Cambridge has the capacity to make a real difference

Students at Cambridge have a powerful voice which can help to shape the world

Cambridge campaign charity dafur human rights keep the peace UN United Nations university

As students we have the capacity to speak up in the face of injustice. We have the power to demand more peacekeeping rights, and you can do just that in Cambridge.

In the 1990s, the UK was the greatest single contributor of peacekeeping personnel in the world.

With the 5th largest military budget we can afford to return to that point. It is important that we make our best effort to do so. Statistical evidence suggests that a substantial contribution of peacekeeping troops can reduce battlefield violence in civil conflicts by up to 70%, and can dramatically reduce civilian casualties. This is enough in some cases to avert entire humanitarian disasters, a product of the vital role peacekeeping troops can play.

Troops can provide security guarantees and increase the cost of continued conflict. Methods like separating combatants and demobilising armed groups have a significant influence on limiting battlefield hostilities. However, the effectiveness of this approach relies on strong mission capacity – it requires a large number of troops, and the UK’s generous military budget makes it well placed to provide them.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is a case where UK peacekeeping personnel can save lives. The recent commitment of 400 personnel to UNMISS is a bright spot in a dark time, with the conflict within the state’s transitional government raging on. Though there are not yet sufficient troops to account for the whole area, the engineers in the new personnel contingent will go to work creating a drainage system fit for human use as well as a new hospital to deal with the sick and injured.

This is a fantastic start, and shows that a political will to improve peacekeeping contributions can create results. However, the only thing that can turn this policy into a permanent commitment is a change in the political culture. We must convince MPs, civil servants, and activists that there is no alternative but a United Kingdom committed to Keeping the Peace. Cambridge students have a duty to protest, to argue against the establishment and actually campaign.

That is why a holy alliance of keen HSPS students has gathered to convince you to wear another political statement. And all in order to… #KeepThePeace?

Keep The Peace is a campaign for substantial change in the UK’s peacekeeping contributions. STAND UK believe that the increasingly nationalistic and inward looking character of global politics does not leave the UK a lost cause. Despite the reasonable concerns most of us have for the future, the present is a good time for humanitarianism in the UK, and we should not take this situation for granted. Being in the bubble of Cambridge is no excuse.

The government has pledged on two separate occasions in the last two years to increase its contribution of personnel to peacekeeping missions – we aim to increase this contribution and fix current commitments in place for as long as possible.

Our Keep The Peace helmet is a way of showing commitment to this moral vision. Students, academics and activists around the country are being photographed in the helmet to raise awareness, and Cambridge is the first stop as one of STAND UK’s main homes. STAND UK is the new branch of the genocide prevention organisation STAND, which began with a campaign to take action in Darfur in 2004.

The last year has left Britain at a crucial crossroad. We can step back into the comfort of a self-regarding foreign policy or choose to become a moral world leader. One indication of the direction we take will be our peacekeeping commitments, and students at Cambridge have a powerful voice which can help to shape that trajectory. This is why you should demand that the UK government Keep The Peace in South Sudan, and all across the world.

Cambridge students can make a difference. All you have to do is make your voice heard.