Colonel Helen Cooper, Acting Deputy Chief of the New Zealand Army, has been appointed President of the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres (IAPTC) at the organisation’s 24th annual conference in Auckland recently.
Colonel Cooper, who is from Palmerston North, said being elected to the role was a highlight of her 28-year Army career.
“We are a small nation. This is a great way for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) to be strongly involved in global peacekeeping training,” she said.
Most recently the Assistant Chief of Army (Delivery), Colonel Cooper’s career has included being head of the NZDF Youth Development Unit, and a string of operational deployments, including being part of the Cambodia Mine Action Centre in 1999, as Company Commander New Zealand Battalion in East Timor in 2002, and as the Chief of Observer Group Lebanon for the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in 2011.
“While working at the Cambodian Mine Action Centre as a technical advisor I had no idea that 20 years later I would be running a conference with the theme of capacity building,” Colonel Cooper said.
It was an honour to be appointed the next President of the IAPTC, she said.
“I am most looking forward to working with our international partners, bringing their depth of experience to discussions on how we can continue to improve peacekeeping around the globe.
“I want to ensure the already incredible work the IAPTC is involved in continues to keep people safe around the world.”
This year is the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, and there are currently more than 130,000 individuals involved in peace operations around the world. Of those, there are more than 110,000 civilians, police and military personnel in peacekeeping missions under the United Nations umbrella. There are a further 21,000 people working in African Union Missions and a number in missions that fall outside these two key organisations, such as the Multinational Force and Observers.
“It is our duty to ensure we provide them the highest level of training, that we look at new ways of training and we understand the changing landscape of peace operations,” Colonel Cooper said.
“Every one of those civilian, police, and military personnel deserve the right to return home safe and sound.”
Colonel Cooper is the first female President in the IAPTC’s 24-year history.