The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has issued a strong warning to troops involved in peacekeeping operations, urging them to steer clear of sexual violence and exploitation. Mr. Matthew Alao, the Team Lead for Governance, Peace, and Security at UNDP, emphasized this during the graduation ceremony of the “Comprehensive Protection of Civilians Course 33/23” in Abuja. The event was organized by the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre (MLAILKPC), in collaboration with UNDP and the government of Japan.

Ensuring Global Peace and Stability

Mr. Alao stressed the significance of the “Enhancing National Capacities for Counter-Violent Extremism, Anti-Piracy, and Protection of Civilians” project in promoting peace and stability worldwide. By equipping military, paramilitary, and civilian personnel with the necessary skills to protect civilians during armed conflicts, the project aims to reduce casualties, foster positive civil-military relations, enhance professionalism, and build trust in peace support operations. He encouraged the course participants to apply the knowledge they gained over the past two weeks in their future assignments.

Shifting Priorities: Protecting Civilians during Conflict

Major General Emmanuel Undiandeye, Commander of the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre, emphasized the evolving nature of contemporary conflicts. Rather than focusing solely on capturing territories, governments and their militaries must prioritize the protection of civilians caught in armed conflicts. These conflicts often arise from internal struggles over power, resources, inequality, or religious and ethnic divides. Major General Undiandeye highlighted the prevalence of non-state actors engaging national forces, particularly in Africa and the West African sub-region, where civilians bear the brunt of the conflicts. The course was designed to address these challenges and provide participants with the necessary tools to effectively protect civilians in conflict zones.

Complex Linkages: Training for Multi-Dimensional Realities

Major General Undiandeye acknowledged the complex interplay between protection tasks, such as the protection of civilians, child protection, and addressing conflict-related sexual violence. The training program aimed to demonstrate these linkages and equip peacekeepers with the skills to prevent, deter, and respond to interconnected threats. By completing the course, participants not only acquired the expertise to act as effective protection actors in conflict situations but also qualified to organize and deliver comprehensive protection of civilians training. Major General Undiandeye encouraged them to embrace these responsibilities whenever the opportunity arises.

Japanese Ambassador’s Perspective

The Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Kazuyoshi Matsunaga, highlighted the potential of Nigeria as a growing economy with a young and talented population. While acknowledging the security challenges faced by Africa, he expressed confidence in the continent’s future. Ambassador Matsunaga emphasized the importance of cooperation among neighboring countries to address security issues effectively. He believed that the training program, involving Nigeria, Mali, Sierra Leone, Niger, Cameroon, Benin, Ghana, Liberia, and Gambia, would foster trust and coordination efforts, ultimately contributing to peace, stability, and investment opportunities. He emphasized that an improved security situation would attract more Japanese companies to Nigeria, benefiting both nations.

Promoting Security and Development

Ambassador Matsunaga acknowledged that insecurity poses a significant barrier to development and investment. By focusing on capacity building for the protection of civilians in violent extremism and armed conflict, this year’s training course aimed to address these challenges. The Ambassador expressed hope that the positive outcomes and interactions resulting from Japan-Nigeria cooperation would contribute to Nigeria’s development and the overall peace and stability of the African region. He emphasized Japan’s commitment to countering terrorism, preventing conflicts, and addressing their root causes, recognizing them as global priorities.

The UNDP’s warning to troops involved in peacekeeping operations against sexual violence and exploitation highlights the importance of protecting civilians during armed conflicts. The MLAILKPC’s training program equips participants with the necessary skills to fulfill this vital role. The collaborative efforts of UNDP, MLAILKPC, and the government of Japan demonstrate a commitment to global peace and stability. With enhanced protection measures in place, the hope is to create a safer world for all and attract investments that will contribute to the development and prosperity of Nigeria and the African region as a whole.