Statement by Hon. Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Conference on ‘Nepal’s Contributions to UN Peacekeeping’
19 April 2021
Hotel Himalaya, Kupondole (3-6:10pm Singapore time) (+2:15 NST)
Dr. Nischal N Pandey,
Professor C Raja Mohan,
Mr. Christian Echle, and
At the outset, I would like to commend the efforts of ISAS, COSATT, and KAS for organizing this event on ‘Nepal’s Contribution to UN peacekeeping’.
I thank the hosts for inviting me to share my thoughts on the theme which is of paramount importance for Nepal.
I would like to build on what the previous speakers have said and will try to focus on three key aspects: Nepal’s contribution to UN peacekeeping, our perspectives on peacekeeping, and the challenges we face in our efforts to further enhance this flagship contribution of Nepal to the cause of international peace and security.
Since the first deployment in 1948, the scope of UN peacekeeping operations has evolved significantly. Over the seven decades, UN peacekeeping has advanced itself from ‘ceasefire monitoring’ to ‘multi-dimensional’ operations. It now entails not only military and police personnel but also civilian experts of various fields such as rule of law, justice, human rights, women empowerment, and economic reconstruction for promoting peace, stability, and development.
Peacekeeping has continued to remain not only a unique innovation but also an effective tool available to the United Nations to maintain peace and security in the troubled parts of the world. It is more so during the crises. Therefore, the call for adequate and predictable resources and support to UN peacekeeping missions has been more critical than ever before.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In line with Nepal’s unflinching faith in the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, we have been a steadfast partner and a consistent contributor to UN peacekeeping since 1958, which was only three years after our joining the UN.
Needless to say, Nepal’s decision to join the UN peacekeeping was to support the noble cause of maintenance of international peace, security and stability. Over the six decades, our peacekeepers have acquired immense international exposure and experience of working in a complex security environment. The longstanding involvement of our personnel has helped them treasure the skills, expertise and confidence required in a professional army.
Through participation in UN peacekeeping, Nepal has earned an international repute as a country committed to upholding the principles as stipulated in the UN Charter. ‘The norms of world peace’ has been one of the fundamental bases of Nepal’s foreign policy. We wish to prosper in peace and spread the same message to the global community through our blue helmets. After all, peace, harmony and compassion are the innate attributes that we inherited from Buddha, the apostle of peace and the enlightened son of Nepal.
Nepal contributes to UN peacekeeping in multiple ways:
First of all, through its constructive participation in different international negotiations, Nepal contributes to the setting of normative frameworks which guide the peacekeeping operations. It is an active member of the Special Committee on UN peace operations, popularly known as the C34 Committee at the UN. Nepal focuses particularly on improving safety and security of UN peacekeepers, enhancing partnership among different stakeholders, protecting the civilians, peace-building and sustaining peace in conflict-affected countries, and enhancing the participation of women and youths in peacekeeping and peace-building activities.
Nepal also participates in the triennial Contingent-Owned Equipment (COE) working group which determines the rates of reimbursements to the troop and police-contributing countries. It chaired the COE working group in 2017. Similarly, Nepal is active in the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly which deliberates on all aspects of peacekeeping and special political missions. Nepal has served twice as the Chair of the Fourth Committee as of now.
Second, Nepal contributes financially to UN peacekeeping operations by paying the assessed contribution as per the rules of the United Nations. The assessed contribution to each of the Missions is based on the size of the economy of a country.
Third and important, we contribute through the deployment of troops, formed police units, and individual police and military officers, at the request of the UN headquarters. Nepal has also contributed through the provision of niche capabilities such as engineers, military police, and special force contingents. Additionally, Nepali civilian experts have participated in peace missions in their personal capacity.
Nepal has thus far participated in 61 peacekeeping and special political missions with a total contribution of more than 1, 51,000 peacekeepers. As of March 2021, a total of 5,681 Nepali peacekeepers have been serving in 12 peacekeeping and special political missions in 11 countries. Currently, Nepal is the fourth major Troops and Police Contributing Country. However, this achievement has its own cost. 82 fellow compatriots have made the ultimate sacrifice in line of their duty with hundreds of others left wounded.
Nepal has always responded positively to every call of the United Nations even at the shortest notice. Our peacekeepers are deployed in some of the most fragile and complex security environments. Nepal deploys its peacekeepers without any national caveat to enhance the performance of peacekeepers. We have stated out commitment that we stand ready to contribute 10% of our total military size to peacekeeping missions at the United Nations’ request.
Nepal has supported every effort of the UN Secretary-General on combating Sexual Exploitations and Abuse (SEA). It has also signed the Voluntary Compact on preventing and addressing the SEA. It has been implementing a zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.
Similarly, Nepal has already endorsed the Kigali principles on Protection of Civilians. Before deployment, we provide a tailor-made training to its peacekeepers which includes, inter alia, the issues of protection of civilians, human rights and humanitarian law, and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. Aware of the responsibility of the peacekeeping missions to promote the sustainability of the local ecosystem, Nepali peacekeepers have also contributed to preserving the sanctity of the local environment.
