As COVID-19 continues to affect aspects of everyday life around the world, the United Nations has developed strategies for peacekeeping operations to maintain its mission obligations.

This is exemplified by the military observers with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in Israeli-occupied Golan.

Commander of the Australian Contingent of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) under Operation Paladin, Major Arlen Wendt, said while COVID-19 threw extra complexities in the mix, observers had been able to modify their practices to continue delivering on the mission.

“Countries where UNTSO operates have collectively been affected by COVID-19, whether it is direct infections or as part of the greater economic fallout being experienced around the globe,” Major Wendt said. 

“As visitors to the region, we have been extremely careful to ensure community transmission doesn’t occur through our own interactions.

“While general observer tasks can be maintained, community outreach, which takes up a significant part of our work, has become a challenge.”

In an effort to reduce accidental transmission, but maintain important links with the local populations, peacekeepers are monitored regularly with temperature checks performed at base entrances to help identify high-risk individuals.

Operations are conducted to support local government efforts to monitor social distancing, with systematic hygiene and personal protective equipment becoming integral to peacekeeping practices.

Major Wendt said information-sharing had been a lynchpin in the UNTSO’s response, using all available methods of communication to inform and educate.

“Thankfully peacekeeping is no stranger to operating against the background of disease and epidemics,” Major Wendt said.

“Through engagement we are able to pass on best practices to fight against COVID-19 as well as reassure the community.

“We and all peacekeepers around the world remain steadfast in our resolve to maintain our presence in the face of the pandemic in the interests of continued peace.”

For more information on Operation Paladin, visit www.defence.gov.au