27 May 2011
Deputy Secretary-General

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

Deputy Secretary-General, in Remarks to Medal Awards Ceremony, Says Burden

of United Nations Peacekeeping Falls on Individuals Men, Women

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal awards ceremony today, for the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in New York, to be observed on 29 May:

The Dag Hammarskjöld Medal was established by the Security Council 14 years ago to recognize the sacrifice of those who had lost their lives in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  At that time, more than 1,500 brave and dedicated individuals from 85 countries had died while serving under the blue flag.  That was the toll for the first 50 years of United Nations peacekeeping.

Sadly, not even a decade and a half later, that number has almost doubled, to 2,900 individuals who have lost their lives, from some 120 countries.  This reflects the risks inherent in our work, but it is also a sign of how much peacekeeping has grown — and how successful it has been.

Precisely because peacekeeping brings lasting security to so many war-torn countries, the international community relies more and more on our United Nations troops, police and civilian staff.  Our peacekeeping operations are hence expanding in size.  They are also expanding in scope, from monitoring ceasefire lines and the separation of forces in the early days, to our modern operations that track human rights violations, protect civilian populations and humanitarian relief, support elections, promote the rule of law, and much more.

All of this entails heavy responsibilities.  And while it is Member States that authorize our missions, and Governments that send us their uniformed personnel, in the end the burden falls on individuals, in particular the men and women we posthumously honour today.

The medals you accept on behalf of the families that live with their loss day in and day out are a small, but solid, symbol of our deepest sympathies, as well as our sincerest gratitude for their sacrifice.

May the survivors – the siblings and parents, the children, the spouses and friends – understand that their loved ones died for the most noble of causes:  lasting peace.

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For information media • not an official record