Today, members of the UN family around the world join together to commemorate our colleagues who gave their lives in the cause of peace last year. In 2006, for the fourth year in a row, more than 100 peacekeepers lost their lives. This brings home to us the risks that our colleagues in peacekeeping undertake on behalf of the international community to provide peace, security and hope to hundreds of millions of people.
As we mourn those we have lost, we pay tribute to the professionalism, dedication and courage of those who are carrying on the proud legacy of our fallen comrades in 18 peace operations on four continents.
Last year, for the first time, more than 100,000 peacekeepers were deployed by the United Nations. One hundred and fifteen countries now contribute uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping operations. Both of these figures are at an all-time high. They speak of unprecedented confidence in – and expectations of – UN peacekeeping.
But even these numbers do not do justice to the myriad contributions being made by the individual soldiers, police, electoral experts, child protection officers and others who staff our missions. Not only do they carry out core security functions like maintaining order and removing mines; they rebuild schools and bridges in efforts that combine to raise standards of living, slowly but surely.
The ordinary people who benefit from these unseen efforts are often among the world’s most vulnerable. Peacekeepers ensure that refugees and displaced persons can return to their homes; that ex-combatants are disarmed and reintegrated into society; that children are taken off the battlefield and sent to school; that people exercise their right to vote in democratic elections; that individuals human rights are protected, not violated, by police forces and judicial systems; and that fields and forests are de-mined so that they can be used to sustain life instead of trigger death.
We should all be proud of these achievements. But we cannot rest on our laurels. We must find ways to ensure we are equipped to meet the challenges ahead. That is why I have proposed a bold package to restructure and strengthen our capacity.
For my part, I will keep visiting, as often as I can, the conflict-ravaged countries where our blue helmets proudly serve. I ask that the Security Council always give peacekeepers the mandate and tools they need to do their jobs. I ask troop-contributing countries to sustain their support.
On this International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, I pay tribute to all the men and women serving in our operations. Your work is a source of pride for the United Nations every day of the year.
Secretary-General's Remarks at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
Dear colleagues and friends,
Let us begin by observing a minute of silence for our fallen colleagues.
[MINUTE OF SILENCE.]
United Nations peacekeeping is a model of burden-sharing among countries. But we must never forget that the brunt of this burden is borne by individuals.
We are mindful of that as we gather here in front of the Chagall stained glass window memorializing Dag Hammarskjöld and his colleagues, who died on a peace mission to Congo; as we stand under the watchful eyes of Count Folke Bernadotte, who was assassinated while working as a UN mediator in the Middle East; as we look to the noble but tattered flag which was rescued from the bombing of our Baghdad headquarters, where twenty-two of our colleagues perished.
The loss of our own in the cause of peace is not a distant reality -- many of you who join me here today are thinking of fallen colleagues and friends. And many of you have had your own experiences of danger while serving in a United Nations peacekeeping environment. For those who survived, we are thankful. For those who lost their lives, we are that much more determined to honour their selfless dedication and courage, by continuing to work for peace and security in the world's most troubled regions.
In 2006, for the fourth year in a row, more than 100 men and women died in the service of United Nations peacekeeping. Now, with our deployment at a record high, more soldiers, police and civilian staff face danger in places like Sudan , the Middle East and Haiti . This was brought home to us just last Friday, with the brutal killing of Lieutenant-Colonel Ehab Nazih, a UN peacekeeper from Egypt spearheading our effort in Darfur.
I cannot accept the risks as the ‘cost of doing business.' I am determined to do everything possible to safeguard the security and safety of our UN personnel in the field, from advocating robust mandates to ensuring they have the equipment they need to carry them out.
The wreath we lay today will not be here forever. But the memory of all those who have died will always be with us. Let us strive to ensure that these monuments to the fallen will be joined by even greater tributes to their work: lasting peace in societies that had been torn apart by war.