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People for Peace: For Lieutenant Colonel Rofiqur Rahman, peace begins with protecting and respecting the rights of others to live freely and flourish

Edited by: Urjasi Rudra & Samira Y. Salifu

Lieutenant Colonel MD Rofique Rahman is no newcomer to UN Peacekeeping and the difficult situations that peacekeepers must navigate to protect and serve the world’s most vulnerable populations. Having previously served with the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he joined MINURSO in Western Sahara as the Commander of the Bangladeshi Medical Unit in 2021. In addition to confronting the usual challenges faced by UN missions, he also had to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic, which unleashed an unprecedented health crisis, with deep socio-economic impact.

“The most challenging part of my job was to keep all military and civilian personnel physically and mentally fit, despite the difficult situation and resource constraints. The Medical Unit provides routine medical care, preventive care, but also manages emergency cases, including medical evacuations. We train other medical officers in emergency response and conduct public awareness campaigns on global health issues, such as breast cancer and AIDS. We cannot provide life-saving support to the communities we serve if we are unhealthy.

COVID changed our lives everywhere, our vision, our priorities, and our way of life. It was the same with the peacekeepers. Over the past couple of years, I have lived through three waves of COVID-19 surges while serving in MINURSO.

In collaboration with the Mission’s COVID-19 Task Force, I coordinated emergency response, including palliative care, evacuations, and enhanced staff compliance with safety protocols. All personnel in MINURSO, civilians and military alike, did a commendable job of facing the challenges of COVID and contributing to the success of the integrated COVID Task Force.

On gender parity in peacekeeping

During my tenure, the Bangladeshi Medical Unit had a 40 per cent representation of women, including doctors, nurses and orderlies. This high number is due to the commitment of MINURSO leadership and the policy of the Bangladesh Army to facilitate women’s empowerment in its ranks.

The UN works in communities where we can set an example of gender parity and encourage women’s empowerment within the communities we serve.

Peace begins with me… and all of us

I want to leave behind a positive footprint for others to follow. For me, peace is about respecting others’ right to survive, live and flourish. Peace begins with me, because if I am in peace, I can contribute to keep others in peace, and then my family, workplace, society, and the world will be at peace.

Commanding a unit that helped to lead the mission in the fight against COVID was a great honour. Working alongside the women and men of MINURSO, military and civilians from all over the world in the service of peace, was deeply rewarding. I look forward to a time when every individual joins the effort to make this world a better place.”

For 75 years, UN peacekeepers have worked alongside international partners, community leaders and Member States to save and change lives in the world’s most fragile political and security situations. These are ordinary people striving to achieve extraordinary outcomes in often difficult and dangerous situations. They are People for Peace, and these are their stories.