Ramos-Horta co-chairs Asia “Regional Consultation on Peace Operations”.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh

Former President José Ramos-Horta departed Dili on Saturday for a long, literally around the globe tour canvassing opinion and support for UN Peace Operations reforms.

First stop is in Dhaka to be followed by Tokyo, Islamabad, New Delhi (Asia), Addis Ababa (Africa), Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Oslo, Helsinki (Europe), Rio de Janeiro (Latin America). And this list of countries is not exhaustive.Other Panel members (they are 17) are covering other countries in Africa where there is the largest number of UN Peace-Keepers.Please see President Ramos-Horta remarks at the opening of the Consultation in Dhaka.

Chair of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations

Excellencies, Minister of Foreign Affairs and other dignitaries from our generous host country

Excellencies, representatives from all countries present here,

civilian and military,

Respected members of Academia and Civil Society,

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of my distinguished colleagues of the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and our dedicated support staff from UNHQ, I wish to sincerely thank our host, the esteemed Minister for Foreign Affairs Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, and all the other authorities who have made possible this gathering in Dhaka and made us feel very welcome.

A word of appreciation is due to all the distinguished diplomatic representatives, experts and Civil Society Delegates, based in Dhaka, and those who have come a long way from other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Panel held its first meeting in New York in November 2014 and in Geneva in December  2014 where we interacted with a wide range of Permanent Missions, key UN inter-governmental bodies such as the Security Council and key General Assembly bodies and UN departments and agencies.

Today marks the first regional consultation of the Panel. Others will be held in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. As of 2013, countries from Asia and Pacific provide the second most uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping, accounting for about 42% of the total. During the preceding decade, of course, this region led others in contributions of uniformed personnel. In 2006, for example, more than half of all military and police came from Asia alone.   This region’s historical commitment to UN peacekeeping over the past decades is striking and your men and women — including some pioneering all-female formed police units — are serving the cause of peace in far flung and dangerous environments.

This is also a region that is experimenting with new forms of mediation to resolve and in some cases prevent conflicts before they break out.  Surely we need more such efforts, knowing as we do the devastating human and social costs of war and the long shadow such trauma casts on generations to come.

Today, the nature of conflicts and the types of actors involved are changing.  The roles allocated to UN peace operations also continue to evolve.  The number of UN missions on the ground –  peacekeeping operations and special political missions – is higher than ever. They are operating in some of the most demanding environments imaginable.  And in a climate of financially constrained Member States, the UN is being asked to do more with less.

For these reasons, the Secretary-General has asked our Panel to undertake this review.  His goal is to ensure UN peace operations are ready to face the current and future demands of a changing world.

The aim of our consultations today is to listen to the experiences and concerns of Member States, civil society and think tanks about UN peace operations, and to solicit suggestions for the Panel’s considerations.

Thank you for taking the time to join us in this city and offer us, Panel Members, your informed advice on:

  • how the UN to which we all belong and we all need should better serve the cause of peace;
  • how we should redeem ourselves after past and current failings — for they are many;
  • how we should better anticipate, prevent and deter conflicts;
  • how we should better protect innocent peoples, women and children caught in wars.
  • how, when and where should we deploy UN peacekeepers in a more timely fashion.

Additional questions are:

  • how should we better mobilize resources, material and financial, to support the troops and the police the UN sends in harm’s way – and to better reward them?
  • how should we better assist peoples in healing wounds, promoting reconciliation and consolidating peace?
  • how we should we mobilize resources for post-conflict recovery and State-building?
  • how can we better support women and children not only during but also after the conflict?

Excellencies,

This is only my second visit to Bangladesh, the first being in November 2012 as a guest of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, to deliver the commencement address to an audience of about 1,000 people including more than 700 graduating students, their families, faculty and staff.