Fourth, Nepal contributes to enhancing the professional capabilities of peacekeepers from other fellow troops contributing countries. Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre (BPOTC) in Panchkhal, the oldest training institute in the region, has earned a reputation as a centre of excellence for peacekeeping training and its courses are recognized by the UN.
Allow me to share some of our general perspectives on peacekeeping:
We believe that for the achievement of sustainable peace, the UN peace operations need to aim at addressing the root causes of conflict. This may require coordinated and inclusive socio-economic transformation of the conflict-affected countries. And for that to happen, system-wide coherence including in planning, designing, and executing peace operations is critical. We should be mindful that the UN peacekeepers are not the permanent force but the interim means that help generate environment for the conflicting parties to find an appropriate political solution to the conflict. Peacekeepers, by the virtue of who they are and what their mandate is, should refrain from being involved in the internal political dynamics of the place they are deployed. Deployment of peacekeepers should be demand-driven.
Nepal also believes that peacekeeping missions cannot substitute an inclusive and nationally owned conflict resolution method. It underlines the importance of national ownership and leadership in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. The root causes of conflicts should be addressed through a participatory political settlement. Since sustainable development and sustaining peace approaches complement and reinforce each other, the prevention strategies should be integrated into the national development plan.
Likewise, every conflict situation is different from the other and would need own kind of solution. Nepal itself has well demonstrated that a nationally driven, home grown political process cannot only best manage the post conflict situation but also ensure sustainable peace in the society.
The local community, including youths, women, community leaders and social activists, should be engaged in the promotion of social harmony, tolerance, and understanding among themselves. Externally imposed measures cannot be sustainable. The ownership and primacy of local actors should be strengthened. To take Nepal’s example once again, during Nepal’s peace process, around 2800 Local Peace Committees were established at the local level. These Committees were instrumental in promoting people’s participation in building and sustaining peace.
We believe that the cardinal principles of peacekeeping, such as consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force, except in self-defense and defense of the mandate are important fundamentals for achieving a political solution to a conflict.
The mandates of peacekeeping missions should be clear, achievable, realistic, sequenced, and prioritized with adequate and predictable financing. Similarly, the mandates should support the host government’s initiatives for achieving sustainable development with sustained peace. Success of peacekeeping operations largely depends on the full ownership by the UN Security Council as well as clear definition of roles of responsibilities and the key actors. Also, any mismatch between mandates and resources jeopardize the functioning of the mission as well as safety and security of peacekeepers.
Equally important it is that mandates should be clearly communicated to the peacekeepers at the operational level on the ground. The performance of the mission should be considered a responsibility of the mission leadership. The leadership should be empowered as well as held accountable for the whole-of-mission performance including for the performance of the troops and police, for which a mission-specific performance indicators are essential.
To ensure the overall ownership of the mandate of the peacekeeping operation, it is important that the prospective troops contributing countries be adequately consulted. Nepal also stresses that commensurate with the its contribution to UN peacekeeping, the participation of Nepali citizens in senior positions, both in the fields as well as at the UNHQs should be increased.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Participation in peace missions is not devoid of risks and challenges. I take this opportunity to highlight a few of these challenges and share my thoughts on how these can be addressed.
First, in recent years, the security threats and targeted attacks against UN peacekeepers have increased considerably. Nepal upholds that the safety and security of the lives and dignity of the peacekeepers should be adequately guaranteed through the development of a mechanism to provide timely support and reinforcement to the peacekeeping missions when needed. Nepal encourages the Secretariat to enhance the safety and security of the peacekeepers including through the utilization of new and reliable technologies. We also emphasize the importance of peacekeepers’ health security including during the current pandemic.
Second, the lack of timely procurement of contingent owned equipment, including armored personnel carriers, has also hampered the timely deployment of our peacekeepers. It has also compromised their safety and security.
Third, the delayed reimbursement for the service rendered to the peacekeeping missions has affected maintaining and enhancing the existing operational capabilities and training activities of the peacekeepers. The lack of adequate resources due to the late payment and withholding of assessed contributions from certain UN member states has resulted in deferred reimbursement to the troops contributing countries.
And the fourth, the demand for high-tech troops is ever increasing in multidimensional missions. The use of frontier technologies like drones, AI, etc. is increasing for ensuring the effective implementation of the mission mandates including protection of civilians, and safety and security of peacekeepers. Investing in these capabilities has emerged as a new challenge before us.
You may all agree that Nepal is known for the impeccable track record of loyalty, professionalism and world-class performance of its peacekeepers. We are committed to take measures for further enhancement of our peacekeepers’ profile and performance – be it through greater effort to meet the gender parity benchmark of the United Nations or through investment in exposure of our security forces to the advanced technology.
I conclude by expressing my gratitude to all peacekeepers for their sincere contribution to the noble cause of upholding peace and security around the world. I am sure today’s discussion will provide wider perspectives on how peacekeeping role of the United Nations can be made more effective, sustainable and attuned to the changing circumstances. I wish the Conference a productive and successful outcome.
I thank you for your attention.