At Indonesia Training Centre, Secretary-General Says Peacekeepers ‘the Very Front Line of Our Work for Peace’, Symbol of Hope When Conflicts Rage

21 March 2012
SG/SM/14176-PKO/303

At Indonesia Training Centre, Secretary-General Says Peacekeepers ‘the Very Front Line of Our Work for Peace’, Symbol of Hope When Conflicts Rage

21 March 2012
Secretary-General
SG/SM/14176 PKO/303
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

At Indonesia Training Centre, Secretary-General Says Peacekeepers ‘the Very Front

Line of Our Work for Peace’, Symbol of Hope When Conflicts Rage

 

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s lecture at the Indonesia Peace and Security Centre, entitled “UN Peacekeeping:  Challenges and Opportunities for Indonesia, the Region and Beyond”, delivered in Sentul, Indonesia, 20 March:

Garuda!

How about one more time — this time louder!  Garuda!

This is an impressive Centre.  I would like to highly commend the visionary leadership of President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono to have established this excellent training and peace and security centre.  I hope that this training and peace and security centre will provide many countries, not only in this region, but all members who are contributing to peacekeeping operations, to peacekeeping, something that they will fully utilize.  This is a long vision.  This is what we need.  And I really thank His Excellency President Yudhoyono.

It’s only natural:  when you think of President Yudhoyono, he is the only world leader, all around the world, who has served as a peacekeeper.

It is a special privilege as Secretary-General of the United Nations to meet so many distinguished military leaders, and also, more importantly, many troops who have contributed to peace and security around the world.

You are the very front line of our work for peace.

You have answered the call of service.

I thank you.

This morning, I had a very constructive discussion with President Yudhoyono, covering all areas in peace and security matters, and I’m very happy to visit this centre where you train yourselves to contribute to the maintenance of peace and security, and to the United Nations.  I deeply appreciate it.

President Yudhoyono, to us in the UN family, you will always be a blue helmet.  Thank you very much again.

Many of you have deployed to our missions here and there.  All these missions are very difficult to serve, and very dangerous.  Unfortunately, 31  Indonesia men and women have paid the ultimate price, and I pay my deepest respect to them and to the families of these sacrificed soldiers.

I am sure that by my visit here, I will learn a great deal from you.

But today I want to share my perspective on the challenges we face and what we are doing to meet them.

Peacekeeping is not mentioned anywhere in the United Nations Charter.  But since the days of my distinguished predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld, peacekeeping has been a flagship United Nations activity.

We now have nearly 120,000 peacekeepers serving all around the world, in 15 missions at this time.

The blue helmet is a symbol of hope.

I have seen first-hand how peacekeepers make a real difference in people’s lives.

When conflicts rage, children are out of school for years, until our peacekeepers come and make it safe to go back to class.

Peacekeepers build bridges — physical bridges to cross rivers, and to cross over broken roads, but more importantly they build bridges of trust across communities.

They help reclaim land poisoned with mines so farmers can plant crops.

In scores of communities, peacekeepers provide free medical care to local people.  Most of those people have never been to a hospital or to a clinic in their life, except when they are treated by peacekeepers, including Indonesians.

In disasters, our peacekeepers rescue people from wreckage and help get aid to survivors.

Our Indonesian troops are doing their part.

Some of you have served in Darfur, in Africa.

On my way here, I read about one incident there.

Indonesian UN troops were sent to protect internally displaced people in Darfur.

You may know — the Indonesian peacekeepers were not welcomed when they first arrived.

Some threw stones at the blue helmets.  One Indonesian captain explained, the displaced people “did not know that we came to protect them”.

The peacekeepers needed trust — but they could not demand or request it — they had to earn the trust of the people by leading by example.

These Indonesian troops — like our blue helmets everywhere — showed courage and compassion.  That changed everything.  They earned hearts and minds, as we saw in the video.

