25 May 2010
Press Release
OBV/882
PKO/243

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

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to Be Marked

 

at United Nations Headquarters on 28 May

 


The eighth annual International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be observed on 29 May — a particularly sombre occasion due to the heavy loss of life of peacekeepers in Haiti and elsewhere earlier this year.


Since 29 May falls on Saturday this year, commemorative activities at United Nations Headquarters and many other United Nations offices around the world will be held on Friday, 28 May.


The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving 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.  The General Assembly designated 29 May as the Day, as it was the date in 1948 when the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.


One hundred twenty one peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving with the United Nations in 2009 will posthumously receive the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal on 28 May.  In addition, this year the United Nations will also honour those who died in January and February 2010.  Of the 101 fatalities suffered by the United Nations as a result of the 12 January 2010 earthquake, 96 were from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the biggest single loss of life in the history of United Nations peacekeeping.


Among other tragedies that befell peacekeepers in 2009 were a fatal airplane crash in Haiti and an assault on United Nations staff at a guest house in Kabul.  Attacks continued in 2009 and 2010 against peacekeepers in Darfur.


“This year’s commemoration is a sombre one.  The past 14 months have been especially deadly for United Nations peacekeeping,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message marking the Day.


“The recent tragedy in Haiti highlights the sacrifice and dedication of UN peacekeepers who deploy around the world — despite the dangers and risks they face — with the common goal of providing a better future for the people in the countries in which they serve,” said Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.


This year’s commemorative ceremonies come at a time when the services of United Nations peacekeepers are in greater demand than ever.  There are more than 124,000 peacekeepers, including 100,000 military and police personnel from 115 countries, serving in 16 operations on four continents. This broad-based participation not only bolsters the strength of United Nations operations, but it is also a clear demonstration of widespread respect for, dependence on and confidence in United Nations peacekeeping.


As peacekeeping has grown in size, it has also grown in scope.  Peacekeeping’s traditional role of monitoring ceasefire agreements and borders between sovereign States has evolved to carrying out large-scale multidimensional peacekeeping operations, addressing intra-State conflicts.  Many newer missions are mandated to facilitate political processes through the promotion of national dialogue and reconciliation; protect civilians; assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; support the organization of elections; protect and promote human rights; promote reform of the domestic security sector; and assist in restoring the rule of law.


To honour the fallen peacekeepers and those who continue to serve in the cause of peace, there will be several events held at Headquarters in New York on 28 May.


United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will oversee a solemn wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all fallen peacekeepers in the Visitors’ Lobby at 9:15 a.m.  The ceremony is open to the public and the press.


Under-Secretary-General Le Roy will preside over a ceremony in the Economic and Social Council Chamber in the North Lawn Building at 10 a.m., at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medals will be awarded posthumously to the military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations in 2009 and during the first two months of 2010, including those who perished in Haiti.  The Medals will be received by representatives of the respective Permanent Missions to be forwarded on to the next of kin.


Mr. Le Roy will be joined by the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susana Malcorra, at a press conference at Headquarters at 12:15 p.m.


Mr. Le Roy will award medals to the military and police officers currently serving in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at 2 p.m.


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


* *** *


For information media • not an official record