Ensuring peacekeeper safety tops UN symposium agenda


A four-strong panel is leading the all-important protecting peacekeepers component of this week’s sixth United Nations (UN) International Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping Symposium in Pretoria.

Delegates to the symposium, underway at the CSIR International Conference Centre from 21 to 24 June, also have the opportunity to sit on other moderated sessions pertaining to aspects of peacekeeping from environmental responsibility through to tele-medicine.

Lieutenant Colonel Animesh Srivastava, a military affairs officer tasked specifically with policy and doctrine in the UN Department of Peace Operations, is the lead for the protecting peacekeepers working group. He is assisted by a wing commander and two civilians as the group looks to, among others, the effective use and limitations of UAS (unmanned aerial systems) to improve awareness and analysis as well as an optimal strategy for adopting and integrating UAS in UN field environments.

The timely use of information to assist in decision making is integral to the working group looking at information drive peace operations.

Symposium organisers have it challenges to peace in “an age of information are many”. This group, under the leadership of Erzen Ilijazi of the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology, is taking guidance from the recently endorsed UN Strategy for Digital Transformation and the Secretary General’s data strategy, to support its discussions and recommendations. Global trends in advanced analytics, threat analysis, predictive modelling, geo analytics, statistical algorithms, and “what–if” analysis powered by high–performance systems will be investigated, alongside ICT architecture, connectivity, data hosting and access.

Another symposium working group will concentrate on integrated training and capacity building, with the fourth group’s responsibility titled “eco-responsibility”. Its brief is – broadly – the environmental impact caused by the logistics of deployment of thousands of civilian, police and military personnel into peacekeeping environments.

The environmental impact of deployments can only be mitigated through shared responsibility with troops and police contributing countries (TCC/PCC) and by enabling technology to develop smart camps minimising the UN environmental footprint, according to symposium organisers.

They also state “peacekeeping operates in the most challenging locations, with very little infrastructure, often requiring building new facilities. Five service domains are applicable when developing a smart camp concept for peacekeeping operations”. They are: safety, security and emergencies; accommodation and offices including solid and wastewater management; transport and logistics; information and communications technology; and resources and environment, specifically water and energy.

The other primary topic under discussion at the Symposium is telemedicine. According to the UN, improving peacekeepers’ access to quality healthcare is a top priority and the UN is exploring opportunities to use telemedicine to provide high quality remote medical support in UN peacekeeping operations to limit the barriers of geographical distance and challenging operational contexts with limited resources.

A broad range of communications technologies can be leveraged, including real-time interactive audio-video solutions, plug-and-play interoperable digital medica devices, portable ruggedised telemedicine kits and store-and-forward applications capable of streaming data using terrestrial or wireless transmission technologies. Aircraft, drones and other means can be used to deliver medical-related goods and services.

Many of the speakers at the Symposium are from the United Nations, but also include senior South African contributors, including Thandi Modise, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans; Secretary for Defence Sonto Kudjoe; General Rudzani Maphwanya, Chief of the SA National Defence Force; and Ambassador Mathu Joyini, South Africa’s UN representative. The latter two were due to talk on South Africa’s role in peacekeeping.

The CSIR’s Dr Tleyane Sono was due to speak on research and development of technologies for the landward operational environment; the CSIR’s Dr Hildegarde Koen is discussing locating IED factories; Ergotech’s Didintle Rasetsoke is covering extended reality technologies for better peacekeeping; and Hensoldt’s Jaco Botha is looking at situational awareness from the Quadome surveillance radar. Armscor’s Molahlegi Molope on Friday will talk about threat sensing and protection of peacekeepers.

In her welcome note for the Symposium, Modise stated that it is an honour to be hosting the event and “we commend the United Nations for initiating this annual symposium, which has become a unique platform for nations to share innovative solutions as well as latest technologies in peacekeeping missions. I am confident that we will emerge from this four-day symposium with creative ideas and concrete interventions that will strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions across the globe.

“As a country, we have a vested interest in a symposium of this nature. South Africa remains a significant continental actor and major contributor to peacekeeping operations on the continent. Members of the South African National Defence Force have been deployed to numerous peace missions since 1999. South Africa is the leading African country in the deployment of officers in peacekeeping missions.

“South Africa’s national interest hinges on the recognition that its own future is inextricably linked to the stability, unity and prosperity of the African continent. South Africa will, therefore, in partnership with like-minded nations, continue to play a leading role in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and peacekeeping. We are pursuing this path because we know too well that lack of peace anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere.

“Beyond issues of peace and security, I am confident that this symposium will make a positive impact on the economy. It is my expectation that it will help promote locally developed technologies and indigenous defence industrial capabilities,” Modise concluded.

On 24 June the CSIR will also host a UN Procurement Summit, which will examine what the UN is looking for in a supplier, and how companies can best supply the UN. Key speakers are Atul Khare, Under-Secretary General for Operational Support UN Department of Operational Support, and Christian Francis Saunders, Assistant Secretary-General for Supply Chain Management.

Some of the topics under discussion at the Summit will cover doing business with the United Nations, the tender process, tips to win a tender, and aviation requirements.

To register to attend the UN Procurement Summit 2022, click here.