“We are going to make (soon) one more important announcement in Mali in regard to commanding the sector East,” Atul Khare said on Tuesday and highly appreciated the professionalism of Bangladeshi forces.
As the top troops-sending country, Bangladesh has been demanding key roles in the peacekeeping missions.
Replying to a question at a press briefing at the end of his maiden Bangladesh visit, the head of the UN’s Department of Field Support said he was “very much cognisant” of this demand.
“We have three brigadier generals from Bangladesh in commanding sector or deputy commanding sector now,” he said.
“Even then more can be done to get top Bangladeshi people in top position,” he said, adding that he discussed this with Bangladesh’s leadership during his meetings.
“Many missions are French-speaking. We need people who have fluency in both speaking and writing French, apart from English.
“Hopefully, in future we’ll get more and more Bangladeshi people (in top position),” he said.
With the deployment of nearly 9,500 Bangladeshi troops and police in 10 different UN missions, Bangladesh tops the list of countries that send peacekeepers.
Khare said he came to Bangladesh within six months of his appointment to thank its leadership and people because its troops performed “exceedingly well” despite being posted in the “difficult, hard-to-reach, and insecure” places.
Quoting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said, Bangladesh became a “brand name” in the UN peacekeeping.
He said the prime minister last year had made some suggestions for improving peacekeeping operations and that they found those “extremely useful”.
“I decided to implement those proposals,” he said, citing some examples.
Khare also encouraged Bangladesh’s business community to join in the UN procurement system.
As suggested by prime minister, he said, they would hold a conference next year in Dhaka to sensitise businesses about how they could register with the UN and participate in the tendering process.
“I want them to go into high information technology areas, provision of services software,” he said.
He said Bangladesh could even supply medicines to them.
The UN has established this Department of Field Support in 2007 to provide all sorts of services of peacekeeping operations and political missions.
Khare, a former Indian diplomat and a doctor by training, during his visit met Hasina, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, home secretary, foreign secretary, police chief, and acting army chief, among others.
He delivered a lecture at the foreign ministry which was attended by a select group of audience including military and police officials, former ambassadors and students.
There he explained functioning of his department.
At the press briefing, Khare also reiterated that “rapidity, effectiveness and efficiency” were the hallmarks of their works.
They were working on forming battalions with troops drawn from groups of countries, and were also looking at the gender dimensions of peacekeeping, based on the prime minister’s proposals.
Khare highlighted the challenges they were facing, apart from security and environment risks, and sought Bangladesh’s support to address those challenges.
One of the challenges was that of trauma management, the under secretary-general said.
He discussed with the armed forces whether Bangladesh could develop a system to manage trauma immediately in “an integrated way”.
Another challenge, according to him, is to maintain “the highest standards of conduct of disciple”.
“Bangladesh is good in maintaining discipline. In last two years there is not a single case that I have to report to Bangladesh,” he said.
“They are very good in maintaining discipline. I am proud of them, but there are some countries whose soldiers are not that good.”
“The challenge is even wrong action of one person destroys the credibility of the whole organisation. This is a challenge we need to tackle together.”
The number of sexual exploitation and abuse cases had been going down since 2005, the official said, mainly due to “better training, better action and serious punishment”. Last year they received about 43 such cases.
But he said that it was “underreported”, and that they were working to strengthen the mechanism of reporting as no woman or child wants to come to the UN camp and report the abuse they faced.
He said they were working on how to engage NGOs, community people and religious leaders to have a “victim-friendly complaint mechanism”.
He said the UN secretary general for the first time will hold a meeting with the envoys of all member countries in New York on Sep 17 on “how together we can stop this scourge”.
Khare also congratulated Bangladesh’s policewomen, who formed “two all women elite units” called Formed Police Unit in Haiti and Congo.