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Indonesia’s Garuda Contingent vital force for global peacekeeping

Gusty Da Costa

From Lebanon to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and six other conflict zones, more than 2,700 Indonesian troops are deployed on United Nations peacekeeping operations, making the Southeast Asian country the eighth-largest contributor of personnel. Since 1957, over 24,000 Indonesian peacekeepers have served on U.N. missions, and Jakarta recently released a two-year plan to boost deployments.

“Wherever Indonesia has been involved in U.N. peacekeeping missions, it has always played a key role,” Lalu Muhamad Iqbal, the nation’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, told FORUM. “The free and active character of Indonesia’s foreign policy provides comfort to the conflicting parties so that Indonesia’s presence becomes part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

In December 2023, the Foreign Ministry announced the country’s pledge for U.N. peacekeeping missions through 2025, including an additional 865 personnel from the Armed Forces and National Police, 155 of them women.

Known as the Garuda Contingent, Indonesia’s peacekeeping unit has deployed on 30 missions in its nearly seven decades of service, according to Dave Laksono, a member of Indonesia’s House of Representatives Commission 1, which oversees defense and foreign affairs. In addition to the DRC and Lebanon, Indonesian personnel are serving in the Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Western Sahara, Laksono told FORUM.

Garuda’s most recent deployment began in March 2023, with 1,090 personnel sent to Lebanon in four batches as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission rotation.

Since 2013, Indonesia has operated the Peacekeeping Mission Center in Sentul, about 50 kilometers south of Jakarta, which Iqbal said serves as “a center of excellence for training and capacity building of personnel for U.N. peace missions.”

The center, which was built with the United States support, hosts trainers from countries such as Japan and has trained personnel from nations including Cambodia and Mongolia under the U.N.’s Triangular Partnership Programme to build and repair infrastructure in mission areas.

Cambodian Lt. Col. Vanna Neng participated in the center’s heavy engineering equipment operators training in mid-2023. He said about 300 future peacekeepers from his country’s forces would be trained as a result of the course.

“But, of course, the people who are benefiting most from this training are the people who live in the mission area,” Neng said in a U.N. news release. “This is especially so in the Central African Republic, since there is a lot of damage on the roads, making it hard to move.”

As well as reflecting Jakarta’s support for global peacekeeping, U.N. mission deployments are “a means to improve the professionalism” of the nation’s police and military, Laksono said.

Typically deploying within two months of a U.N. request, the Garuda Contingent also performs tasks including health care and disaster relief, and deals with issues related to women’s safety.

Working with the U.N. and other militaries benefits Indonesia’s Armed Forces, Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations lecturer at Indonesia’s Padjadjaran University, told FORUM. “We have mutual learning,” he said. “We learn from them, and they learn from us.”

Gusty Da Costa is a FORUM contributor based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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