I thank you and the German Presidency for organizing this virtual High-Level Open Debate. Ialso express my sincere appreciation to Madame Michelle Bachelet, Mr. David Shearer, and the distinguished representatives of civil society, for their insightful remarks.
Protection and promotion of human rights is an essential pre-requisite for achieving sustaining peace. This is particularly important in the context of conflict and post conflict situations, where nascent local & national institutions lack resources and capacity to address gross human rights violations; and the societies often run with the persistent risk of relapsing to violence.
As a State Party to all major international human rights instruments, including the two Covenants and the Statute of the International Criminal Court, Bangladesh is deeply committed to the cause of human rights. The peacekeepers of Bangladesh have a proven track record of upholding human rights in their areas of operations. We have made human rights a mandatory component of professional trainings of our peacekeepers. In addition, Bangladesh Institute for Peace Support Operations and Training, BIPSOT has developed extensive curricula on protection of civilians mandate as part of the pre-deployment training courses.
And the impact is quite visible. In South Sudan for instance, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been providing security for people living at the protection of civilian sites and protecting humanitarian convoys en route and during distribution of humanitarian services. They are providing a variety of health and social services, with their own funding, which include free basic medical and veterinary treatment, distribution of text books to schools and training women on different kinds of income-generating skills. The Formed Police Unit of Bangladesh deployed in Darfur has received special recognition for their work, which includes providing security to the camps, capacity building of Sudan police, free medical camps and distribution of school books, and so on.
The peacekeepers of Bangladesh also protect people from various conflict related sexual violence and violence against children. Our women peacekeepers have been playing critical role in providing courage and comfort to the victims of sexual violence.
The experience of Bangladeshi peacekeepers in handling the victims of human rights violations in conflict settings proved to be of great use in providing critical life saving services to the traumatized Rohingyas who fled persecution in Myanmar.
We recognize that protection of human rights is a key component of the protection of civilian mandate for the peacekeepers. Yet, we are worried that peacekeepers often lack the wherewithal to deal with such complex and politically sensitive domestic issues. In this regard, we would like to share some of our observations:
- Peacekeepers are already over-stretched with their ever-expanding mandates, with limited resources. Thus, any new mandate should be accompanied by corresponding resource allocations. Likewise, the ‘human rights’ mandate should be met with adequate and appropriate resources, based on the specific needs of the mission. For instance, more female peacekeepers need to be deployed in situations where there is higher risk of conflict related sexual violence against women and children.
- In order to improve the ‘human rights readiness’ of the peace operations, there should be adequate emphasison the training and capacity building of peacekeepers on human rights regime of the UN. Given that the quality of pre-deployment trainings may vary from one country to another, and some of those may also prove non-operational in the specific mission environment, there should be arrangements for in-mission training based on the needs on the ground.
- The host government and the local authorities have to be adequately sensitized about their obligations to human rights, as well as responsibility to protect. Otherwise, it would have the potential to create mistrust between the peacekeepers and the host authorities and eventually add to the existing challenges of the peacekeepers.
- To address gross violations of human rights or curb imminent atrocity crimes, peacekeepers need to have access to credible threat assessments conducted in real time by various UN mechanisms, such as, mission-specific human rights monitoring mechanisms, UN’s monitoring and reporting mechanisms on grave violations of children’s rights, and monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence.
- The civilian component of the peace operations need to be strengthened to ensure greater engagement of the UN with the host government, local authorities and, wherever applicable, with the civil society organizations. Such collaboration can immensely help in national capacity building in the areas of prevention, protection and prosecution of human rights violations as well as in trust building.
- Adequate emphasis should be given to the issues of safety and security of peacekeepers and the accountability for the crimes committed against the UN personnel including the peacekeepers.
- Peacekeepers alone cannot fulfill their human rights mandate in situations where the political process for conflict resolution and sustaining peace is not taking root. The Security Council has the responsibility to constantly support peace operations. The Council has to use its authority to impress upon the host country to find a sustainable political solution and foster institution building. It also needs to address the ongoing cases of human rights violations in an objective and non-selective manner, as part of its Charter responsibility. Only then, the State itself can gradually take over from peace operations the responsibility of protection of human rights of its nationals.
- The Council has to prevent or address ongoing atrocity crimes, it has to end the culture of impunity which, otherwise, would only embolden perpetrators and make peace operations more difficult. For example, delisting of Myanmar’s Tatmadaw from the category of ‘violation of recruitment and use’ in the latest report of Secretary General on Children in Armed Conflict despite threefold increase of violence against children there, sends a wrong message. With such contradictions, it would not be easy to integrate human rights in the peace operations.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many conflicts and their human rights situations. It has further reduced conflict-ridden states’ already fragile capacity to promote and protect human rights. This is making peace operations more challenging. In this context, implementation of Secretary-General’s Global Ceasefire Appeal and the Security Council’s latest adopted resolution 2532 holds the key to successful peace operations.
I thank you.