My ULAB commencement address was entitled: The Rising Asia: Challenges and Risks. In that speech, I acknowledged both the impressive progress made by most Asian economies over  the past 30 years and also the challenges of prevailing extreme poverty and inequality, unsustainable growth and environmental depredation, border disputes, ethnic and religious  tensions and violence, regional rivalries, huge standing armies and nuclear weapons.

I met with the Prime Minister the Hon. Sheikh Hasina during which time I thanked Her Excellency for Bangladesh’s active contribution to peace and security stabilization in my country during the early years of United Nations tutelage of Timor-Leste. I also paid a courtesy call on the Head of the Armed Forces to extend mine and my country’s  deep appreciation for the contribution made by the Bangladeshi army to restore peace and security in my country in the period of 2000-2002 and in 2006-2008. During those early difficult years, I engaged often with the Bangladeshi peacekeepers, was flown in helicopters flow by very able Bangladeshi pilots.

I also engaged with senior officers, soldiers and police originating from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, The Philippines, Republic of Korea (South), China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu. On different occasions I had Bangladeshis and Pakistanis providing security to me.

We were privileged to have had over the years prominent Asians heading the UN operations in  my country – we had two SRSGs from India, Kamalesh Sharma and Atul Khare; from Japan, Sukehiro Hasegawa, from Bangladesh, Ameerah Haq. We had Peacekeeping Force Commanders  and Police Commissioners from India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and The Philippines.

My country’s history is so similar to yours and to many other countries in the region. My personal journey is similar to yours – from being ignored, forgotten, betrayed; but never giving  up, never losing hope and faith. I lived through almost every experience anyone can think of. I was born and grew up in a remotest village in my forgotten country; I lost brothers and sisters who are still to be found and to be buried with honor and dignity; I founded or worked with many grass roots civil society organizations in my country and overseas; I served as FM, defence Minister, PM and PR.

I watched the UN at work (or at inaction) throughout the Cold War era, how it failed in Indonesia in 1965-66 and in subsequent years; how it failed the Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge dark era; how it was impotent for all the 40 years of the Ne Win dictatorship in Burma/Myanmar; how it was important and indifferent for 24 years in my own country. The Rwanda genocide is a painful reminder of yet another failure by the world community.

But the UN is a sum of its members, the Member States, and when we blame the UN we are actually looking at ourselves in the mirror because we are all the UN; we all have one vote, large and small, poor and rich; but most of us have less power and therefore we have much reduced less responsibilities for the failings of the system.

My country is an example of how much the international community, through the UN or bi-laterally, can do to restore peace and hopes to a whole people. I can attest to the failings but also the successes when there is compassion and political will by the powers that be.

Excellencies,

The political and security challenges we as a whole face in this dawn of 21st Century is daunting. Complex civil wars are increasingly regional or international in nature. Many local non-state armed groups are aligning with and financed by transnational organized crime or international extremist networks, complicating efforts to define parties to a conflict and advance peace processes. Civilians and, in particular, women and girls, continue to be the target of attacks, sexual violence, and forced recruitment into armed groups.

The 2008/9 financial crisis originating in the US and Europe does not seem to have an end. In fact, the world economic situation is deteriorating further; the dramatic collapse of the energy market, namely the brutal fall of the price of oil, as a result of an old simple question of supply and demand.

Consequences are being felt or will be felt not only by the oil exporting countries, particularly those that are extremely dependent on this single source of revenue (Timor-Leste is among the most unfortunate ones) but also by those that refine and re-export crude; and as oil prices drop to  such levels, there will be less incentive to continue investment in environmentally friendly energy, like solar and others.

These facts will have impact on peace and security around the world, further exacerbating social and political instability in many countries, from Asia to Africa and Latin America.  Ladies and gentlemen, our esteemed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has encouraged the Panel to be “bold and creative”. We are here to encourage you to be bold and creative. I have said enough. In the next few days we are going to listen and learn from you.

May God the Almighty bless and inspire us all as we search for solutions to our world’s problems.

End