN peace operations in terms of troops contribution. UN Peacekeeping https://afd.gov.bd/un-peacekeeping/position-of-bangladesh-in-un-peace-operation (2024).
  9. UNDPO. Troop and Police Contributors. United Nations Peacekeeping https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/troop-and-police-contributors (2024).
  10. Ahsan Habib, Brigadier General. Experience of ‘Operation Kuwait Punorgathan’ and takeways for military assistance in Qatar – A peacebuilding effort. Bangladesh Army J. 20 (2023).
  11. Siddiqui, Saifullah. Bangladesh’s role in UN peacekeeping: Challenges, achievements and future strategies. TBS News 1–5 https://www.tbsnews.net/thoughts/bangladeshs-role-un-peacekeeping-challenges-achievements-and-future-strategies-793998 (2024).
  12. Express Web Desk. How Bengali briefly became an honorary language in Sierra Leone. The Indian Express 1–2 http://indianexpress.com/article/research/how-bengali-became-an-official-language-in-sierra-leone-in-west-africa-international-mother-language-day-2017-4536551/ (2017).
  13. Khan, Sauid Ahmed. Divided by Continent, Connected by Language: Bangladesh and Sierra Leone’s Brotherhood. Modern Diplomacy 1–3 https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2024/03/12/divided-by-continent-connected-by-language-bangladesh-and-sierra-leones-brotherhood/ (2024).
  14. BSS. March 7 speech is an inspiration for freedom-loving people: PM. The Daily Star 1–2 https://www.thedailystar.net/country/march-7-speech-inspiration-for-freedom-loving-people-pm-1711900 (2019).
  15. Hasib, Nurul Islam. UN unanimously adopts Bangladesh’s resolution on culture of peace. Dhaka Tribune https://www.dhakatribune.com/amp/bangladesh/foreign-affairs/345526/un-unanimously-adopts-bangladesh’s-resolution-on (2024).

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