Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed Indonesia’s regular contribution of troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions as a remarkable expression of international solidarity on peace and security, noting that the country’s president is himself a former blue helmet.
“For decades, Indonesia has written a proud history of service,” Mr. Ban said at a joint press conference with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the city of Bogor, noting that some 2,000 Indonesian troops are currently serving in six of the most difficult UN missions – Lebanon, Haiti, Darfur (Sudan), Liberia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He said he had asked Mr. Yudhoyono to also consider contributing air assets, such as helicopters, to the peacekeeping missions, which are in great need of them.
“Mr. President, you are the only leader of any nation in the world who has served as a UN blue helmet. You understand the challenges we face from experience. My deepest admiration and respect for your strong commitment and contribution to the peace and security of the world,” said the Secretary-General.
Indonesia has also paid a high price for its commitment to the cause of global peace, Mr. Ban said, noting that 31 Indonesian soldiers had lost their lives while serving in UN missions. “I mourn with their loved ones and Indonesia. Their deaths were a loss to the world,” he said.
Speaking at the Indonesia Peace and Security Centre in Sentul, which trains soldiers before deployment as peacekeepers, Mr. Ban described UN peacekeeping as a “symbol of hope” for communities across the world affected by conflicts.
“When conflicts rage, children are out of school for years – until our peacekeepers come and make it safe to go back to class,” he said in a lecture entitled ‘UN Peacekeeping: Challenges and Opportunities for Indonesia, the Region and Beyond.’
“They help build bridges – physical bridges to cross rivers, and bridges of trust across communities. They reclaim land poisoned with mines… peacekeepers provide free medical care to local people,” he said.
He also spoke forcefully about a “tiny minority” of peacekeepers who harm the people they are sent to protect, thus disgracing their countries and the UN, and undermining the work of tens of thousands of dedicated colleagues across the world.
The UN was committed to preventing misconduct in peacekeeping through training, enforcing the Organization’s standards and taking remedial action by helping victims, he said. The UN is also striving to ensure gender sensitivity training for peacekeepers.
At the news conference, the Secretary-General expressed his appreciation of Indonesia’s leadership in promoting regional and international peace, security and cooperation. He thanked the country particularly for ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty last month.
While in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, Mr. Ban met with Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with discussions centred on ways to implement the recently adopted ASEAN-UN Comprehensive Partnership in all areas, including disaster risk reduction and peace and security.
They also exchanged views on regional issues, including Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Cambodia and the Thai-Cambodia border dispute.
Mr. Ban is currently on a four-nation tour that will also take him to Malaysia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.