Jakarta – In light of Indonesia’s current bid to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the fourth time, there has been a renewed focus on Indonesia’s track record and contribution to the promotion of international peace and security. One important aspect thereof is Indonesia’s participation in UN peacekeeping.
Indonesia has a long history when it comes to peacekeeping. Since it’s first-ever deployment in 1957 to the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Middle East, Indonesia has dispatched more than 40,000 personnel (both military and police) to various UN missions around the globe.
Sixty years after Indonesia’s initial deployment, UN peacekeeping are exposed to increasingly complex tasks and increasingly hostile environments and UN peacekeeping as the flagship of the UN enterprise faces several challenges.
First, there is the budget constraint. UN peacekeeping currently fields more than 90,000 personnel in various conflict areas with an annual budget of US$6.8 billion. By way of comparison, this figure is less than half of 1 percent of world military expenditure, and it is decreasing as one of the biggest donor countries reduces its financial commitment.
Second, regardless of the budget, there is a demand for the UN to improve the safety and security aspect of its peacekeepers. After all, in order to protect others, peacekeepers should first secure themselves.
Third, the evolving mandates, in particular the increasing demand for a robust role in civilian protection, necessitate equipping peacekeepers with relevant skills to maintain the highest level of performance. From Indonesia’s perspective, this includes the skill-set to secure the support of the local population.
These are major-challenges, but Indonesia is well-positioned to be part of the solution.
The budget constraint affects all aspects of UN peacekeeping, and it is particularly relevant for big troop and police contributing countries (TPCCs) such as Indonesia. We are currently the ninth-largest TPCC with 2,702 personnel, 82 of whom are female peacekeepers.
It is imperative for Indonesia to ensure that UN peacekeepers are furnished with equipment and supplies that are both affective and cost-efficient.
One oft-overlooked aspect of Indonesia’s participation in UN peacekeeping is the support of our military and defence industry, whose products are being used by our personnel. Since 2010, the Indonesian Battalion in UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been using the Anoa armoured personnel carrier, developed by state-owned Pindad Indonesia.
Another Pindad product, the SS2 rifle, is the main weapon of the contingent. The accuracy and reliability of the SS2 have been proven, as Indonesian peacekeepers have won top spots in shooting contests among TPCCs in UNIFIL.
The uniform and gear of the personnel are also provided by garment companies in Indonesia.
These are products with acknowledged quality, proven performance, and equally important, competitive price tags.
It has often been argued that participation in UN peacekeeping provides several tangible benefits to Indonesia. First, the personnel gain invaluable and pride in being a Blue Helmet who serves the cause of peace. Second, Indonesia’s involvement in UN missions provides the opportunity for the country to upgrade the skills and professionalism of its military and police personnel. Third, the participation enhances Indonesia’s global standing and lends credence for Indonesia to speak about peace and security and women’s empowerment at the international level.
Indonesia’s participation in UN peacekeeping is a mandate stipulated in the Preamble to the 1945 Constitution. But sending our personnel abroad to serve under the UN in a hostile environment is an undertaking that requires money, time, human resources and, sometimes, claims the ultimate sacrifice as peacekeepers have dies in the line of duty.
UN peacekeeping currently faces increasing asymmetrical threats to the safety and security of its personnel. A particularly dangerous threat to peacekeepers are landmines or improvised explosive devices set by armed groups, which have claimed the lives of peacekeepers in numerous incidents.
One could never apply economic figures to the sense of security provided by peacekeepers. It is justifiable, however, for countries to mull the potential economic benefits from their participation in UN peacekeeping.
In this respect, Indonesia’s participation in UN peacekeeping can be seen as a showcase for our defence industry products. Some of these products are already being used in the field of peacekeeping missions and some others have real potential to follow suit.
Through the mechanism of transfers of technology, Indonesia recently developed the Sanca, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected tactical vehicle, which is specifically designed to withstand the blast and heat from landmines.
Providing missions with these kinds of capabilities is an argument that equipment for UN peacekeeping should not only be cost efficient, but also fit-for-purpose.
Another trend in UN peacekeeping also indicates a growing need for aerial capability, particularly mid-sized airplanes with modifiable specifications that can handle rough infrastructure in conflict areas. This is an area where strategic state companies like aircraft maker PTDI possess the know-how and resources to contribute.
There is also the challenge of having the relevant skill-sets, which grows as peacekeeping mandates expand. Indonesia’s experience in peacekeeping missions shows that winning the hearts and minds of the local population is a necessary skill-set.
Community engagement, for example through the UN Civil-Military Coordination, not only increases the mission’s possibility of success, but also helps to ensure that peacekeepers are not easy targets of asymmetric threats.
A case in point, during her recent trip to visit the Indonesian peacekeepers in UNIFIL, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi noted that the medical service provided by the Indonesian contingent earned respect and appreciation from the local community.
As a conclusion, serving under the flag of the UN for peace is an unwavering commitment of Indonesia, which will continue sending its personnel to current and future UN missions, in accordance with the three long-held principles of consent of the parties, impartiality and non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate.
As the nature of conflicts evolves, so do the mandates and tasks being given to personnel on the ground. To change these challenges into opportunities, we should ensure that our peacekeepers are equipped with the best available equipment, which are cost-efficient and fit-for-purpose, as well as the skills-sets necessary to perform their mandates successfully.
By Febrian A. Ruddyard - Director-General for Multilateral Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry
Photo courtesy: ANTARA