The tragedies that have befallen United Nations peacekeepers already this year are a sobering reminder of the risks entailed in their important work for peace. As we mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, we pay tribute to the more than 120,000 military, police and civilians serving worldwide under the blue flag and remember those who lost their lives in the cause of peace.
In recent months, the United Nations has suffered a series of tragedies in rapid succession. In early April, seven personnel were murdered in an attack on a UN compound in Afghanistan. Just a few days later, 32 lives, many of them UN staff, were lost in the crash of a plane serving the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These incidents added to others involving fatalities around the world, and followed the painful events of last year, when 173 peacekeepers lost their lives due to natural disasters, violence, accidents and disease, including more than 100 in the single, terrible blow of the January earthquake in Haiti.
As we remember the heavy sacrifices of our staff, we also hail their accomplishments. From supporting the Southern Sudan referendum to helping resolve the post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, from supporting training, capacity-building and institutional development of police in Timor-Leste to patrolling the hills of southern Lebanon, United Nations blue helmets have represented the Organization at its best: restoring stability, fostering reconciliation and nurturing hope for a better future.
Their deployment is a manifestation of our collective conviction that people who have survived a war should not have to suffer again through a period of insecurity, injustice and fear – and that only by removing these conditions can we engender lasting peace.
Upholding the rule of law, the theme of this year’s Day, is essential to successful peacekeeping. This requires strengthening confidence in police, justice systems and correctional services. That is why the United Nations trains police to never abuse their power, supports the proper functioning of courts to serve justice, and works for humane conditions of detention.
On this day of United Nations Peacekeepers, focused on the rule of law, we thank the countries that contribute troops, police and civilian personnel to our operations, and we honour those individuals who serve the United Nations with such distinction and dedication.