Cultural Diversity in Peacekeeping Operations: Leveraging on Cultural Diversity for Effective Peacekeeping Operations Seminar

Jun 4, 2015

Vice Admiral Dato' Anuwi bin Hassan, Assistant Chief of Staff, Operation and Training Division, Malaysian Armed Forces Headquarters,

Brigadier General Dato' Nazir bin Mami, Director-General of Defense Training, Operation and Training Division, Malaysian Armed Forces Headquarters,

Colonel Jamaluddin bin Jambi, Commandant of the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre,

Distinguished speakers, representatives from the Government of Malaysia, diplomatic community, academia, Civil Society Organizations and representatives from the United Nations and all our international seminar participants from Japan, Norway, Indonesia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sweden and Thailand.

Salam sejahtera and a very good afternoon.

On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme – Malaysia, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the active participation in this seminar on Cultural Diversity in Peacekeeping, focused on Leveraging Cultural Diversity for Effective Peacekeeping Operations.

I have been pleased to be informed by my colleagues that it has been an informative and engaging set of presentations with active interest and interactions among participants yesterday; and  I welcome very much having been able to take part in today’s session, and to learn from your various presentations and perspectives.


As you know, this seminar is one of the key activities undertaken by UNDP Malaysia, the Malaysian Ministry of Defence and the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre (MPC) as part of a two-year project from, 2014 to 2015, of Capacity Building Support for Malaysia’s Role in Multidimensional Peacekeeping Training-Phase II. We are extremely pleased to have the strong support from the Governments of Japan and Norway to make this project and this seminar possible.

This project focuses on gender, cultural diversity in peacekeeping operations and protection of civilians, and aims to develop three training manuals in each of these areas; and to conduct training of trainer courses and international seminars that will address some of needs and enhance the capacities of peacekeepers in these aspects.  Peacekeepers operate within the context of an increasingly complex and multi-dimensional environment that involves multiple actors with divergent roles and mandates, and strengthened capacities in these areas will contribute to the successful execution of their missions.

Thus far, the project with MPC has developed two training modules - on gender and cultural diversity; and relevant training of trainers and international courses also have been successfully completed. This international seminar on cultural diversity follows a similar international seminar on gender in peacekeeping last year. The second part of the year will see us collaborating to organise a training of trainers, international course and seminar on protection of civilians. We are working closely with MPC to ensure that the training manuals developed are utilized to train peacekeeping trainers and officers from the military, police and civil society, particularly from Asia and Africa, but also from the rest of the world. UNDP is also collaborating with MPC to produce research materials on emerging peacekeeping issues so that Malaysia’s vast experience in peacekeeping can be shared for the mutual benefit of the global peacekeeping community.


Ladies and gentlemen,

The world celebrated the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers a few days ago on 29th May 2015. This year as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, it provides us a chance to honour the invaluable contribution of UN Peacekeepers to the proud history of the global community.

In its 70 years, the United Nations has established 71 peacekeeping operations. More than 1 million citizens of UN member states have served as peacekeepers, helping countries gain independence, supporting historic elections, protecting civilians, disarming hundreds of thousands of ex-combatants, establishing the rule of law, promoting human rights and creating the conditions for refugees and displaced persons to return home. We are all be proud of these accomplishments.

As UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, stated in his 2015 message for the UN International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, United Nations peacekeeping “has given life to the UN Charter’s aim ‘to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security’. Through years of struggle and sacrifice, the iconic Blue Helmet has earned its place as a symbol of hope to millions of people living in war-ravaged lands.”

However, while noting the successes, the Secretary-General also has acknowledged the current realities and challenges facing UN Peacekeepers and, consequently, in October last year, appointed a High-Level Independent Panel to assess the state of UN peace operations and the emerging needs of the future – in both peacekeeping and special political missions; and to set out a a bold and comprehensive set of recommendations. In carrying out its work, the Panel will consider a broad range of issues facing peace operations, including the changing nature of conflict, evolving mandates, good offices and peacebuilding challenges, managerial and administrative arrangements, planning, partnerships, human rights and protection of civilians, uniformed capabilities for peacekeeping operations and performance.  This will be the first major review of UN peace since 2000.

The world is changing and UN peace operations must change with it if they are to remain an indispensable and effective tool in promoting international peace and security.

The Panel’s recommendations to the Secretary-General will be considered by the General Assembly at its 2015 General Debate.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we are here today in Port Dickson, there are currently 16 peacekeeping operations led by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations globally. As of 31 March 2015, in the field, there are 93,743 serving troops and military observers; 13,122 police personnel; 5,277 international civilian personnel; 11,678 local civilian staff and 1,846 UN Volunteers and with more than 128 countries contributing military and police personnel.

