Malaysia: Building U.S. Partnership With a Peacekeeping Powerhouse

Posted by Tom Kelly
December 13, 2013
Malaysian U.N. Peacekeepers Wait to Board a Bus

The Asia-Pacific is home to half the world's population, more than half the world's GDP and nearly half of its trade.  While this region is experiencing economic growth and reductions in poverty without parallel in human history, it also faces many challenges, including arms proliferation, piracy, trafficking and smuggling, natural disasters, and regional tensions between powerful countries. This week, I am visiting Malaysia to mark a unique milestone in our successful partnership to promote international security by meeting the growing global demand for military and civilian personnel to serve on UN and regional peacekeeping missions through our Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). 

Today, I attended a ceremony at the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre to mark its successful achievement of Full Training Capability, which constitutes self-sufficiency to effectively conduct required peacekeeping training for Malaysia’s military personnel.  The Centre also conducts peacekeeping courses for military and civilian personnel from across Southeast Asia to enable them to serve in international peacekeeping missions. Malaysia is the first of 66 GPOI partner nations to achieve self-sufficiency training for their military peacekeepers to deploy to UN peace operations.  This accomplishment is a testament to Malaysia’s commitment as an international partner in promoting global peace and security.

The Centre not only symbolizes Malaysia’s leadership in peacekeeping, but also the strong and enduring partnership between the United States and Malaysia. In 2005, Malaysia was among our founding partners when we launched the Global Peace Operations Initiative, a U.S. Department of State-led security cooperation program that has helped train and equip more than 225,000 peacekeeping personnel worldwide. The U.S. Department of Defense has played a key role in implementing GPOI activities.

Over the years, the United States has provided approximately $4 million toward Malaysian efforts to build its own peacekeeping capabilities through GPOI. These funds provided national and regional training opportunities for Malaysian peacekeepers, “train-the-trainer” instruction, and equipment such as driving simulators and computer hardware for advanced peacekeeping instruction. 

In addition to training resident cadre, this training has made it possible for Malaysia to offer peacekeeping instructors to augment the United States Pacific Command’s regional peacekeeping training and exercise activities funded through GPOI.  This not only demonstrates Malaysia’s capability and influence but also furthers regional peacekeeping capacity building and cooperation. 

The Centre is not the only way that Malaysia has shown itself to be a peacekeeping powerhouse. Malaysia has worked actively to build peacekeeping capabilities in the region by incorporating other regional partners’ peacekeeping forces with their own units for “co-deployments.”  Malaysia has also been a pioneer in efforts to integrate more women into peace operations. Female peacekeepers play an important role in peacekeeping by broadening the skill sets available within a mission, particularly by improving access and support for local women in post-conflict societies struggling to rebuild.

A top priority for our Bureau's engagement with partners across the Asia-Pacific is expanding security cooperation throughout the region. We are proud to have supported Malaysia’s enduring leadership in peace operations and look forward to enhancing our cooperation in the region.

About the Author: Tom Kelly serves as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

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