Under Secretary General for Peace Operations of the United Nations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, talks to Kuensel’s Rinzin Wangchuk on Bhutanese peacekeepers deployed in the UN peacekeeping mission

Bhutanese people take pride in the fact that the country is able to send troops to help in the peacekeeping mission of the UN since 2014. What opportunities do you see for our security personnel in future deployments? 

Well, first of all, I think that the Bhutanese people are rightfully proud of what Bhutan is doing for the UN and particularly for peacekeeping. And we are also very proud of what the Bhutanese men and women do under the UN flag and how they are serving.

We have an excellent experience with Bhutanese peacekeepers. They are serving in seven operations, the bigger deployment being in the Central African Republic (CAR). We would certainly be happy to work together with Bhutan to explore other options for deployments. 

Bhutanese military and the police are making a lot of effort in terms of training, but also in terms of preparing, including preparing the police units for deployment. This is something that is of interest to us.

We need to continue the process of preparing this unit. And we need to determine whether there will be an opportunity for deployment in peacekeeping operations. As you certainly know, these opportunities are not always very predictable. Sometimes the needs of a mission change and that opens opportunities. Sometimes a mission has to reduce opportunities. But we have such a good experience in peacekeeping with Bhutan that if any possibility occurs, then we will certainly be looking at your country.


What is your assessment of the performance of the Bhutanese peacekeepers in the CAR?

It was a great pleasure for me to meet with the Bhutanese peacekeepers in the CAR. I had a very positive impression about the level of preparedness, professionalism, commitment, dedication, and also the way in which even that camp had been prepared.

I think the Bhutanese contingent there is doing a very good job, excellent really. This is beneficial to the population of that country, the CAR, to the region and ultimately for peace in the region and beyond. So, again, a very good experience, very impressive, and that sort of reinforced our sentiment that Bhutan is a very solid and reliable partner for UN peacekeeping.


It has been almost a decade being a part of the UN mission, how do you perceive the performance of Bhutanese there so far?

Well, we have an excellent experience with Bhutan as a true contributing country. The numbers may be small, but I believe that if you look at the size of the population, probably Bhutan is amongst the first contributors relative to the population. And the service of the men and women from Bhutan in UN peacekeeping has always been extremely professional, extremely committed and dedicated.

So, as I said, the experience of that cooperation is excellent. This is why when we had the opportunity of deploying a bigger contingent of Bhutanese peacekeepers in the CAR, we didn’t hesitate and proceeded with deploying that contingent, which is serving very well in that country.


Bhutan has been fielding individual peacekeepers both from the police and army. What are the general feedback received by the UN on their deployment?

Again, very good feedback. And we not only see that the service is excellent, but we’re also very happy to note that the conduct of the discipline is also of a very high standard. And this is very important to us as well. Now, this is why we want to be working with Bhutan to explore maybe further opportunities for additional deployment.


Can smaller countries like Bhutan play an important role in maintaining peace?

Absolutely. I mean, we are the United Nations. And the United Nations, particularly UN peacekeeping, I call it the family of peacekeeping. We cannot do anything without our partners, our troop and police contributing countries, because they are the ones who provide us with personnel, men and women. And we work as a team and a team needs to be united and everybody needs to be on board.

To me, it’s not a question of a small or big country. It’s a question of the level of commitment, the level of dedication to the values of the United Nations, and also the willingness to be an active contributor. This is what we see in Bhutan.


Bhutanese peacekeepers have adopted environmentally friendly measures for their deployment in the CAR. What are some of the measures that the UN has mandated for other countries that have deployed their troops? 

It’s a very important priority for us to have missions and units and facilities that are not only effective but are also environmentally-friendly. First of all, because protecting the environment and fighting climate change is one of the UN’s biggest priorities. And certainly, it’s a major commitment of the Bhutanese government and Bhutanese people.

But then also, if we damage the environment, how can we build trust with the communities? In the end, it’s their environment. So, we want to be leaving a good impression on them. For example, we don’t want to drain their water resources because it is their water resources. In some places, water is very scarce. We don’t want to damage farming areas and leave any waste or anything that could eventually be detrimental to the population and the environment.

This is why we are very strongly supporting the kind of initiative that Bhutan is taking. This has been really a major priority in terms of having a UN peacekeeping that is not only effective but also respectful of the environment where we are deploying.


We understand that Bhutan is readying for the deployment of a police unit. How soon will this  materialise, especially in light of the downsizing and closure of several UN Missions?

We are very grateful that Bhutan is also working on the possible deployment of a UN police unit. We have a system whereby we register units pledged by our member states. There are different levels of readiness for deployment. We agreed with the Bhutanese authorities that we will work together so that we can further elevate the level of readiness for deployment.

We will also look at where the possibility of deploying this unit would materialize. It’s always unpredictable in the sense that the needs of our missions change because we want to make sure that the capacities of our missions are consistent with the needs.

Sometimes a mission closes, as is the case for our mission in Mali as a result of the decision of the Malian authorities. Sometimes missions are created. Sometimes other opportunities occur as a result of either the police or two countries deciding to withdraw or us deciding that we need to reallocate resources.


Any other comments?

We are very grateful to the Bhutanese people and authorities in Bhutan. I was very honored to be received by His Majesty The King, and His Majesty’s commitment is very clear and so strong to the UN values and UN peacekeeping, and see that the government officials, the military, the police, and of course His Excellency the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I met too. I think there is a truly strong commitment to these values. And this is, I believe, a very solid base on which we have built this excellent cooperation with Bhutan, and I believe this is also a very solid basis to be more committed.