15 June 2011
It is a privilege to be among you who have served the United Nations with honour and distinction – and to be here at this school for peacekeeping operations which has taught and trained so many.
I am also pleased to be here in this, the bicentennial year of Uruguay as well as the Uruguayan Army.
Peacekeeping is an indispensable part of the United Nations' work for a better world. And Uruguay's commitment to global peacekeeping is without rival.
When adjusted for population, no country contributes more troops than Uruguay. Your courage and dedication make this possible.
Later today, I will address the Parliament of Uruguay.
There, I will speak at length about your service.
Your efforts to deepen peace. Your spirit that has transformed communities. Your work making a difference around the world.
The practice of peacekeeping is changing. Long ago, our operations largely patrolled static cease fire lines. Today, they are typically dynamic and across many dimensions.
Your efforts directly help millions of people by providing security and promoting reconciliation, clearing land-mines and demobilizing combatants, strengthening institutions and the rule of law, delivering aid and repatriating refugees and displaced persons, supporting democratic elections, reforming the security sector and so much more.
We have seen that the credibility and effectiveness of an operation are affected by the speed with which troop contributing countries deploy and carry out humanitarian and peacekeeping tasks.
Uruguayan forces are well known for their standout ability to quickly deploy to some of the most troubled and remote places. In the hardest places, you are there.
I want you to know how deeply grateful I am for all of this.
You are part of a long legacy of service.
Uruguay has participated in peacekeeping since 1951. Your country has contributed to 21 peacekeeping missions. More than 25,000 Uruguayans have defended the ideals of the United Nations.
And you know all too well that peacekeeping is dangerous and difficult work – for all of the more than 120,000 military, police and civilians serving worldwide under the blue flag today, including more than 2,400 Uruguayans.
Through the years, 27 brave Uruguayans have paid the highest price.
I have just come from laying a wreath at the General José Artigas monument where I paid tribute to that sacrifice.
Recent events around the globe have reminded us of the ongoing risks.
In January 2010, 102 members of our peacekeeping family, including one Uruguayan, tragically perished in the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Last year, a total of 173 brave peacekeepers lost their lives due to natural disaster, acts of violence, accidents and disease.
And this year has brought a series of unprecedented tragedies in rapid succession.
In early April, the killing of seven personnel in an attack on the UN Mission's compound in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, shocked us all.
Just a few days later, 32 lives, many of them UN staff, were lost in the fatal MONUSCO plane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
During the same period, our missions in Liberia, Darfur and Cote d'Ivoire also suffered fatalities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The price of peace is high – but the cause of peace endures through you.
Your commitment is an inspiration to all who you serve.
It is an inspiration to me.
Thank you for all you do to nurture fragile peace and help societies recover from the effects of war and destruction.
Let us continue to work together in the spirit of peace.
A los Soldados Uruguayos, que estan siempre listos y siempre presente, les doy mi mas profundo agradecimiento por su apoyo al esfuerzo de Naciones Unidas y la causa de la paz.