Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will lead the inaugural ceremony to award the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” as the New York Headquarters observes the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Thursday, 19 May.
He will present the first such medal to the family of the late Captain Diagne, who saved hundreds of lives in 1994 while serving as a peacekeeper in Rwanda before succumbing to a fatal injury incurred while on duty.
The Secretary-General will also lay a wreath to honour all fallen peacekeepers, and preside over a ceremony during which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to 129 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations during 2015.
In a message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General said: “On this Day, we honour our heroes — the more than 1 million men and women who have served under the United Nations flag with pride, distinction and courage since the first deployment in 1948. And we pay our highest tribute to the more than 3,400 peacekeepers who have lost their lives while in service during that period.”
The 2016 observance will mark the eighth successive year in which the Organization will honour more than 100 “Blue Helmets” who lost their lives in the previous year while serving the cause of peace. Today, more than 105,000 uniformed personnel from 124 troop- and police-contributing countries serve under the blue flag, alongside 18,000 international and national civilian staff and United Nations Volunteers.
In addition to maintaining peace and security, peacekeepers are increasingly charged with assisting in political processes; reforming judicial systems; training law-enforcement and police forces; disarming and reintegrating former combatants; and supporting the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. In the words of the Secretary-General, “they manifest the best attributes of global solidarity, courageously serving in dangerous environments to provide security to some of the world’s most vulnerable”.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: “Over 120,000 men and women — military, police and civilians — today serve in 16 missions worldwide. Our peacekeepers are deployed in some of the world’s most dangerous and austere environments. Too many of them have paid the ultimate price while serving under the blue flag in the name of peace. Today, we pay tribute to their memory by rededicating ourselves to the ideals for which they have sacrificed so much.”
According to Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, “the sacrifices of the brave men and women of peacekeeping inspire us to serve with courage and dignity and to pursue continuous improvement and innovation in our work. We owe this not just to our departed colleagues, but also to the millions of civilians that we have been entrusted to protect. We must continue to work together to enable complex operations to succeed with rapid, effective, efficient and responsible support.”
The International Day 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 first peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, began operations.
Commemorative activities will be held at Headquarters to enable the Heads of the Military Components of United Nations peacekeeping operations, who will be present in New York this week, to join the Secretary-General in observing the Day. United Nations peacekeeping operations, information centres and other offices around the world will observe the Day on or around 29 May.
Schedule of Events at Headquarters on 19 May
9:30 a.m.: A wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all fallen peacekeepers will be held in the Visitors Lobby of the General Assembly Building. The ceremony is open to United Nations-based media and will be shown on UN Webcast at http://webtv.un.org.
9:45 a.m.: The inaugural presentation ceremony for the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” will be held in the General Assembly Hall and will be shown on UN Webcast.
10 a.m.: The Dag Hammarskjöld Medal ceremony will be held in the General Assembly Hall and will be shown on UN Webcast.
3 p.m.: Medal parade for the military and police officers currently serving in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at New York Headquarters General Assembly Plaza, which is outdoors, alongside the east side of the General Assembly Building.
For further information, please contact Douglas Coffman, Department of Public Information, at tel.: +1 212 963 4481, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Alban Mendes de Leone of Peacekeeping Operations, at tel.: +1 212 963 0596 or +1 917 226 5219, or e-mail: email@example.com; or visit the Peacekeepers Day website at www.un.org/en/events/peacekeepersday, or the United Nations Peacekeeping website at www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/pkday.shtml.