Global perspective Human stories

Blue helmets have saved countless lives, UN peacekeeping chief says

Blue helmets have saved countless lives, UN peacekeeping chief says

United Nations peacekeepers can claim credit for saving numerous lives over the past six decades by stabilizing countries that were previously engulfed by protracted war or unrest, the head of the world body’s peacekeeping operations said today.

Awarding the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to the 90 military, police and civilian personnel who died last year while serving in UN operations, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno said staff at UN missions “work tirelessly and courageously to resolve conflict and pave the way to a lasting peace.”

The medals, received by representatives of the 42 countries from which the 90 personnel hailed, were presented at UN Headquarters in New York a day after the world body observed the International Day for UN Peacekeepers.

This year the Day coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of the first-ever UN peacekeeping operation, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), to monitor an armistice between Israel and its neighbours.

“After 60 years of peacekeeping, we cannot claim victory in the pursuit of peace,” Mr. Guéhenno said. “But we can take credit for stabilizing societies that were once the scenes of intractable conflict, saving countless lives in the process.”

He said the blue helmet has become one of the most iconic images in the world, “worn by some of the most compassionate people, helping some of the most vulnerable people in some of the most dangerous places.”

The Under-Secretary-General added that the best way to honour the sacrifice of those peacekeepers who have fallen in service is by “redoubling our efforts to ensure that the mandates given to UN peacekeeping are matched by the resources needed to help achieve its goal of helping societies to recover from the effects of war and destruction, and to establish lasting peace and stability.”

Later today he also presented medals to military and police officials currently serving in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).