With United Nations peacekeeping set to expand as new missions are set up, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has emphasized that these operations remain the best investment in ensuring that stability endures.
"Peacekeeping missions can never end wars by themselves, but they do offer the best possible way of ensuring there is a sustainable peace," the Secretary-General said in a message marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, observed annually on 29 May. "Let us remember that the most expensive peacekeeping operation costs far less than the cheapest war."
Paying tribute to those who have lost their lives in the service of peace, he said, "We must continue to strive, as those brave peacekeepers did, to make it possible for the community of nations to live in peace."
More than 53,000 uniformed personnel and at least 11,000 civilian staff from 94 countries currently serve in 15 missions across the globe. Those numbers are likely to increase as the Security Council this week approved an operation for Burundi, while another is being planned for Sudan.
"The growth in missions is a welcome sign that many countries are choosing a healthier path as they emerge from violent conflicts," Mr. Annan said. But he noted that it places enormous strain on the UN's resources and urged countries to provide the additional troops and funds needed to achieve the tasks ahead.
UN peacekeeping has also moved beyond its traditional role as a monitor of ceasefires to engaging in such tasks as assisting political transitions, building institutions and fostering the spread of the rule of law, the Secretary-General noted. Missions are also supporting economic reconstruction, supervising elections, disarming militias and former combatants, facilitating humanitarian aid programmes and re-settling refugees and displaced persons.
The Day was inaugurated to commemorate more than 50 years of dedication and sacrifice by peacekeepers serving under the UN's flag to build confidence, reconcile warring parties and relieve suffering.