22 May 2015

Marking International Day, Secretary-General Heralds ‘Blue Helmets’ as Symbol of Hope for Millions Living in War-Ravaged Lands

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, observed on 29 May:

This year’s International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers falls during the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations, offering a chance to honour the invaluable contribution of the Blue Helmets to the proud history of the Organization.  United Nations peacekeeping has given life to the UN 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.

UN peacekeeping fosters burden-sharing that spreads risks and opportunities across countries large and small and from both the developed and developing worlds.  I applaud the more than 107,000 uniformed peacekeepers from 122 troop- and police-contributing countries now serving in 16 missions.

In its 70 years, the United Nations has established 71 peacekeeping operations.  More than 1 million people have served as peacekeepers, helping countries gain independence, supporting historic elections, protecting civilians, disarming hundreds of thousands of ex-combatants, establishing the rule of law, promoting human rights and creating the conditions for refugees and displaced persons to return home.  We should all be proud of these accomplishments.

Today, UN peacekeeping is adapting to new global realities, including asymmetric threats in some of the world’s most challenging environments.  We have modernized our operations, introduced new technologies, broadened our base of contributors and strengthened our partnerships with regional organizations.

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.

To explore how best to meet these challenges, I appointed a High-level Independent Panel to assess the state of UN peace operations today, both peacekeeping and special political missions, and the emerging needs of the future.  This will be the first major review since 2000 and I look forward to a bold and comprehensive set of recommendations.

Today, we honour the memory of those who gave their lives to the cause of peace and pay tribute to all men and women who carry on their legacy by serving in the field.  More than 3,300 peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag, including 126 last year.  The risks continue to grow as peacekeepers are targeted by improvised explosive devices or complex terrorist attacks.

As we commemorate seven decades of the United Nations, let us all do our part to ensure the effectiveness of this flagship enterprise of the Organization.

For information media. Not an official record.