Inspiration

International Peacekeepers Day: A View from Cyrpus

The flight from Islamabad to Larnaca, Cyprus, back in early March, brought me closer to the real-time insecurity in the current era of COVID-19 associated with traveling. The world seemed to be stepping up preventive measures at that time but I never thought we would go through such a difficult phase as we have since March 2020. I realized during traveling how vulnerable we all truly are against the unseen enemy humanity has come across recently. The term ‘new normal’ seemed overrated and unreal before this pandemic struck us. Over a short period of time, the way to socialize, work, live and in fact spend life has altered completely. Above all, world institutions and organizations set up novel standards of working during this challenging time. My experience at United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has given a lifetime learning experience and a chance to represent Pakistan on the world forum amid COVID-19. Although it seemed difficult to leave behind an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, but that is the price we pay to wear khaki and serve our motherland.


For an Army officer to be selected for a UN mission is a matter of great pride and I went through the same excitement as everyone else, thanking Almighty all along. Seeing the inspiring photographs of Pakistan Armed Forces’ female peacekeepers serving under the flag of United Nations across the globe boosted my morale and eagerness to fly to Cyprus as soon as I could. 


For an Army officer to be selected for a UN mission is a matter of great pride and I went through the same excitement as everyone else, thanking Almighty all along. Seeing the inspiring photographs of Pakistan Armed Forces’ female peacekeepers serving under the flag of United Nations across the globe boosted my morale and eagerness to fly to Cyprus as soon as I could. 
Cyprus is a stunning island country in the Eastern Mediterranean, which gained independence in 1960, with a constitution that was intended to balance the interests of Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom entered into a treaty to guarantee the basic provisions of the constitution and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cyprus. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 186 (1964), which recommended the establishment of UNFICYP. UNFICYP interposes itself between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot forces and supervises the ceasefire lines that define the buffer zone by observing and reporting any violations of the ceasefire and the military status quo. The mandate we serve under UNFICYP is to maintain peace and stability along the 180km long buffer zone between the two sides on the island.
Having narrated a brief historical run down of UN mission in Cyprus, it is significant to mention here how missions across the globe have adapted themselves to the unfolding situation and uncertain circumstances due to the pandemic. In addition, the UN continues running all the peacekeeping missions and peace building operations smoothly having taken preventative measures and making adjustments to the previous ways of working. Being a Military Public Information Officer (MPIO), I acquired a dynamic chance to actively participate in the media awareness campaigns as the COVID-19 situation escalated, keeping a balance with the normal routine responsibilities and their representation on all the media platforms. In line with my duties here in UNFICYP, I happen to have been involved with this year’s International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on May 29.  On this day, the UN pays tribute to all the men and women who have served either as military, police or civilians and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping missions for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. I feel immense pride to be a part of this year’s campaign because of the theme, ‘Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace’, which was chosen to celebrate the 20th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. ‘Women, Peace and Security’ is one of the eight priority areas of the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, which the Secretary General launched in 2018, to strengthen peacekeeping. 


The meaningful inclusion of women in decision making in Pakistan increases effectiveness and productivity, brings new perspectives and solutions to the table, unlocks greater resources and strengthens efforts in our work. Research shows that gender equality contributes to lasting peace, and how women and men experience, engage in, and are affected by violent armed conflict is different and they have a different understanding of peace. 


This year, UN peacekeepers from Pakistan are facing, what the UN Secretary General has described as the greatest challenge since the Second World War — the COVID-19 pandemic. Pakistani peacekeepers are deployed in many countries affected by the pandemic. They are continuing their operations to the best of their abilities and support the local governments and population despite the risk of COVID-19. Continuing the proud tradition of the Pakistani Armed Forces, Pakistani female officers are serving under the umbrella of the UN in various roles across the world. Pakistan also achieved its goal of 15% female participation in UN peacekeeping missions in early 2019. Pakistani female peacekeepers are serving as part of Female Engagement Teams (FETs), and as medical and staff officers at various headquarters in several UN Missions. The female peacekeepers from Pakistan have won numerous accolades, including tributes at the UN and medals for exceptional performances and services rendered.


Maj Dr. Nauroz Fatima
Medical Officer, Pakistan Field Hospital 11, UNAMID, Sudan
“Do whatever good you can in your own capacity wherever you are; when each little bit joins together, it enhances the benevolence of the world.”
Maj Dr. Amna KHAN
Medevac Coordinator, staff officer at Force Medical Office, member COE team, UNAMID, Sudan
“I always wanted to experience working in an international organization and the United Nations offered me a fulfilling environment that gives me satisfaction by contributing to global peace and security, providing basic human rights and working towards human development.”
Maj Saba Anwar
Team Leader Pakistani Female Engagement Team, MONUSCO, Democratic Republic of the Congo
I feel honoured to be instrumental in leaving behind the legacy of Pakistan Army, having their female soldiers working side by side with their male colleagues in bringing peace to the world.”


The meaningful inclusion of women in decision making in Pakistan increases effectiveness and productivity, brings new perspectives and solutions to the table, unlocks greater resources and strengthens efforts in our work. Research shows that gender equality contributes to lasting peace, and how women and men experience, engage in, and are affected by violent armed conflict is different, and they have a different understanding of peace. Recognizing and integrating these differences into peacekeeping as well as the various roles women have played in shaping conflict and peace can mitigate the threat to peace and security. Peace and security can only be achieved and sustained if all members of society have equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services, and participation in decision making. 



I’m humbled to be working under the UN flag. As an MPIO I get to interact with the local media, communities, diplomats and dignitaries. The most interesting part of the job lately has been raising awareness in the communities we serve, about UN Peacekeeping, the current pandemic and highlighting the role of female peacekeepers in the media. For the purpose of my work I get to travel in the field across the island very frequently, which gives me an opportunity to interact with peacekeepers from several countries and diverse backgrounds. It also gives an immense pleasure to proudly compare Pakistan Armed Forces with other world armies and find it at par in every professional way. The most beautiful part of the experience is seeing the culturally diverse people so closely and professionally knitted with blue berets and serving harmoniously. Pakistan Army undoubtedly provides such unique opportunity to the women to represent the nation at highest international level with pride. UN highly acknowledges the service of our contingents and staff officers across the globe who are far away from their families and are serving tirelessly. Female participation in all the fields of life will make Pakistan successful in the struggle and competition at the international level. To quote the words of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah:

“No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.” HH
 

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