OPINION: The brave hearts

Fijian soldiers of the UN interim force in Lebanon in 1989. Picture: www.wikiwand.com

International Day of UN Peacekeepers (May 29) allows us to pay tribute to the men and women who devoted their services with passion, courage and dedication; and commemorate those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of establishing peace while working under UN peacekeeping missions. The 2020 theme is Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace.

It is significant to highlight the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Women peacekeepers have equally performed the task as their male counterpart, in establishing peace with efficiency.

The number of female peacekeepers have increased tremendously from 1 per cent in 1993 to 4.7 per cent of the military contingent and 10.8 per cent of police units in 2019. This reflects the pivotal contribution of both genders.

In 2020, these brave hearts peacekeepers have shown the courage to protect the people and support the local government of several countries and achieve mission mandates despite the threat of COVID-19.

As per UN, Women peacekeepers have enhanced overall peacekeeping performance, provided better access to communities, especially to women, and promoted human rights and protection of civilians.

Overall, they have made invaluable input as a meaningful effort as a part UN’s missions.

Gatekeepers of peace

This day marks a chance to offer a tribute to all the uniformed and civilian personnel’s invaluable contribution and to honour more than 3900 peacekeepers who dedicated their lives while serving under UN flag since 1948, including 102 last year (UN.org).

More than one million personnel’s have contributed in 72 peacekeeping operations and currently many are deployed in 13 operations.

This year, some awards will be given, and a virtual ceremony be conducted to facilitate some of these courageous personnel.

Fiji’s contribution to peace-building under UN missions

Fiji was the first Pacific Island state to join UN General Assembly on October 13, 1970.

Since then it has shown commitment and determination to serve in peacekeeping operations, as Fijians have served in “Angola, Bosnia & Herzegovinia, Cambodia, Croatia, Dafur, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Liberia, Sinai, Namibia, Solomon Islands, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia, Southern Sudan and Timor-Leste” (http://www.foreignaffairs.gov.fj/).

Their contribution has earned a name for Fiji in the International arena.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Fiji proudly stated the legacy of Fijian participation in some prominent UN peacekeeping missions.

The Fijian contingent has contributed in Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) in the Sinai since its beginning in 1982. It that had the responsibility to maintain peace at the Egyptian-Israeli border.

Another Fijian peacekeepers contingent participated in the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), founded in 2003.

Under this mission, Fiji helped to re-establish UN presence in Iraq after tragic 2003 bombings.

A contribution of Fijians came from UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), set up in 2003 in order to monitor the ceasefire agreement in Liberia; Fijians participated in UN-African UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to bring stability to the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

Another Fijian contribution came in the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), founded in 2005 to implement the peace agreement between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement; and support also came from Fiji in the UN Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT).

Although Fiji may be a small island Pacific nation, its contribution is paramount in peacekeeping missions and demonstrated immense commitment in international co-operation at the global stage.

In 2018, while addressing 73rd Peacekeeping summit, I reiterate Fiji’s PM speech that highlighted the service of Fijians in the past four decades in UN Peacekeeping Operations, he said “For 40 years, Fijians have made our contribution to defending the defenceless, fighting for the right of people everywhere to live in peace, security and stability…. while we may be a small country, we’ve shown ourselves more than willing to do our part to protect the innocent, shield the vulnerable and uphold the basic human rights of all people”.

They have brought glory and pride to Fiji by showing their courage, bravery, commitment, discipline, perseverance and determination to carry out the UN mandate missions in the most volatile regions in different continents.

This proud legacy of excellence continues while Fiji’s contingent continues to participate in UN’s missions.

Thousands of Fijian peacekeepers have paid the ultimate price to earn a name for themselves while fulfilling the mission of spreading peace around the world.

Fiji has also emphasised other relevant issues in UN, namely of “climate change, sustainable development, Millennium Development Goals, oceans and fisheries, international crime and anti-terrorism and disarmament issues” (http://www.foreignaffairs.gov.fj/).

Fiji has been the first Pacific Island nation that is elected to be the United Human Rights Council.

Posthumous pride

cherished for ever

Fijian soldiers have sacrificed their lives as a call for duty and brought honour and pride to the nation as they become immortal.

Losing a soldier brings immense grief, and massive hollowness among family left behind for a lifetime. Although their sacrifices are unmatchable, a tribute to remember them will undoubtedly give their families strength, and display support of entire fellow citizens.

I shall conclude with the most touching words of a soldier who laid a life for a nation by quoting from Tanuja Krishnan’s book Ride on Royal Enfield: Riding Miles with Hope stating:

“If I die in a war zone; box me up and send me home. Put my medals on my chest; tell my mom I did my best…

Tell my dad not to bow; he won’t get tension from me now…

Tell my brother to study perfectly; the keys to my bike will be his permanently…

Tell my sis not to be upset; her brother will not rise after this sunset….

Tell my daughter not to weep…

Her father died in protecting many of the little ones like her…”

“Tell my nation not to cry; coz I’m a soldier born to die”.

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