The United Nations will commemorate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. Today, more than 96,000 uniformed personnel from 124 troop- and-police-contributing countries serve under the blue flag, alongside more than 15,000 international and national civilian staff and nearly 1,600 United Nations Volunteers.
In his message to mark the Day, Secretary-General António Guterres announced that he will spend the Day with United Nations Peacekeepers in Mali “to express my solidarity with colleagues facing high casualties and enormous volatility.”
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of UN Peacekeeping, the flagship enterprise of the Organization described by the Secretary-General as “a proven investment in global peace, security and prosperity.” “We express our gratitude to the more than one million men and women who have served under the UN flag, saving countless lives. We honour the more than 3,700 blue helmets who have paid the ultimate price over the past seven decades. And we pay tribute to the 14 peacekeeping missions working around the clock to protect people and advance the cause of peace,” according to Mr. Guterres.
At a time of increasingly complex conflicts and rising peacekeeper fatalities, the Secretary-General said: “As we recognize a legacy of service and sacrifice around the world, I am also committed to taking Action for Peacekeeping — action to make our operations more effective and safer in today’s challenging environments.”
Upon his return from Mali, the Secretary-General will preside over the observance of the International Day of Peacekeepers at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Friday, 1 June. He will lay a wreath to honour those who lost their lives while in the service of peace and will also officiate at a ceremony to posthumously present the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to the 129 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives in peacekeeping operations during 2017.
Among the fallen peacekeepers to be honoured are three from Zambia: Warrant Officer Class 2 Boyd CHIBUYE, who served with UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA); Police Sergeant Naomi ZULU and Police Inspector Bright SIKALINDA who were deployed with the African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
Zambia is the 21st largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping. It currently contributes nearly 1,100 military and police personnel to the UN peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and South Sudan.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: “Our peacekeepers – civilian, police, men and women, military personnel – save lives every day. Today, we honour those who have sacrificed their lives in service to peace. Their service and sacrifice inspires us to work harder to support a sustainable peace in some of the world’s most complex and challenging places.”
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who risk their lives every day in service to others, and we grieve with the families and nations of our fallen colleagues,” said Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare. “But beyond gratitude, we owe our peacekeepers all the support we can muster to ensure they are well-equipped, well-trained and well-prepared to complete their missions successfully.”
The General Assembly established the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The Assembly designated 29 May as the Day because it was the date in 1948 when the first UN peacekeeping mission – the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization — began operations in the Middle East.