2018 Theme: “UN Peacekeepers: 70 Years of Service and Sacrifice”
The theme for the 2018 International Day of UN Peacekeepers is “70 Years of Service and Sacrifice.” The Day, 29 May, offers a chance to pay tribute to the contributions of uniformed and civilian personnel to the work of the Organization and to honour more than 3,700 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 134 who died last year.
This year, the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of UN peacekeeping, a unique and dynamic instrument developed to help countries torn by conflict create the conditions for lasting peace. The first UN peacekeeping mission was established on 29 May 1948, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of a small number of UN military observers to the Middle East to form the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Over seven decades, more than one million men and women have served under the United Nations flag in 71 peacekeeping operations, directly impacting the lives of hundreds of millions of people, protecting the world’s most vulnerable and saving countless lives. Our peacekeepers make immense sacrifices, often serving at great personal risk and under challenging conditions. The families of peacekeepers and their governments share this sacrifice.
From Sierra Leone to Cambodia, Timor Leste, Namibia, El Salvador and elsewhere, United Nations Peacekeeping has helped countries transition from war to peace. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) successfully completed its mandate in March this year, becoming the 57th UN peacekeeping operation to do so. The closure of UNMIL also ended more than two decades of UN Peacekeeping in West Africa’s Mano River Basin.
Today, UN peacekeeping deploys more than 100,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 14 peacekeeping operations on four continents. Currently, UN peacekeeping operations receive contributions of military and police personnel from 124 Member States as well as critical equipment that sustain our operations. Peacekeeping is truly a global partnership and this number reflects strong global confidence in the value of the UN’s flagship enterprise. Peacekeeping has also proven to be a solid investment in global peace, security, and prosperity. Despite the size and breadth of its operations, at just under $7 billion a year, peacekeeping’s annual budget remains less than on half of one percent of global military spending.
UN peacekeeping is a flexible, evolving instrument that brings together political, security and technical tools at its disposal to assist countries make the difficult transition from conflict to peace. In March this year, the Secretary-General launched a new initiative, “Action for Peacekeeping,” aimed at improving performance and ensuring peacekeeping operations are fit for purpose in the face of ever more complex and dangerous theatres of operation. The initiative calls on Member States, the Security Council and troop- and police- contributing countries for a refocusing of peacekeeping with realistic expectations, mobilizing greater support for political solutions and, making peacekeeping missions stronger and safer by deploying well-equipped and well-trained forces, including more women to our operations.
While the International Day of United Nations Peacekeeper’s Day is 29 May, UN Headquarters in New York will celebrate it this year on 1 June. The Secretary-General will preside over a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all peacekeepers who have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag. In addition, the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to the peacekeepers who died in 2017 while serving in the cause of peace.