Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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Ciné-ONU: Until there is Peace

On 29 May 2018, Ciné-ONU screened  ‘Until there is Peace’   in order to mark the  International Day of UN Peacekeepers   and highlight   70 years of Service and Sacrifice. The film follows a special group of Peacekeepers from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, known as the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) and offers an intimate view of the combat force and their everyday lives protecting the local population under extreme and difficult circumstances. The screening was shown in partnership with the Belgian Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs and the  United Nations Liaison Office for Peace and Security (UNLOPS)  at  Cinema Galleries  in Brussels.

Facebook Live interview with Director Melonie Kastman and General Jean Baillaud

The screening was followed by a conversation on the issues highlighted in the documentary. The guest speakers were: Melonie Kastman (Director); Former Deputy Force Commander of MONUSCO General Jean Baillaud  (MONUSCO), Rory Keane (UNLOPS) moderated by Christophe Verhellen (UNRIC).

Melonie Kastman said on her inspiration for making the film, “for that one terrible story that we hear about UN Peacekeepers, there must be thousands of positive stories not being heard. I wanted to show this human spirit amongst the conflict, both the Congolese and the people protecting them.”

Cine-ONU Twitter Slide

The panel discussion covered the mandate of UN Peacekeeping in DRC and its future. Rory Keane discussed the two-prong directive to the missions: ‘firstly, it’s about the protection of civilians, but it’s also about ensuring there is a political framework in place which provides a roadmap for stable elections’.

The panel agreed that the boundaries and limits of Peacekeeping needed to be defined clearly. General Jean Baillaud raised concerns about sending UN Peacekeepers into the forest regions of Congo to negotiate with rebel groups because this is a very specialized operation requiring negotiation with people who often do not want to negotiate. Rory Keane added, ‘the United Nations does not do counter-terrorism campaigns, but rather is the robust protection of civilians.’  

Panel discussion (L-R) Rory Keane, Melonie Kastman, General Jean Baillaud and Christophe Verhellen

Both agreed that the future requires making sure that peacekeeping is engaged in more preventive action and maintaining the holistic approach, such as providing medical support and upholding principles of justice.

On the topic of justice, an audience member asked about strategies for combatting sexual violence in the DRC. Melonie Kastman described how it is often too dangerous for medical staff to access certain areas to provide help in these cases. UN Peacekeepers provide support where many other NGOs cannot, and this is important to remember.

Rory Keane responded that an essential part of OHCHR's work is documenting and monitoring abuse as part of their strategy to strengthen the justice systems in the countries where they work.

One of the highlights of the film was its portrayal of female UN Peacekeepers. The question is no longer about whether women can be effective as UN Peacekeepers, but instead how we can get more women into peacekeeping. Women currently represent only 4 per cent of the more than 80,000 UN Peacekeepers, despite their key role in preventing sexual violence during and after conflict, and their unique abilities to engage with the communities they serve, especially women and girls.

Full house!

The evening’s discussion concluded by reminding us of the significance of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers. Both the film and the panelists all paid tribute to the service and sacrifices of UN Peacekeepers and their families. As the audience here in Brussels we can show our support by continuing to gain insight into the hostile environments where they work and the day to day positive impacts they have.

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