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OBV/1471-PKO/487
22 May 2015

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to Be Observed at New York Headquarters, Offices Worldwide on 29 May

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be observed on Friday, 29 May, marking the seventh successive year in which the Organization will honour more than 100 “blue helmets” who lost their lives the previous year while serving the cause of peace.  Commemorative activities will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and at peacekeeping operations and offices around the world.

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, in tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.  The Assembly designated 29 May as the Day because it was the date in 1948 when the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the world body’s first peacekeeping mission, began operations in Palestine.

This year’s International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers falls during the significant seventieth anniversary of the United Nations, offering a chance to honour the blue helmets’ invaluable contribution to the proud history of the Organization and to reaffirm our commitment to make them even more effective in the years ahead.  Thus, the theme for the Day this year is “UN at 70:  Peacekeeping:  Past, Present, and Future”.

In a message to mark the Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:  “United Nations peacekeeping has given life to the Charter’s aim ‘to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security’.  Through years of struggle and sacrifice, the iconic blue helmet has earned its place as a symbol of hope to millions of people living in war-ravaged lands.”

The 2015 commemorative ceremonies will be held at a time when the demand for United Nations peacekeepers is at an all-time high.  There are now more than 125,000 United Nations peacekeepers, including 91,000 military personnel and 13,000 police officers, as well as 17,000 international civilian and national staff, serving in 16 operations on four continents.

“At the same time, demands far outpace resources.  We need better funding, training and equipment.  Our troops and police must carry out ever more complex mandates while being held to the highest standards of conduct.  We need developed countries to resume their historically influential role as contributors of troops.  And we need stronger political support from the Member States that are responsible for authorizing, financing and contributing troops and police to the missions,” according to the message of the Secretary-General.

Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said:  “We pay tribute to those courageous men and women who have lost their lives while serving on our peacekeeping missions.  I express my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have paid the ultimate price.  Today, we are witnessing our largest deployment in the history of United Nations peacekeeping.  This is a testament of the international community’s faith in peacekeeping as a fundamental tool in helping to promote peace and security.”

According to Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support:  “The international community has high expectations from our civilian and military peacekeepers and we must ensure they are provided with all the support they need to undertake their important tasks.  We must continue to work together to enable operations in remote and dangerous environments, at the same time, prioritizing the safety and security of our personnel, strengthen our collaboration and partnerships with troop- and police-contributing countries, improve the quality of service delivery, and make the most of our limited resources.”

Several events will be held at New York Headquarters on 29 May to honour the fallen peacekeepers and those who continue to serve the cause of peace:

10 a.m.:  There will be a solemn wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all the fallen at the Peacekeepers Memorial on the North Lawn.  The ceremony is open to United Nations-based media and will be shown — with a delay — on UN Webcast.  (http://webtv.un.org).  If there is inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Secretariat lobby.

10:30 a.m.:  At a ceremony, the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to 126 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations during 2014.  The medals for military and police personnel will be received by representatives of their respective Permanent Missions, to be forwarded to their next of kin.  The ceremony will be held in Conference Room 1 and will be shown on UN Webcast.

12 noon:  Mr. Ladsous and Mr. Khare will be the guests at the daily noon briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and their press briefing will be webcast live.

2 p.m.:  At a ceremony on the North Lawn, medals will be awarded to the military and police officers currently serving in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at New York Headquarters.

For further information, contact Douglas Coffman, Department of Public Information, tel.:  + 1 212 963 4481, e-mail:  coffmand@un.org; or Ismini Palla, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, tel.:  +1 917 367 3847, e-mail:  Palla@un.org; or visit the Peacekeepers Day website at http://www.un.org/en/events/peacekeepersday/, or the United Nations Peacekeeping website at http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/pkday.shtml.

For information media. Not an official record.