When a pregnant Sudanese woman in Darfur needed emergency medical care, the Indonesian ambulance rushed to help her.  When the Sudanese military blocked the ambulance from leaving the camp, our Indonesians insisted until they got that woman to the hospital.

You could say this was just a small service for one pregnant woman — but it meant a lot.

It was much more than a small service.  Helping that woman was a brick in the foundation of a solid relationship between the people whom you are sent to protect and the peacekeepers.  You built the bridge between the United Nations and the people of Darfur.

Everywhere our staff builds trust.

Peacekeeping is a global partnership between these uniformed and civilian staff in the field, the UN Security Council and the Member States.

Peacekeeping brings together countries large and small, rich and poor.  Even former foes serve in common cause under the UN flag.

In Lebanon, Indonesia has a ship as part of the UN Maritime Task Force.  I really appreciate that valuable contribution.

That Indonesian vessel sails alongside ships from Bangladesh, Brazil, Germany, Greece and Turkey.

Indonesia has nearly 1,400 peacekeepers serving in Lebanon.  It is one of 37 different countries that send troops to that Mission.

This is a remarkable expression of international solidarity — and it is just one example among 15 UN peacekeeping operations around the world.

Many countries that once hosted UN troops now contribute them.

What drives our peacekeepers’ work is an appreciation of this pact we call burden-sharing.

Peacekeeping does cost — but let us put this in perspective.  More than 60 years of United Nations peacekeeping cost far less than what the world spends on the military in under six weeks.

Peacekeeping is a wise investment that brings huge returns.

All States can contribute.  We need personnel, equipment, funds and ideas.

I thank the Government of Indonesia, along with the United States, Australia and the Republic of Korea, my own country, for supporting this Centre.

I also appreciate regional engagement by ASEAN, which has shown a great commitment to peacekeeping.  I am encouraged by this region’s efforts to network its peacekeeping training centres.  This has great potential to strengthen Asia’s contribution to peacekeeping.

Just last month, ASEAN and the UN held a workshop together in Jakarta on conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding.

The United Nations is committed to strengthening this collaboration.

More and more, UN peacekeepers are called on to protect civilians from violence.

This is the focus of more than half of our peacekeeping missions, including those in Darfur, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

We go into volatile environments with a daunting task:  to build lasting peace.

We can only succeed when our people can act quickly and flexibly.

They need the latest technology and tools to get the job done.

In peacekeeping jargon, we speak of “enablers and multipliers”.  Not many people understand what that means.

Let me break that down.

These are the helicopters, engineering units and the military medical hospitals that make it possible for troops to do more than they could on their own.

Think of South Sudan.  The newest nation on Earth.  The latest Member State of the United Nations.  It was mired in a war that killed over 2 million people and sent twice as many fleeing from their country.  Two million people were killed, and 4 million people left their country.

South Sudan is roughly twice the size of Malaysia, but it has less than 100 kilometres of paved roads.  When I visited South Sudan I was so humbled.  There are no roads, in such a huge country.  Darfur is the size of France.  Again, there are not many roads where cars can travel.  When you need to deploy troops you need helicopters, you need airplanes.  Without them, they can’t move around.  That’s what we call enablers, enabling our soldiers to work properly.  I asked President Yudhoyono whether the Indonesia Government might consider contributing helicopters to our peacekeeping operations, and I hope that he will consider positively.

I am constantly calling on Member States that have helicopters to provide them to our missions.

I am also calling for more military engineers.  They pave roads where there are none to help our peacekeepers move from point A to point B.

And years after the blue helmets leave, the roads are still there, for reconstruction, development and daily life, for their own people.

I place great importance on training for peacekeeping.

When a soldier or a police officer deploys to a UN mission she or he has a sacred duty.

They go where civilians are traumatized.

In many cases, innocent men, women and children have suffered at the hands of soldiers and other fighters.

Peacekeepers have a special duty to show that the United Nations respects and protects human rights, and protect the lives of the civilian population.

