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UN Peacekeepers

  May 29, 2020

UN Peacekeepers

Why are the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in news?

An Army Officer posted with the Indian contingent in the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has gone missing.

Who are the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces?

The UN peacekeepers, also known as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets, include soldiers, police and civilians. The United Nations Peacekeepers help conflict-torn regions to re-establish peace. The first mission of the UN Peacekeeping was deployed in West Asia in 1948, during the Arab-Israeli war.

Which body authorises them to be deployed in various countries?

UN Security Council

What is India’s contribution?

Until today, the UN peacekeeping force has been deployed in 71 operations. India stands as the largest troop contributor, having provided about 2,00,000 troops in almost 50 of the 71 missions.

India is one of the largest contributors, in terms of troops to UN Peacekeeping forces. Indian troops posted with these missions have served with distinction. The Indian Army's participation in the UN peacekeeping operations spans a period of 57 years covering 43 UN Missions in which over ninety-thousand Indian soldiers have served in various parts of the world. Indian troops have taken part in some of the most difficult operations, and have suffered casualties in the service of the UN. Professional excellence of the Indian troops has won universal admiration. 

India has taken part in the UN peacekeeping operations in four continents. Its most significant contribution has been of peace and stability in Africa and Asia. It has demonstrated its unique capacity of sustaining large troop commitments over prolonged periods. 

Presently, India is ranked, as the third-largest troop contributor to the UN. The Indian government has honoured its soldiers for gallantry, whilst serving the noble cause of world peace. 

India has sent battalion groups, engineers, medical teams, mil observers and staff personnel to Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Lebanon, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Congo, Sudan and Golan Heights. Observers and staff personnel have made their contributions to the international peace efforts in Central America, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Liberia, Lebanon, Mozambique, Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Sudan and Golan Heights etc.

How difficult is their task?

In nearly 50 conflict zones around the world, some one and a half billion people live under the threat of violence. In many of these places, the primary enforcers of order are not police officers or government soldiers but the blue-helmeted troops of the United Nations. With more than 78,000 soldiers and 25,000 civilians scattered across 14 countries, UN peacekeepers make up the second-largest military force deployed abroad, after the U.S. military.

The ambition of their task is immense. From Haiti to Mali, from Kosovo to South Sudan, UN peacekeepers are invited into war-torn countries and charged with maintaining peace and security. In most cases, that means nothing less than transforming states and societies. Peacekeepers set out to protect civilians, train police forces, disarm militias, monitor human rights abuses, organize elections, provide emergency relief, rebuild court systems, inspect prisons, and promote gender equality. And they attempt all of that in places where chaos has defied easy solution.

Peacekeeping involves trying to keep the peace in fragile environments and trying to enforce the maintenance of peace, where there is none to keep.

How is their role evolving over the decades?

The role of peacekeepers has evolved from just monitoring ceasefires to a wide array of responsibilities like 

  1. protecting human rights, 
  2. disarming ex-combatants, 
  3. promoting the rule of law, 
  4. supporting free and fair elections and 
  5. empowering women.