Harry Sarles | Army University Public Affairs
International Command and General Staff Officers Course students participated in the “Protecting the Peace: United Nations Peacekeepers in the 21st Century” panel discussion Sept. 21 at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo.
The United Nations has designated Sept. 21 as the International Day of Peace. The panel discussion was sponsored by the Kansas City Chapter of the United Nations Association, the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum and the National WWI Museum and Memorial and included Maj. Nahid-Uz-Zaman Kahn of Bangladesh, Lt. Col. Ahmed Etman of Egypt, Maj. Issac Boako of Ghana, Commandant Barry Hannon of Ireland, Maj. Paul Reed of New Zealand, Maj. Muhammad Awan of Pakistan, Maj. Yaya Darboe of Gambia, and Capt. Phu Hai Pham of Vietnam.
The international officers have vast U.N. peacekeeping experience, some with as many as four tours, in places such as the Central African Republic, Liberia, Darfur, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Sierra Leone.
U.S. Army Col. Stephanie Tutton of the U.N. Office of Military Affairs set the stage saying that U.N. peacekeeping missions promote peace and security, and they can only do that by having an effective and active presence on the ground. According to Tutton, the U.N. currently has more than 71,000 peace keepers deployed to 120 countries.
Following Tutton’s presentation, Mike Wood of the Kansas City Chapter of the U.N. Association, questioned the international officers about their experiences serving in U.N. missions. Awan said countries send their best units to peacekeeping duties. The international students agreed that it is sometimes difficult to remain neutral in peacekeeping duties, but neutrality is essential to accomplish the primary mission of protecting civilians.
The panel participants also agreed that open access is needed for effective peacekeeping. Etman said that countries that invite U.N. peacekeepers and then restrict their movements greatly impact the mission.
Boako said that understanding the unique culture and diversity of the areas in which the peacekeeping unit serves is a key to success.Reed said New Zealand has conducted peacekeeping operations since 1948, and Hannon said Ireland has contributed forces for peacekeeping operations for more than 60 years. Pham said his 63-person hospital unit serving in the Sudan was the first Vietnamese unit to serve in a U.N. mission.
The discussion was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony on the Paul Sunderland Bridge, a glass bridge suspended over a field of poppies leading to the entryway of the National WWI Museum, in honor of 129 international military, police and civilian peacekeepers who lost their lives in U.N. peacekeeping operations during the previous year.