UN honours 60 years of service by peacekeepers with ceremonies worldwide
From solemn wreath-laying ceremonies honouring those who died in service to a peace march, a fun run, concerts and multimedia exhibitions, United Nations offices and missions around the world are today observing the International Day of UN Peacekeepers – 60 years to the day after the first blue helmets were authorized by the Organization.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno led a wreath-laying ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York this morning, noting that 90 peacekeepers died last year, taking the total number of personnel who have died since the first operation was established in 1948 to over 2,400.
“Serving far from home in challenging and dangerous environments, these men and women represent the best the international community has to offer; we pay tribute to their sacrifice and dedication in pursuit of the noble goals of the United Nations,” he said.
“But even as we mourn those we have lost, we pay tribute to the professionalism, dedication and courage of those who continue the work of their departed comrades whom we honour here today.”
More than 110,000 military, police and civilian personnel currently serve in 20 UN peace operations around the world, and the UN peacekeeping budget stands at $6.5 billion, an all-time high.
Mr. Guéhenno stressed that the demands on UN peacekeeping are so high in the modern era that the world body cannot meet them alone.
“We must build strong partnerships to ensure that we can move from providing initial security to rebuilding shattered societies.”
The UN’s peacekeeping chief also participated with Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyotaka Akasaka in the opening of a multimedia exhibition on the anniversary at UN Headquarters in New York.
The Department of Public Information (DPI) has arranged for the exhibition to be staged concurrently in cities around the world, including Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Canberra, Islamabad, Mexico City and Rabat.
Wreath-laying ceremonies for fallen peacekeepers also took place in many other countries with a UN presence, including Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia and Thailand.
In Timor-Leste, a peace march wound its way through the capital, Dili, while film screenings, concerts, sporting events and commemoration ceremonies were held across the country.
About 400 peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) took part in a three-kilometre race, while soccer games, a high school quiz contest and a university lecture were also conducted to mark the occasion.
UN blue helmets serving in the two separate missions in Sudan held free medical and veterinary clinics to benefit locals, while a one-minute period of silence was observed as part of a formal ceremony in the capital, Khartoum.
In Bangkok, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) organized a commemoration to mark the Day, including a formal panel discussion and the screening of a documentary about peacekeeping.
The Day is the exact anniversary of the date in 1948 when the Security Council established the first UN peacekeeping operation, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), to monitor an armistice between Israel and its neighbours.