26 May 2009
Press Release
OBV/789
PKO/211

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPERS ON 29 MAY TO FOCUS


ON WOMEN PEACEKEEPERS AS EFFORT CONTINUES TOWARDS GENDER EQUITY


The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be marked on 29 May at United Nations Headquarters in New York, as well as its peacekeeping missions and offices around the world, with a special focus on women peacekeepers, as the United Nations tries to move towards gender equity in its ranks.


This year’s commemorative ceremonies come at a time when the services of United Nations peacekeepers are in greater demand than ever.  There are currently more than 113,000 peacekeepers, including 90,000 military and police personnel from 117 countries, serving in 18 operations on four continents.


At United Nations Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to oversee a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at 9:15 a.m. in honour of the 132 peacekeeping personnel, 10 of them women, who lost their lives -– whether through attacks, illnesses or accidents –- in 2008 in the service of peace.  The ceremony is open to the press.


As part of the commemoration ceremonies, on 29 May, Dag Hammarskjöld Medals will be awarded posthumously to the military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives last year serving in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  The Secretary-General will speak at the beginning of this ceremony, which starts at 10 a.m.  The medals will be received by representatives of the respective Permanent Missions to be forwarded on to the next of kin.  In a separate ceremony starting at 3 p.m., Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy will award medals at Headquarters to the military and police officers currently serving in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.


In addition, Mr. Le Roy will be joined by the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susana Malcorra, at a press conference at the United Nations Headquarters at noon.


This year, the United Nations is marking the Day with special emphasis on the important role played by women peacekeepers and the need to deploy them in greater numbers.  


In his message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General said:  “There are still far too few women peacekeepers.  With women joining national militaries and police in greater numbers, it is critical that Member States contribute even more female personnel to the United Nations.  On this International Day, let us draw on the power of women to strengthen UN peacekeeping while helping women and girls themselves to transform their destinies –- and societies –- for the better.”  


However, women make up only 8 per cent of the United Nations police and 2 per cent of its military personnel.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has urged troop and police-contributing countries to deploy more women.   India answered the call in 2007 with the deployment of a 125-member all-female police contingent to Liberia.  The United Nations is also working to increase the number of women in senior positions at Headquarters and in field missions.


“We have done a lot but we need to do a great deal more.  Peacekeeping has become more multifaceted.  We assist in providing security, reforming State institutions and supporting political transitions.  Our women peacekeepers make a critical contribution in all of these areas and their work encourages others to participate in local peace processes,” said Mr. Le Roy.


Of the 117 countries that provide uniformed peacekeepers to the United Nations, the largest contributors are Pakistan (10,626), Bangladesh (9,220), India (8,617), Nigeria (5,792) and Nepal (3,856).


The 29th of May is the date in 1948 when the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.  In 2002, the General Assembly designated 29 May as United Nations Peacekeepers Day to pay tribute to all 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.


“Women in Peacekeeping:  The Power to Empower” is the title of a multimedia exhibit set to open in the Visitors’ Lobby at United Nations Headquarters at 2 p.m. on 29 May.  A short film with the same title is now available at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ondemand/peace/pkdaywomen.rm, or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAuFQj9xBYc.


United Nations peacekeeping, built on more than 60 years of experience in the field, is widely acknowledged to be an indispensable tool for the international community in tackling the difficult issues of inter-State and, increasingly, intra-State conflicts.  United Nations peacekeeping’s legitimacy and universality are unique, derived from its character as a collective security effort undertaken on behalf of a global organization comprising 192 Member States.


For further information, contact Douglas Coffman, Department of Public Information, +1 212 963 4481, coffmand@un.org; or Nick Birnback, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, +1 917 367 5044, birnback@un.org.  Or, visit the Peacekeepers Day website at http://www.un.org/en/events/peacekeepersday/.


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For information media • not an official record