Bangladesh, a nation once recognized for its climate vulnerabilities and economic lethargy, has today carved out a distinguished niche in the realm of international peacekeeping. Since its inception as a sovereign state in 1971, Bangladesh has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to global peace and security. This commitment is most evident in its substantial contributions to United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. Over the decades, Bangladesh has grown to be one of the major troop contributors, and its peacekeepers have won international recognition and acclaim for their professionalism and dedication. In a world fraught with war and instability, the fact that a small South Asian country like Bangladesh has had such an influence on peacekeeping missions underscores the necessity of inclusion in developing a paradigm of global solidarity.

By Name: S.A. Korobi

A Tradition of Service and Sacrifice

Bangladesh’s involvement in UN peacekeeping began in 1988 when it deployed military observers to Iraq-Iran. Since then, the country has consistently contributed troops, police, and civilian personnel to numerous missions across Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. As of 2024, nearly 7,000 Bangladeshi peacekeepers were deployed in various missions, including those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Mali. This substantial contribution underscores Bangladesh’s commitment to the international peace and security principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

Bangladeshi peacekeepers have played pivotal roles in some of the most challenging and volatile environments. They have engaged in a wide range of tasks, from maintaining ceasefires and protecting civilians to supporting electoral processes and facilitating humanitarian assistance. Bangladeshi troops’ adaptability and resilience have been instrumental in achieving the objectives of these missions, often under arduous and perilous conditions.

Contributions to Global Peace and Stability

Bangladeshi peacekeepers’ contributions have had a profound impact on global peace and stability. Bangladeshi troops have been at the forefront of efforts to protect civilians and restore order in countries like the DRC, South Sudan, and Lebanon. Their presence has often been a stabilizing factor, providing a sense of security and normalcy in conflict-ridden areas.

In the DRC, for instance, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been instrumental in implementing the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO). They have conducted patrols, protected vulnerable populations, and facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid. Similarly, in South Sudan, Bangladeshi contingents have played a crucial role in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), working tirelessly to safeguard civilians amidst ongoing conflict.

Bangladeshi peacekeepers have also contributed to post-conflict reconstruction and development. They have assisted in rebuilding infrastructure, supporting local governance, and fostering reconciliation among divided communities. Their efforts have often gone beyond mere military duties, encompassing a broader commitment to peacebuilding and sustainable development.

Addressing Controversies

Despite its commendable contributions, Bangladesh’s involvement in UN peacekeeping has not been without controversy. Allegations of misconduct, including instances of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by some peacekeepers, have occasionally marred the country’s reputation. These allegations, though involving a small fraction of the overall contingent, have prompted scrutiny and criticism from the international community.

The Bangladeshi government and military have taken these allegations seriously, implementing measures to address and prevent such misconduct. Bangladesh has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards SEA and has collaborated with the UN to enhance training and awareness among its peacekeepers. Pre-deployment training now includes comprehensive modules on conduct and discipline, human rights, and the protection of civilians. Additionally, Bangladesh has strengthened its internal mechanisms for accountability, ensuring that allegations are thoroughly investigated and, where necessary, offenders are prosecuted.

These efforts have been acknowledged by the UN and other international bodies, which have commended Bangladesh for its proactive stance on addressing misconduct. The country’s commitment to upholding the highest standards of conduct in peacekeeping operations reflects its dedication to the principles of justice and human rights.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

The resilience and professionalism of Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been tested time and again in some of the world’s most challenging environments. They have operated in extreme conditions, facing threats from armed groups, disease, and harsh terrain. Despite these challenges, Bangladeshi troops have demonstrated unwavering dedication and resolve.

In Mali, Bangladeshi peacekeepers with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) have faced significant threats from extremist groups. Despite the high-risk environment, they have continued to perform their duties with distinction, contributing to the stabilization efforts in the region. Their resilience and determination have been a testament to the strength and commitment of Bangladeshi peacekeeping forces.

Appreciation from Host Nations

The contributions of Bangladeshi peacekeepers have not gone unnoticed. Host nations have often expressed deep appreciation for the professionalism, dedication, and compassion of Bangladeshi troops. Local communities have lauded their efforts in operating effectively in diverse and often hostile environments.

In Haiti, for instance, the Bangladeshi Formed Police Units (FPUs) deployed as part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) received high praise for their role in maintaining law and order, particularly in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Their efforts to provide security and support humanitarian assistance were crucial in stabilizing the country during immense crises.

In Sudan, the Bangladeshi contingents serving with the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) have been lauded for their role in protecting civilians and facilitating peace processes in a region plagued by long-standing conflict. Their presence has provided a sense of security to vulnerable populations and contributed to the broader efforts to achieve lasting peace in Darfur.

A Legacy of Commitment

Bangladesh’s unwavering commitment to UN peacekeeping is rooted in its broader foreign policy objectives, emphasizing international cooperation, peace, and development. The country’s leaders have consistently championed the cause of global peace and security, viewing participation in peacekeeping missions as both a moral duty and a strategic priority.

This commitment is reflected in the high standards of training and preparation that Bangladeshi peacekeepers undergo before deployment. The Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOT) plays a crucial role in equipping peacekeepers with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their duties effectively. This comprehensive training ensures that Bangladeshi peacekeepers are well-prepared to meet the challenges they encounter in the field.

Bangladesh’s history in UN peacekeeping is a testament to its dedication to global peace and security. The country’s peacekeepers have made significant contributions to some of the most challenging missions worldwide, demonstrating professionalism, resilience, and a commitment to the principles of the United Nations. While controversies have emerged, Bangladesh has taken proactive steps to address and prevent misconduct, reinforcing its reputation as a responsible and reliable contributor to international peacekeeping.

Name: S.A. Korobi, student, Peace and Conflict Studies (MSS), Dhaka University, Bangladesh