UN marks Peacekeepers Day with tribute to ‘blue helmets’ serving worldwide

UN Photo/Marie Frechon
UN Photo/Marie Frechon
UN Photo/Marie Frechon

UN marks Peacekeepers Day with tribute to ‘blue helmets’ serving worldwide

The United Nations today saluted the military, police and civilian personnel who serve in some of the world’s most dangerous places, and paid tribute to the memory of those colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving as UN peacekeepers.

“Today we honour the 112 fallen heroes who died while serving under the United Nations flag in 2011,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a wreath-laying ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York.

“They may be soldiers, police or national staff. But there are no differences among them in terms of the risks they faced, the contributions they made, and the pride they took in their service to the United Nations,” he stated. “The difference between an ordinary person and a hero is that the hero voluntarily braves danger to save others.”

Observed annually on 29 May, the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, aims to honour the memory of the UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the cause of peace, and pay tribute to all the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, in UN peacekeeping operations.

The theme for this year’s observance is ‘Peacekeeping is a Global Partnership,’ highlighting the global partnerships that help sustain UN peacekeeping. These partnerships include those with the Security Council, which provides UN peacekeeping with legal and political authority; with the Member States, which provide personnel and financial contributions; and, with the host countries where peacekeeping missions are located.

In a separate message for the Day, Mr. Ban said it provided an occasion to salute the 120,000 peacekeepers serving in 17 missions around the world, and is also a time to mourn fallen peacekeepers. In 2011, 112 men and women died devoting their lives to peace. So far this year, another 31 peacekeepers have died while serving the Organization.

“Our goal in peacekeeping is to bring lasting stability to troubled areas so that blue helmets are no longer needed. We would like to put ourselves out of business,” said Mr. Ban. “But until that day comes, we stand ready to help, carrying on the work of those we remember today.”

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, told the ceremony that it is “completely unacceptable” whenever UN peacekeepers are targeted. “I call on everyone to respect the mandated role of our blue helmets to keep the peace in some of the world’s most troubled places," he said.

Peacekeepers help to protect millions of vulnerable civilian from violence, he added. “This is not easy work. We go in order to give hope to people who have been through the horror of war, and who yearn for a chance to rebuild their lives in peace,” the peacekeeping chief said.

Touching on this year’s theme for the Day, Mr. Ladsous said the UN’s partnership with Member States who support and resource peacekeeping is “the critical foundation for our joint efforts.”

“The best way we can honour our fallen colleagues is by re-committing ourselves to the work of keeping the peace, the work for which they sacrificed their lives,” he stated at the Dag Hammarskjöld medal ceremony to honour fallen peacekeepers, also held at UN Headquarters.

Currently, UN peacekeeping operations receive contributions of military and police personnel from 116 Member States. In addition to the partnerships with individual nations, UN peacekeeping works closely with UN agencies, funds and programmes working on the ground, as well as with regional organizations, such as the African Union.

The International Day is being marked with events at various peacekeeping missions, including parades and cultural programmes in the Darfur region of Sudan and in Liberia, as well as ceremonies in South Sudan and Lebanon.