United Nations under-secretary-general Jean-Pierre Lacroix will be visiting Dhaka on June 25–26 as part of the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial 2023, of which Bangladesh is a co-host along with Canada and Uruguay. He is visiting at a time when anti-national forces in Dhaka are campaigning for Bangladesh to be banned from UN peacekeeping missions. But the true fact is that, The UN peacekeeping chief, Jean Pierre Lacroix, is expected to pledge to take more peacekeepers from Bangladesh during his upcoming visit, which is very encouraging and positive for Bangladesh.
The UN under Secretary General Department of Peace Operations (USG DPO) will attend the preparatory meeting of the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting in 2023. It is significant to note that it is the seminal high-level event for UN peacekeeping, held biennially with the participation of foreign and defense ministers. Following the 2021 event hosted by South Korea, the 2023 Ministerial will be held in Accra, Ghana, on December 5–6. All member states represented in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations will be invited to participate in this event, as well as a series of preparatory meetings to be held in the lead-up to the Ministerial.
There are clear attempts to exert pressure on the government before the elections. Various international conspiracies are going on. Recently, six members of the US Congress, in a letter, have urged President Joe Biden to take “appropriate measures” to ban Bangladesh law enforcement and military personnel from participating in UN peacekeeping missions. Analyst sees lobbyists’ hand behind the call, which comes when Bangladesh’s role in the blue helmet has been highly praised by the UN itself.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently advised the UN to look into the backgrounds of Bangladeshi forces before taking them on peace missions. According to Human Rights Watch, those who are taken into peacekeeping missions should be screened for past human rights violations before being included in peacekeeping missions. This statement from Human Rights Watch is given at a time when Bangladesh elections are coming and various conspiracies are going on regarding these elections.
There is no denying the fact that HRW has long been involved in several disinformation campaign against Bangladesh. This US-based human rights organization tried to block the trial of war criminals in Bangladesh. Allegations that the war criminal group gave them huge financial donations during that time have been published in the international media. However, Bangladesh has tried war crimes in accordance with international standards and following the highest legal process. But still, HRW continues to complain about it in the international arena. After that, Human Rights Watch brought up the issue of extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh and started complaining about them one after another. Analysts believe that this is also a result of anti-state actors’ international lobbying.
Human Rights Watch, with the information of Odhikar and Mayer Daak, two organizations of anti-government supporters in Bangladesh, continued to make various fabricated hateful reports about extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh, one after another. They even started distributing them to Western countries, including the United States, to be influenced.
The United States has been paying attention to HRW’s findings for the past two years. The Human Rights Report is mentioned in the RAB’s ban. The most recent US Human Rights Report makes reference to HRW. Political analysts believe that the recent discussion of peace missions by Human Rights Watch is a concerning development. Keep in mind that the Bangladesh Army is not associated with the nation’s efforts to enforce the law. One of Bangladesh’s most valuable resources is its army, which ensures all types of security, including the maintenance of the country’s territorial integrity.
Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been risking their lives in service to global humanity ever since they joined the UN Blue Helmets in 1988. Today, Bangladeshi peacekeepers are renowned as role models in global peacekeeping by virtue of their proven professionalism, impartiality, integrity, and humane attitude. The country had been in the top five since 2012. Bangladesh is currently the top contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping operations and one of the most trained and well-performing countries in the world.
At present, around 7,500 Bangladeshi peacekeepers are deployed on nine peacekeeping missions. So far, 167 brave and valiant Bangladeshi peacekeepers have laid down their lives, and 259 peacekeepers have suffered major injuries for the greater cause of world peace. Their sacrifices have brightened the country’s image before the world.
Till now, 188,558 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have participated in 63 UN missions or assignments in 40 countries or locations. From Haiti to East Timor, Lebanon to the Congo, the peacekeepers of Bangladesh have left their footprints in almost every place crawling with conflict. The roadmap of Bangladesh for affiliation with world peace is firmly pronounced in the constitution of the country. The anti-government forces’ move to reduce or terminate the presence of that Bangladesh peace mission needs to be acted upon now.
The US State Department imposed sanctions on RAB and seven of its former and current officials on December 10, 2021, over human rights violations. But after that, the US administration noted RAB’s progress and made public comments that things are changing and they are working together with Bangladesh to respect human rights. US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, during his visit to Dhaka on January 15, said RAB has made “tremendous progress” in performing its duties while respecting human rights.
On the other side, the UN was very complimentary of Bangladesh’s peacekeeping efforts on May 29 of this year, which was International Peacekeepers Day. UN Secretary-General António Guterres also awarded the “Dag Hammarskjöld Medal” to five fallen Bangladeshi peacekeepers for their supreme sacrifice in UN peacekeeping operations. What makes the opposition political party members advocate for a ban on the peacekeepers, then? The explanation is simple: They will always try to advance issues that will help them gain support in local politics. Similar to this, some foreign players constantly attempt to politicize concepts like democracy and human rights in order to meddle in a particular nation’s domestic affairs.
Recent history suggests that this is not a new phenomenon. It also happened before January 11, 2007, popularly known as “1/11,” when a military-controlled caretaker administration assumed authority during a tumultuous political environment and remained in place for two years. The UN representative in Dhaka was quite active before 9/11, and they played a role in bringing the peacekeeping issue forward. It is believed that, given this context, a number of parties may have attempted to bring the issue forward again for their own political agenda.
Many other countries that send peacekeepers have their own internal political problems. Nobody is banning them from the peacekeeping mission. So how and on what grounds will the UN ban Bangladesh from peacekeeping missions? Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, aptly said, “If the UN bans a country considering internal issues, then America would also be banned because they have problems too.”
Finally, it is understood that lobbyist groups, anti-government forces, or so-called human rights groups will engage in more disinformation campaigns in the run-up to the election. It is believed that if the government remains indifferent in this regard, the situation may worsen. At the same time, Bangladesh must address its internal issues in its own interest, not because somebody has asked it to do so.