That is why your individual conduct is so critical to our global mission.

I have praised the heroic acts of our peacekeepers who serve with honour.  They make us all proud.

But I have to speak very frankly that there are some people that bring shame to our peacekeeping operations.  I have to make this equally as forceful.  I am not talking about Indonesia.  I’m talking about the tiny minority of peacekeepers who harm the very people they were sent to protect.  They disgrace their countries and the United Nations, and undermine the good work of peacekeepers.

I welcome the attention to this problem by Member States.  I welcome the scrutiny.  I welcome anything that sheds light on misconduct and abuse, because they thrive in the darkness of silence and shame.

We are working to knock out this problem with a one, two, three punch.

One:  prevent misconduct.  Training is a big part of that.  And education is big part of it, too.

Two:  enforce UN standards.  This means investigating allegations and acting on every single one that proves true.

And three:  take remedial action by helping victims.

We are also pushing hard for gender sensitivity training.  I am grateful that this Centre will host a UN course on gender in peacekeeping next month.

I feel strongly that all headquarters and peacekeeping personnel should receive this training.

At the same time, we have to do more to recruit women.

As Secretary-General I have dramatically increased the number of women heading peacekeeping missions.  And I am recruiting more women across all ranks.

When I first became Secretary-General there were no women peacekeeping heads.  Now we have seven women who are commanding peacekeeping operations.  Women make up almost 30 per cent of our civilian staff in peacekeeping operations but only 9 per cent of all UN police, and just 4 per cent of our military are women.  Now, our target is by 2020 to increase the number of women police by 20 per cent.

We have to improve those numbers.  We have to have more women police officers.  Not for the sake of quotas or setting examples or even for the principle of gender equality.  But they do better, particularly when it comes to sexual violence.  Many women are afraid to report this kind of violence to male peacekeepers and officers.  When they see female police officers and peacekeepers, they feel much more comfortable in coming out and reporting these cases.  So that the United Nations can help with the process of accountability, those perpetrators should be brought to justice.  That’s a fundamental principle of democracy and of maintaining these peacekeeping operations.

You are carrying on a great name:  “Garuda”.

The Garuda, the soaring eagle, is the symbol of Indonesia.

And Garuda is what they called the first Indonesian contingent sent to the Middle East in 1956.

Since those early days, the Garuda have been deployed to the toughest UN missions:  in Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, Lebanon and beyond.

Many of you will deploy to complex environments.

You will bring your training, your abilities and your sense of responsibility to continue the legacy of those who have gone before you.

As Secretary-General I have been paying a lot of attention [to peacekeeping], because I have my own experiences as a young boy, growing up after the Korean War.  I have seen the flags and role of the United Nations in Korea.  The United Nations flag, and United Nations peacekeepers — the United Nations itself — was the beacon of hope for all Korean people at that time.  They came and rescued us from the aggression of communists, they rebuilt our country, and they educated [us].  They made our society and our communities build back better.  That’s why I’m now standing [here] as Secretary-General of the United Nations:  only owing to such great and generous help, and sacrifice, of the United Nations.

Whenever I travel in many countries, whenever I visit peacekeeping operations, I always tell them:  “Please have a bigger sense of hope, don’t despair!  It may be very difficult for you.  But look at me.  As a young boy, I was very poor.  [We were] almost on the verge of collapse of the country.  But because there was the United Nations, because there is still the United Nations, you can have hope and you can build back better [in] your country.  This is my message to you.”  In Indonesia, as one of the emerging countries, you have a moral and a political responsibility to help those people.  You have risen from very difficult… I know how difficult a process you have come [through], in terms of national security, in terms of democratic [reform], you have struggled to have your country democratized, and you have such a great leader in President Yudhoyono.

Ladies and gentlemen, please know you are not alone.  You carry high hopes from the communities you serve — and great expectations from our wide world.

Thank you very much.

Garuda! Terima Kasih.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.