Against this backdrop and so soon following the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, allow me on behalf of the United Nations to put on record, our appreciation to the Government of Malaysia for its unwavering and strong support to the agenda of peace and security globally.

The current Malaysian support of over 874 police, military experts and troops to UNIFIL Lebanon, UNAMID Sudan, MINURSO Western Sahara, MONUSCO Republic of the Congo, UNMIL Liberia and IMT Philippines is a strong, tangible contribution and reflection of Malaysia’s global commitment to this agenda.

This strong support to the United Nations builds upon the 28 UN peacekeeping missions and 20,000 personnel that have been involved since Malaysia’s participation in the Republic of Congo in 1960 and subsequent involvement across the globe, including in Namibia, Cambodia, Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Timor Leste.

The establishment of the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre (MPC) on 9 June 1995 and its close collaboration with UNDP Malaysia, UN agencies and international partners is highly commendable as Malaysia contributes to the global agenda on peacekeeping in terms of both on the ground missions and capacity building of Malaysian and other personnel from around the world.

Malaysia’s role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council this year is also welcomed and is an important opportunity for Malaysia to share its views and those of the regional groups that it represents.


While the scale of UN peacekeeping today is unprecedented, increasingly, the diversity of mission mandates and the changing and protracted nature of conflicts stretch the UN’s capacity to deliver on all tasks.  In addition, new peacekeeping tasks are being developed and require higher numbers of police and civilian specialists, experts who are in limited supply globally. In view of this, dialogue continues between the UN Secretariat and Member States on how to reinvigorate the peacekeeping partnership with a view to improving the effectiveness of operations on the ground. The General Assembly debate in September is another opportunity to enhance the system as Member States consider the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel.

Although the military remain the backbone of most peacekeeping operations, the many faces of peacekeeping in the 21st century includes administrators and economists, police officers and legal experts, de-miners and electoral observers, human rights monitors and specialists in civil affairs and governance, humanitarian workers and experts in communications and public information.  As a result, the functional and the operational level of peacekeeping operations have become multi-dimensional and multi-lateral, as well as multi-national and multi-cultural. Increasingly, the diversity and composition of the peacekeeping missions troops itself is a critical dimension in the success of peacekeeping efforts.

As we have heard over the last 1.5 days, peacekeeping operations have also seen a rising number of peacekeepers with over 122 different UN troop and police contributing countries and who are in contact with local populations, whose cultural backgrounds differ from those of the operation and its members.

Every peace operation also tends to have the wider political interests of a global political culture that are reflected in the mandate and composition of particular operations, thereby influencing the perceived legitimacy of peacekeepers as either occupying forces or as part of a supporting mission. All these factors can potentially lead to culturally-based misunderstandings and conflict.

Given this scenario, peacekeepers are expected to manage and adapt to different multicultural settings that they will encounter in their interactions with host communities; with peacekeepers from other nationalities, and in relation to the occupational and institutional differences within their own mission. Thus, the need to deploy peacekeepers who are capable of working and communicating effectively within a dynamic multicultural environment are both important and critical.

I do hope that the sessions over the last 1.5 days have been able to provide a broad overview on the need for understanding cultural diversity and its implications, and have lived up to the main objectives to:

·        Promote understanding of the roles that culture plays in peacekeeping success or failure;

·        Provide awareness and understanding of cultural considerations in peacekeeping; and

·        Promote understanding and acceptance of cultural diversity in peace building.

It is the hope of UNDP and MPC that this international seminar has been able to highlight the need and importance of  better understanding of the cultural dimension to enhance cross-cultural interactions; the need to strengthen the civil-military cooperation in peacekeeping operations; as well as  the importance of understanding and accepting cultural diversity and taking account of culture and diversity in managing the complexity of today’s peacekeeping missions in order to ensure durable peace, security and reconciliation.

To conclude and close this 1.5 days international seminar, I would like to further quote the UN Secretary-General from his message to UN peacekeepers and the wider global family on the International Day of UN Peacekeepers:

Today, we honour the memory of those who gave their lives to the cause of peace, and pay tribute to all men and women who carry on their legacy by serving in the field.  More than 3,300 peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag, including 126 last year.  The risks continue to grow as peacekeepers are targeted by improvised explosive devises or complex terrorist attacks. As we commemorate seven decades of the United Nations, let us all do our part to ensure effectiveness of this flagship enterprise of the Organization.

There could be no more fitting commendation and call to action.  Let me once again thank all participants for the exciting and fruitful discussions.

We hope that the seminar sessions will be useful to you as you champion this very important agenda of global peace and security for all and continue your commitment and dedicated service and support for United Nations Peacekeeping globally.

Thank you.

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