The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with it partners, has launched a project to enhance the capacities of peacekeepers in Africa.
The project is a UNDP initiative with firm support from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) and the Japanese government.
The project dubbed “Improving Response Capacities to Terrorism in Peacekeeping Theatres in Africa” is aimed at reducing attacks on peacekeepers on the continent and will be implemented by KAIPTC.
The project seeks to improve the technical skills of African Peacekeepers in preserving themselves against terror attacks through research and training, focusing on troop-contributing countries such as Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Mali and Togo.
The UNDP Country Director, Gita Welch, in her welcome remarks, said the project is a priority for UNDP because UN agency recognizes the inextricable link between peace and development.
“We realise that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without peace. SDG 16 explicitly commits UN member States to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies by addressing factors which give rise to violence and insecurity. As a global challenge, terrorisms arguably the greatest security threat to our collective effort towards sustainable human development, if not addressed, will reverse Africa’s development gains for decades to come,” she stressed.
Over the last 10 years’ terrorists have increased their presence across West Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa with an estimated five-fold increase in fatalities since 2000.
As recorded in UNDP’s recent study titled Journey to Extremism in Africa, 33,300 terrorism-related fatalities and 5,745 terrorist attacks occurred in five years alone (2011-2016) an astronomical increase from 8,900 fatalities and 1,699 attacks from the preceding 10 years (2000-2010).
High profile attacks including the recent killings in Mali and Burkina Faso have increased the need to put in place measures to counter terrorism” Gita Welch expressed concern.
Gita Welch also described the project as a timely and relevant project that will strengthen the operational effectiveness of peacekeepers in Africa against terror attacks.
The Commandant at Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) Air Vice Marshal Griffiths S. Evans said the KAIPTC seeks to contribute to a solution to the activities of terror groups problem, adding that through the project, the KAIPTC is utilising its in-house technical expertise to consult with eight key troop-contributing countries in West Africa and relevant United Nations Agencies in the sub-region, to explore with them, options for addressing the issue of terror attacks in peacekeeping theatres.
Air Vice Marshal Griffiths S. Evans added that the KAIPTC shall provide a guide and a training package for these countries.
“We also intend to share our output with ECOWAS in the hope that ECOWAS will build on our work to develop a sub-regional guide for its member states that provide troops for the ECOWAS standby force (ESF),” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the project manager who also doubles as the Head of Conflict Management Programme, Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research, KAIPTC, John Pokoo during overview of the project said a total of 100 personnel from training units of the participating Police/Troop Contributing Countries (P/TCCs) towards refining their respective training content for their peacekeepers.
He added that the project also seeks to produce a scoping study report on terrorism-related training gaps for P/TCCs participating in the project and also to produce a guide for developing or strengthening counter-terrorism component of the predevelopment training of peacekeepers by the participating Police/Troop Contributing Countries
In an address by the UN Resident Coordinator, Christine Evans-Klock at the project launched revealed that since 1948, some 3,700 military, police and civilian peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving with UN Peacekeeping missions.
According to the statistics in her presentation, last year, 62 of the 134 fatalities of UN peacekeepers were due to violent actions nearly half. This is the highest number of peacekeeper fatalities through violent actions in over two decades. Others lost their lives in transportation accidents or illness while serving in the cause of peace far from home.
But Christine Evans-Klock said she believes that the project will improve the capability of UN peacekeepers on how to carry out their critical responsibilities under these growing threats and how best to protect themselves in hostile areas.
“It will use research findings on the causes of increasing casualties to design effective pre-deployment training, integrating how Peacekeepers can protect themselves against targeted attacks into their training curriculum” she stated.
“I am proud that the project we are launching was developed and will be implemented in partnership with the Government of Japan, the Kofi Anan International Peacekeeping Training Centre and UNDP,” Christine Evans-Klock said.
Japan’s Ambassador to Ghana, Tsutomu Himeno promised their support towards the implementation of the project and added that there the direct connection between security and sustainable development is very crucial.