The United Service Institution of India (USI) hosted the Annual UN Forum 2023 in New Delhi on November 21-22 in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Centre for UN Peacekeeping Operations (CUNPK). The forum discussions focused on the theme of ‘International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Peacekeeping.’

In the face of UN peacekeeping missions being more frequently undertaken in unstable settings characterized by asymmetric warfare, the importance of applying International Humanitarian Law (IHL) has grown significantly. This timely discourse delved into the obstacles presented by modern conflicts and underscored the essential need to uphold the principles of IHL in UN peace operations.

The two-day forum cultivated an interactive, multi-stakeholder dialogue concerning the relevance and constraints of implementing IHL frameworks within UN peace operations. The discussions delved into contemporary challenges, addressing topics such as the safeguarding of civilians, the accountability for crimes against peacekeepers, the involvement of women in peacekeeping operations, and the incorporation of technology to enhance operational effectiveness. The aforementioned themes were covered comprehensively at the conference, each of which was explored in a separate session.

Maj Gen PK Goswami, Deputy Director General, USI, welcomed the participants and audience and Maj Gen BK Sharma, DG, USI, delivered the opening address. Lt Gen JP Mathew, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff, HQ IDS, Ministry of Defence, then delivered a keynote address. Following this, Amb. Asoke Mukerji, India’s former Ambassador and representative to the UN, delivered a special address as the Guest of Honour. Finally, Mr Kedir Awol Omar, Head of the Regional Delegation for India, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, addressed the audience on behalf of the ICRC.

Distinguished experts in the field of international relations chaired the panels, with each panel composed of senior officials from the Indian Armed Forces, Indian Police Services, and the Ministry of External Affairs. Through their vibrant presentations, the speakers discussed the relevance of IHL in regulating armed conflicts and its significance in UN peacekeeping operations and addressed challenges arising from armed conflicts in urban areas and the increasing role of non-state actors. Moreover, throughout the two days, speakers and experts explored the legal consequences of IHL rules on military components involved in armed conflict and underlined the importance of understanding and preparing for challenges to ensure respect for IHL. After these informative and thought-provoking sessions, all the chairs held a plenary to discuss the key takeaways.

As the event came to a close, Lt Gen MAJ Fernandez, AVSM, VSM DG, Dte Gen of SD delivered a closing address, followed by a vote of thanks from Cdr Sandeep Bali (Retd), Head of Prevention, ICRC Regional Delegation.

The International Symposium also underscored the multifaceted nature of peacekeeping, requiring a comprehensive approach that integrates legal, humanitarian, gender-sensitive, and technological considerations in the protection of civilians and those protected by IHL. The shared insights and recommendations provide a valuable framework for advancing peacekeeping efforts in contemporary global scenarios and continue to address the existing and emerging humanitarian challenges in the everchanging, volatile and complex nature of conflicts. Distinguished chairs and speakers shared their experiences at the symposium, enriching the intellectual element of the event and shaping future debates and discussions regarding this contemporary theme in humanitarian action.

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