Remarks at Opening Ceremony of KERIS AMAN

Puneet Talwar
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Port Dickson, Malaysia
August 11, 2015

General Ackbal, my Malaysian colleagues. Selamat pagi. General Harra, my colleagues from United States Pacific Command, and the instructors and peacekeepers that are with us today – good morning. It’s an honor to speak with you.

Today, 900 men and women from 29 countries have come together for the most noble of causes -- the pursuit of peace. You have come together to prevent war. You have come together to provide security to those most vulnerable. You have come together to relieve suffering and to help countries rebuild. You have come together to bring justice and dignity to those most in need.

After the carnage of the Second World War, 26 nations convened in San Francisco to sign the founding charter of the United Nations. There, seventy years ago, leaders from around the world determined to work together to save future generations from the scourge of battle. To reaffirm their faith in fundamental human rights. To establish the conditions for justice and the rule of law.

In signing the charter, they were not so naïve to believe that they could end war and injustice with the stroke of a pen. Indeed, conflict has existed since the dawn of humanity. Yet the UN’s founding members shared a belief not only in the ability of humans to change, but in the ability of humans to progress.

And ultimately, that is why we are all here today, because we represent governments that believe in progress. From Bangladesh, to Malaysia, to Uruguay. And our work is more critical now than ever before.

Malaysia: A Leader in Peacekeeping

I want to reiterate General Harra’s high praise for our host, Malaysia. Malaysia’s leadership in international peace and security is truly remarkable. In 1960, in the wake of its independence, Malaysia dedicated its first contingent of Special Forces to the United Nations mission in the Republic of Congo. And in the decades since, Malaysia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to some of the most dangerous places on earth – from Sudan, to Lebanon, to Bosnia, to Timor-Leste.

The bravery of Malaysia’s soldiers cannot be overstated. In 1993, two helicopters carrying American forces were shot down over Mogadishu -- Somalia’s capital city -- leaving U.S. soldiers trapped in hostile territory. As Americans attempted to maintain their ground, Malaysian and Pakistani peacekeepers launched a mission to rescue the trapped soldiers. One Malaysian soldier and one Pakistani solider paid the ultimate price.

Today, we honor their bravery and service, and the bravery and service of all of those who have died in the pursuit of international peace.

And we admire Malaysia’s determination to continue to improve UN peacekeeping.

As we gather here today, at this world-class peacekeeping training center, I also want to thank Malaysia for planning and executing this exercise -- the largest peacekeeping exercise in the world.

But your time here will be about more than peacekeeping training. Here, you will forge relationships of trust that will endure throughout the course of your careers. And it is trust that will ultimately be crucial to the success of your missions.

There is no better place to build these bonds than Malaysia. Malaysia has built peacekeeping capabilities in the region by incorporating other forces with its own units. Malaysia has pioneered efforts to integrate more women into peace operations.

Female peacekeepers broaden the tools available within a mission, particularly by improving access and support for women in societies struggling to rebuild. We appreciate Malaysia’s work to widen the circle of people and nations working together on peacekeeping. So again, thank you. Terima kasih.

Recognizing PACOM and GPOI

I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the considerable efforts of my colleagues at U.S. Pacific Command and my colleagues who support the U.S. Global Peace Operations Initiative. Our world is one of increasingly sophisticated, diffuse threats. And as President Obama has made clear many times, these threats demand international coalitions and international action.

My colleagues have responded to these demands – devoting themselves to building the capabilities of our partners worldwide, to strengthening the institutions that provide security, to providing logistical support to peacekeepers on the ground. And we are all safer because of their tremendous work.

Message to the Peacekeepers

And finally, I’d like to offer a few thoughts for those participating in this exercise.

You are charged with great responsibility. Your missions will be dangerous. Your mandates will be complex. Your work will be challenging. Peace is frail. Progress is won slowly.

But the world is counting on you. The world is counting on you. I know that you have the world’s gratitude.

Malaysia’s founding father, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, once said, "Let us never allow disunity to divide or disrupt us, for if we do, we fail. Let us always remember that with each passing year, we must ensure that the bonds of unity and goodwill, of tolerance and harmony, grow stronger and stronger."

Those of you who here today are the keepers of these bonds.

Of tolerance in the face of prejudice, of harmony in the face of discord, of goodwill in the face of hostility, of unity in the face of conflict. Now, let us work together in the service of peace. Thank you.