Remarks at Dag Hammarskjöld Medal Awards Ceremony
on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
New York, 27 May 2011
Allow me to begin by expressing our deepest condolences to the families of those we mourn – and honour – today.
The Dag Hammarskjöld Medal was established by the Security Council fourteen 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 UN 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 UN troops, police and civilian staff.
Our operations are 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 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: 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 spouses and friends – understand that their loved ones died for the most noble of causes: lasting peace.