Why UN Peacekeeping Chief Lacroix is Visiting Bangladesh?

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will be visiting Bangladesh on June 25-26 at the invitation of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a state guest. This will be his first visit to Bangladesh on the preparatory meeting for the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial 2023. Bangladesh is one of the co-hosts for this event besides Canada and Uruguay. This will be a “brief but significant” visit for Dhaka, as the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial is the seminal high-level event for UN peacekeeping, held biennially with the participation of foreign and defense ministers.

By Taslima Hyat,

Reasons behind Lacroix’s Bangladesh visit?

Jean-Pierre Lacroix is the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations. He brings to the position over 25 years of political and diplomatic experience, with a focus on multilateral organizations, and United Nations activities and programs. Mr. Lacroix served from 2014 to 2017 as Director for United Nations, International Organizations, Human Rights, and Francophonie at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Lacroix’s Dhaka visit is aimed to have more commitment from Bangladesh to UN Peacekeeping Mission in the future. The UN is looking for more deployments from Bangladesh as some member states are pulling out their peacekeepers from field missions. He is visiting at a time when various groups in Dhaka and abroad are campaigning for Bangladesh to be banned from UN peacekeeping missions. But the fact is that the UN peacekeeping chief is expected to pledge to take more peacekeepers from Bangladesh during his upcoming visit, which is very encouraging and positive for Bangladesh.

Blame game targeting this visit

Referring Lacroix’s visit, different anti-national forces are propagating that Mr. Lacroix is coming to Bangladesh intending to communicate a negative message to Bangladesh Government regarding the UN mission. But sources have confirmed that the UN peacekeeping chief is pledging to take more peacekeepers from Bangladesh. As Head of UN Peace Operations, his visit follows extra significance as Bangladesh is presently the number one troops and police contributing country in the world despite huge competition among the member states.

There are clear attempts to exert pressure on the government before the elections. Various international conspiracies are going on. Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations have urged U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix to “publicly voice concerns” about rights abuses by Bangladesh’s security forces when he visits the South Asian country. Human Rights Watch also noted that the UN should require Bangladeshi officers to disclose previous deployments with RAB, then automatically bar anyone affiliated with RAB from UN peacekeeping. How HRW projected such a false picture is still a surprising fact!

There is no denying the fact that HRW has long been involved in a few disinformation campaigns against Bangladesh. This US-based human rights organization tried to block the trial of war criminals in Bangladesh. Allegations that the war criminal group gave them huge financial donations during that time have been published in the international media. However, Bangladesh has tried war crimes per international standards and following the highest legal process. But still, HRW continues to complain about it in the international arena. After that, Human Rights Watch brought up the issue of extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh and started complaining about them one after another. In 2021, HRW reported the forced disappearance of Toha Adnan while he was hiding at the house of his friend in Gaibandha for personal reasons. Analysts believe that these are the result of anti-state actors’ international lobbying.

Bangladesh is widely respected in the world for establishing democracy and human rights. These unreasonable and unrealistic accusations by the HRC and other groups are nothing but international machinations against a country like Bangladesh, which is partially admirable around the world for its democratic and human rights establishment. Moreover, the proposal by HRC of banning Bangladesh from peacekeeping operations makes no sense at all. This also proves the fact that some vested groups are trying hard to slander Bangladeshi peacekeepers in the international arena.

Expectations from Jean-Pierre Lacroix

On 14th June, Human Rights Watch Chief Advocacy Officer Bruno Stagno Ugarte suggested in a press release that UN Peacekeeping Chief should raise rights concerns in Bangladesh. But since its independence, Bangladesh took part in almost all universal human rights agreements. As the country has a long experience of foreign oppression and struggles for independence, Bengali as a nation is sympathetic to rights issues all over the world. The constitution also upholds the same spirit in Article 25 that reiterates Bangladesh’s belief in global peace, security, and solidarity through supporting disarmament, UN human rights, and denouncing oppression anywhere in the world.

In the international arena, Bangladesh is also contributing to global peace by providing the largest troops in UN peacekeeping missions. It has a glorious history in UN peacekeeping missions. In the last 34 years, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been working with reputation, love, achievement, and success in the service of world humanity. Bangladeshi peacekeepers have become role models for the people of war-torn regions. Because of its prestigious contribution, Lacroix is pledging more troops from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is currently the top contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping operations. At present, around 7,500 Bangladeshi peacekeepers are deployed on nine peacekeeping missions. So far, 166 peacekeepers from Bangladesh have lost their lives while serving in UN peacekeeping operations. It is hoped that Bangladesh and UN peacekeeping relationship would open new windows of possibilities through this top official meeting.

It is worth mentioning that these high official meetings can advance the friendship and cooperation between the two sides while fostering stronger ties. To establish the finest ties possible between Bangladesh and UN peacekeeping operations, this meeting must be successfully wrapped up. Bangladesh expects that this visit would take Bangladesh-UN relations a step forward and our existing relations would be strengthened.

Taslima Hyat, freelance journalist and researcher.

Pressenza New York