Malaysia: ICRC training vital for peacekeepers
Colonel Sardon bin Hassan, Commandant of the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Centre (MPTC) in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, recalls a special moment of his career and talks about the ICRC's work.
Colonel Sardon recalled the time he spent in Sierra Leone as a Military Observer for the United Nations in 2001. Throughout his year-long mission, he saw the ICRC at work reuniting families, working with refugees and internally displaced persons. Though his contacts with the ICRC delegation were limited, he recalls one incident with particular affection.
Profound moment brings new understanding about ICRC
"While I was on mission in Sierra Leone, one of the organizations working there was the ICRC," he said. "One incident sticks out in my memory in particular. The country had suffered many years of strife and conflict during that time. A six-year-old girl had fled to Guinea, after her siblings and parents were killed. Two years later, members of the ICRC delegation there managed to trace her aunt in Sierra Leone, and worked to reunite the little girl with her aunt. The ICRC eventually brought this little girl home and reunited her with her relatives. I was at the airport the day she came home. That was one of the most profound moments of my life and it brought tears to my eyes. It was then that I was given a glimpse of the scope of work the ICRC undertakes.”
That was a decade ago. Today, Col. Sardon runs the MPTC in Port Dickson and is still working closely with the ICRC. The Centre runs courses for Malaysian and foreign officers bound for peacekeeping missions with the United Nations. "Our centre is only one of two in the region", he said. "It was established in 1996 and to date, we have trained over 2,000 personnel".
ICRC session on the Law of Armed Conflict vital for peacekeepers
When asked about the Centre's collaboration with the ICRC, Col. Sardon said "The ICRC is part of every course that we run with the exception of the UN Logistics Course. All our courses incorporate a specific ICRC session where participants learn about the ICRC, its role and mandate, activities in conflict areas and the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict". The Commandant sees the ICRC's dissemination session as vital for all peacekeepers. "It is essential for all those being deployed overseas to conflict zones to know and understand the key legal and humanitarian principles. It is this knowledge and understanding that will help them as they carry out their duties".
He added, "Even the UN's Secretary General spoke of the significance of the principles and application of international humanitarian law especially in peacekeeping operations," referring to the UN Chief's recent visit to the MPTC. The UN Chief walked in on an ICRC session at the recent CIMIC course where he met with participants and took the opportunity to remind them that it was important for all UN peacekeepers to equip themselves with knowledge of international law, and in particular, international humanitarian law. He added that this knowledge would enhance their peacekeeping and humanitarian roles when assisting civilians in conflict areas.
As part of its universal mandate, the ICRC works with states around the world to promote greater awareness of and compliance with international humanitarian law. ICRC regularly conducts training sessions and briefings for peacekeepers to ensure that they understand their obligations under IHL, which are applicable in situations of conflict.
"All the feedback we've received on ICRC's sessions has been positive. In fact, we're very happy with our collaboration and I believe there is significant scope for expansion. We're keen to explore ways in which we can expand ICRC's session and are happy to work with the ICRC on this," added Col. Sardon.