Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 29 May 2009
Let us begin by observing a minute of silence for our fallen colleagues.
[MINUTE OF SILENCE.]
Thank you for participating in this solemn ceremony. We have just observed a minute of silence for our fallen colleagues.
The International Day of UN Peacekeepers is an occasion to celebrate the invaluable contributions they make throughout the world. But it is also a day on which we mourn the heroes among them who have died in the service of peace.
Sadly, I have attended many such wreath-laying ceremonies, from Lebanon to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each time, I am overwhelmed by the loss and awed by the dedication of our fallen comrades.
Last year, more United Nations peacekeepers were deployed than ever before. This reflects the world's confidence in the UN's flagship security operations – and its great expectations for our success.
But the United Nations also reached another terrible milestone last year: the highest number of fatalities in the history of UN peacekeeping. One hundred and thirty-two brave individuals lost their lives in 2008. Some fell victim to violence, others to accidents, still others to disease. Some came from countries far away, and others worked proudly as national staff. But all of them shared a belief in the value of serving the greater good, and a willingness to sacrifice their own safety for this cause.
I am sure that some of you here today lost friends and colleagues last year. I offer my most sincere condolences.
The legacy of these men and women lives on. It lives on in what they did for the people of the countries in which they served. It lives on in the example they set for all of us as talented, dedicated professionals.
The best tribute we can pay them is to solidify the progress they fought and died for, and to continue their work until we have achieved lasting peace where once there was war.
Let us also draw inspiration from their lives. And let us preserve their memory in our hearts.