Visiting Pakistan on the eve of its Independence Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed the country’s lead role in United Nations peacekeeping operations, while also addressing issues such as girls’ education and the use of drones.
Mr. Ban told an audience at the inauguration of the Centre for International Peace and Stability in Islamabad that he was overwhelmed with gratitude: “gratitude as the United Nations Secretary-General and gratitude as a global citizen for what Pakistan and her people have been doing for international peace and security.
“More than 100 countries contribute troops and police for United Nations peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is number one,” he stated, adding that is impossible to speak about the history of UN peacekeeping without highlighting the country’s contributions.
He noted that 8,000 of Pakistan’s men and women currently serve in complex and challenging missions, including Darfur, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The new Centre, at the National University of Science and Technology, demonstrates Pakistan’s determination to be a force for peace by drawing on its experiences, sharing its knowledge and deepening its contribution, Mr. Ban said.
“Training is a strategic investment in peacekeeping and here you will build the skills in preparing peacekeepers to take on a new generation of challenges.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes offical visit to Pakistan on the eve of its Independence Day. UN Photo/Mark Garten
The Secretary-General said the UN is also working to rise to these challenges, including through the use of new technologies to help in better implementing its mandates and to provide better security for its troops.
“Let me be clear that these new tools, such as unmanned unarmed aerial vehicles, are for information purposes only. They are essentially flying cameras,” he stated.
“But armed unmanned aerial vehicles are a different matter,” he continued. “As I have often and consistently said, the use of armed drones, like any other weapon, should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law.
“This is the very clear position of the United Nations. Every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties.”
While in the Pakistani capital, Mr. Ban also took part in an event at the Islamabad College for Girls to promote education, especially for girls and women.
“You and I have the same passion for education,” he told the audience, recalling that, as a young boy growing up in the Republic of Korea after the war, he had to struggle for his education, just as many young people did in Pakistan.
He also recalled the visit to the UN last month of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban last year for attending classes and who is an advocate for the right to education.
“She is a famous student, but I said she is also a teacher. You are also not just students, but teachers. You can teach others about the value of education for your lives – and for the life of your country,” Mr. Ban stated.
“Be both students and teachers. Put education first. And be a global citizen.”
Also today, the Secretary-General met with Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, the Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, who was joined by a number of ruling party and opposition Members of Parliament.
Mr. Ban congratulated Mr. Sadiq and the Government on the recent elections and appreciated the new agenda of the Government, which aims to tackle some of Pakistan’s most pressing issues. The two men also discussed UN-Pakistan cooperation, including joint efforts in the field of humanitarian assistance and disaster risk response and reduction, as well as polio eradication.
They also addressed concerns in relation to terrorism and extremism, human rights and gender equality. Mr. Ban welcomed recent legislation aimed at promoting the rights of women in Pakistan and urged full implementation of such laws.
Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will have additional meetings with Pakistani leaders, including the Prime Minister and the President, and women parliamentarians. He will also attend part of Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrations.