Across the globe, commemorations will mark International Day of UN Peacekeepers

26 May 2006

From conflict-ravaged countries where blue helmets are deployed to help restore peace to United Nations Headquarters in New York where the Security Council decides on where to send troops, the world will mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers next week.

From conflict-ravaged countries where blue helmets are deployed to help restore peace to United Nations Headquarters in New York where the Security Council decides on where to send troops, the world will mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers next week.

The observance – officially on 29 May but two days later in New York to accommodate a local holiday – comes as an unprecedented number of countries contribute their forces to the world body’s ever-more complex operations. But there has also been a steep cost, with a higher death toll suffered last year than any in the past decade.

In New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address a solemn gathering where the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to military, police and civilian personnel, both international and national staff, who lost their lives serving in UN peacekeeping operations. The medals will be received by representatives of the respective countries to be forwarded on to the next of kin.

Military and police officers currently serving at UN Headquarters in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will be awarded peacekeeping service medals at a separate outdoor ceremony later in the day.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) will use the occasion to give Monrovia and other towns across the country a ‘face-lift’ when military and civilian staff will join forces with Liberian students and former fighters to clean, paint and restore sidewalks, school buildings and other facilities throughout the war-ravaged country.

There, as in other UN missions, ceremonies will be held to honour fallen colleagues. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the UN is helping to organize a massive election, the observance will focus on the promotion of a culture of peace.

Police and soldiers serving under the UN flag will organize special events in schools in Kinshasa, where they will explain the work of peacekeepers’ to the students. Events will also include a unique theater presentation on peacekeepers, and a special meal to be shared with teachers and children.

In Burundi, where the UN has deployed a mission since 2004, there will be a military parade, food festival, and a photo exhibition focused on peace.

At the Vienna International Centre, ceremonies will feature officials from the Austrian Blue Helmets Association and will include video clips showing peacekeepers in action. A contingent from the Austrian Armed Forces who are about to go on mission to the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights will also participate.

The UN’s Geneva headquarters will hold a solemn wreath-laying and flag-raising ceremony at the UN Memorial at the Palais des Nations on 1 June. Also on the programme is a roundtable discussion featuring diplomats and military leaders involved in peacekeeping as well as academics and UN officials.

UN Associations (UNAs) around the world are also observing the Day. On 31 May, the Westminster Branch of the UNA-United Kingdom will be holding its third annual conference and wreath-laying ceremony with the participation of more than 55 Member States.

UN Peacekeepers’ Day was established in 2002, when the General Assembly adopted resolution 57/129, which selected 29 May as the day to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

There are currently more than 72,000 “blue helmets” and 15,000 civilians serving around the world in the Organization’s ever more multidimensional and complex peacekeeping operations.

More peacekeepers died in the service of the UN in 2005 than in any other year in the last decade. While performing their official duties in difficult and dangerous circumstances, 124 peacekeepers from 46 countries lost their lives to violence, disease and accidents. A further 32 have fallen in the line of duty so far in 2006.

 

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