Monday, April 28, 2008

Entrevista do maninho

Entrevista dada pelo meu maninho e disponivel no site da UN - http://www.un.org/works/sub3.asp?lang=en&id=44

Pedro the Peacekeeper


“The job as peacekeeper is a dream for any soldier in the world,” says Pedro Dias, a soldier who was among the first Portuguese peacekeepers to be deployed with the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) during the country’s transition to independence.
The photo of Pedro walking peacefully along a group of children in Dili has become symbolic of the UN’s continuous efforts to maintain international peace and security. “Looking at this picture makes me smile, because I know we were part of this country’s will to have freedom and peace,” asserts Pedro. In 1999, East Timor was engulfed by violence and its people were internally displaced after they voted for independence from Indonesia. Marking one of the UN successes in over 60 years of peacekeeping, East Timor gained independence and became a self-determined sovereign state after years of violence in 2002.
UN peacekeepers assist countries in their transition to democracy, stable governance, rule of law and development. They are different from a traditional military force. Although comprised of soldiers, they use minimal force, distribute humanitarian aid, and hardly ever take offensive action. Rather, peacekeepers’ efforts alleviate the suffering of people caught in the middle of strife and restore peace without taking sides.
A Blue Helmet in Naqoura in southern Lebanon

Until recently, Pedro was a peacekeeper on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Mission in southern Lebanon. As part of this UN force his role was to help control armed conflict and prevent an escalation of violence in contributing to stability and efforts to maintain peace and security in the area. Meanwhile, an overall long-term solution is being pursued politically.
Pedro believes one of the most important parts of his job as a UN peacekeeper is to provide protection and humanitarian services to the civilian population. “There is a lot of hope and expectation from civilians towards the Blue Helmets. People believe that we can protect them,” he says. “For me the population is the centre of gravity of any UN mission. They are the ones to be protected and above all not to be disappointed for failing our jobs to save them from any aggression or abuse.”
Pedro and his fellow peacekeepers try to anticipate any escalation of tension between the hostile parties or even the internal actors. “Facilitating communication between all parties involved in the conflict is the most important part of my job as a peacekeeper,” he says.
The real challenge Pedro is facing, however, is to not have his personal opinion cloud his judgment. It is crucial that UN peacekeepers stay neutral and impartial to remain credible and respected. Yet on the ground, it is very hard for UN peacekeepers to be silent spectators while seeing blatant aggression by the strong against the weak. “If your colleagues are hit or injured you have to be very strong, try to see the conflict from above and think that an isolated act does not represent the will of an entire population or country,” says Pedro. Neutrality is the essence of UN Peacekeeping. “Everyday you are tested by everyone and any single slip can be used to accuse you of impartiality,” he adds.

Pedro has proudly served in UN Missions for two years and is now 36 years old. He strongly believes in the capacities of UN Peacekeeping missions and is hopeful for the future. “We can make a difference and change history,” he says. Pedro adds that many of his colleagues were so proud of using the blue beret that they would do it again even if it means sacrificing family life. “The best reward you can get is a smile from the children or someone from the population saluting you as real military compliment and looking into your eyes,” he says.
Pedro currently lives in Ericeira, just north of Lisbon, Portugal, and is preparing for the General Staff Officers course that starts in March 2008.

By Lindsey ThoengMain image: Pedro and a group of local children in Dili© UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe

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