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Inaugural Address by Secretary (East) on the occasion of the Senior Mission Leaders Course conducted by Centre for UN Peacekeeping at Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi (March 20, 2017)

March 20, 2017

Dy Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General J.S. Cheema
Excellency Ambassador of Finland,
Distinguished participants in the Senior Mission Leaders
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you this morning at the inaugural session of the Senior Mission Leaders Course (SMLC) being organized by the Centre for UN Peacekeeping in collaboration with the UN’s Integrated Training Services in New Delhi, for the second time.

I would like to thank officials of the Centre for UN Peacekeeping and the officials of the Integrated Training Services, whose close collaboration has made it possible for India to host this course in New Delhi.

I would like to thank Finland, Norway and Switzerland for supporting this program, and I wish to thank in particular the Ambassador of Finland who is here today with us for the support of her country to this program.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

UN peacekeeping operations is one of the most visible manifestations of the solemn commitment we all made in 1945 when we signed the UN Charter and made the promise - "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to uphold fundamental human rights and dignities of every human being on this planet.

However over the last 7 decades the nature of UN Peacekeeping operations has changed dramatically. The present generation of blue berets serving under the UN flag, face challenges and complexities in their work that previous generations of peacekeepers could never have imagined.

What began as an activity designed to prevent the outbreak of inter-state conflict, has today evolved into a complex political, military and peace building operation, often in an environment where there is "little peace to keep” and where some of the so-called "parties to the conflict” are clearly not States but possibly representatives of terror networks working closely with sophisticated crime syndicates!

Today we also ask our peacekeepers to uphold promises we made to ourselves - of not allowing the human tragedy of Rwanda to repeat itself, no matter how complex the actual situation on the ground.

We also tell ourselves that little purpose is served if a UN Mission does not ensure the "protection of civilians” - no matter what the consequences. Yet we pointedly fail to acknowledge the legal and political implications that a ‘protection of civilian’ mandate can have for our peacekeepers deployed on the ground.

We also do not adequately acknowledge that there are serious implications for the safety and security of our peacekeepers, both military and civilian, when we ask them to ignore cardinal principles of effective UN peacekeeping – ie, "consent of all parties”, "neutrality”, and resort to force only in self-defence – in pursuit of "robust mandates” that we set for them.

And while we in the international community continue to raise the bar of performance that we demand from our (UN) peacekeepers, we also seem to be flagging in our commitment, and our duty, to provide them with adequate resources to fulfill their ever more ambitious mandates.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, the international community needs the services of our UN peacekeepers. The fact that we have 100,000 UN peacekeepers, contributed by 126 member states, deployed in 16 difficult peacekeeping missions testifies to this pressing need.

As an experienced contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, India has constantly searched for practical steps that can be taken to meet the challenges that are faced by modern day UN peacekeepers. We participated in the two important review processes on peace operation that have taken place recently at the UN– the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) and the Advisory Group of Experts on UN Peace building Architecture (AGE), and look forward to seeing some of the recommendations being implemented in the future.

But perhaps the most practical of "practical steps”, or the starting point to addressing the challenges inherent in modern day UN peacekeeping is to ensure the best possible training for UN peacekeepers deployed in various Missions.

Real life experience has taught us that there will always be difficult political legal and military questions that will arise, when we direct our peacekeepers to protect civilians at all costs, or when we confer upon on them a robust mandate that promises to sustain peace in the long term. Given these complexities we will always have to rely on the good judgment and training of the men and women actually deployed on the ground. The effectiveness of UN mission staff and military personnel on the ground is today one of the key ingredients for the success or failure of any UN Mission.

Thus, organizing training courses like the one that is starting today, specifically targeting Senior Mission Leaders, whether from the military, police or civilians streams, is to my mind is one of the most important practical steps that can be taken to meet the challenges of modern day UN peacekeeping.

At the High Level Peacekeeping Summit in September 2015, Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s commitment to share with other member states, our experience in UN peacekeeping. The CUNPK is the main platform through which we do this. It continues to regularly conduct three basic peacekeeping courses for our international partners. We have also started collaborating with the United States to assist leading Troop Contributing Countries from Africa to further enhance their peacekeeping capacities -We were particularly happy with last year’s roll out of the first collaborative effort with the United States to conduct the first "UN Peacekeeping Course for African Partners” in New Delhi and we will seek to further expand this program this year. The CUNPK will also continue conducting its program of military and peacekeeping training through its "Mobile Training Team” scheme. It is in keeping with this overall approach that today we welcome the collaboration with the UN’s Integrated Training Services to organize this Course which is being supported by Finland, Norway and Switzerland. I cannot think of any better example of the collective effort each one of us must make as member states of the United Nations, to ensure that this magnificent institution is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This course will examine many of the critical military political and legal dilemmas that arise in UN peacekeeping missions. I hope that the course contributes to preparing you for the difficult roles and responsibilities that you will fill one day as a senior leader inside a UN mission.

I conclude by once again conveying my best wishes and welcome to all participants attending this year’s Senior Missions Leaders Course being held in New Delhi.

I do hope that you have an enjoyable stay in India.
Thank You.


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