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International Day of UN Peacekeepers,
29 May 2010

Responding to Haiti tragedy, UN peacekeepers
exemplified dedication and professionalism

Ayiti Kanpe-Haiti Standing

More than 124,000 peacekeepers are now deployed in 15 operations worldwide, clear evidence of global respect for, dependence on and confidence in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The international community counts on its Blue Helmets to protect the vulnerable in some of the world's most dangerous places, but their service comes at a high cost--throughout UN peacekeeping’s more than 60-year history, violence, accidents and disease have cost the lives of more than 2,700 individuals working in hot spots around the world, from the Middle East to the Balkans, Africa and beyond.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was working with the Haitian authorities to support political stability, promote human rights and bolster security when a massive earthquake struck the country on 12 January. More than 230,000 Haitians lost their lives in one of that nation's darkest days. Additionally, 101 UN personnel, including 96 peacekeepers, were killed. It was the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike Haiti and the biggest single loss of life in the history of UN peacekeeping. For the peacekeepers, the tragedy was colossal. The collapse of MINUSTAH’s Headquarters took the lives of the mission’s chief, Hédi Annabi and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa, as well as its police commissioner Douglas Coates, who were attending a meeting with a visiting Chinese delegation. Nearly one hundred more UN military, police and civilian personnel from around the world and Haiti itself also perished at the Headquarters and other UN facilities in the capital. A total of 29 UN Member States lost uniformed or civilian personnel in the disaster. Brazil, which has played a strong leading role in the peacekeeping mission since its inception in 2004, lost 20 of its nationals, more than any other troop or police contributing country.

Despite these tremendous losses, the UN peacekeepers knew that their vital work to restore stability was even more urgent amid the chaos. The mission adjusted and recalibrated. The peacekeepers immediately started the somber work of looking for survivors and recovering the remains of those who perished, while at the same time reconstructing the mission and planning and implementing a strategic response to the disaster.

Since the quake, MINUSTAH has continued to work hard to help stabilize Haiti and the professionalism, dedication and courage shown by the ‘blue helmets’ in Haiti since then is just one of many examples of UN peacekeeping helping countries overcome conflict and tragedy. The peacekeepers in Haiti, and their colleagues serving worldwide, are the personification of one of the most important functions of the United Nations – maintaining international peace and security. On a more human level, their works gives people from conflict-torn countries hope for a better, safer and more secure future. For this, they rightly deserve the recognition they receive today -- the eighth annual International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

UN Web Services Section, Department of Public Information, United Nations © 2010