27 January 2009

Remarks at ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of Spain's participation in UN peacekeeping missions

Ban Ki-moon

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just over sixty years ago, a small group of international military observers was sent by the United Nations Security Council to supervise an uneasy ceasefire between the new state of Israel and its Arab neighbours.

This first peacekeeping mission was an experiment never envisaged by the founders of the United Nations.

But the model proved a success. The peacekeepers signalled the legitimacy of the United Nations and the political will of its Member States, whose military personnel served under the UN's blue flag.

Since then, UN peacekeeping has become a cornerstone of the international response to conflict resolution. Today, more than 110,000 UN peacekeepers are deployed in 18 missions around the world.

The scope of UN peacekeeping has also evolved to meet the changing nature of conflict. Beyond monitoring ceasefires, today's peacekeepers are called on to help nations stitch themselves back together after years of civil war.

With wide-ranging mandates, UN peacekeepers work to end the rule of the gun and restore sustainable democratic governance.

UN civilian and military personnel protect civilians, disarm ex-combatants, supervise elections and help build institutions for the rule of law. They are at the heart of international efforts to address some of the world's most intractable problems.

More than half of all United Nations Member States now contribute troops and police to peacekeeping operations. We are grateful to every one of them.

But today I want to give my particular thanks to the Government and people of Spain as we mark the 20th anniversary of Spain's participation in UN peacekeeping operations.

Since 1989, Spain has contributed more than 15,000 peacekeepers to 22 missions.

As we speak 1,200 Spanish men and women are serving the noble cause of peace far from home in Lebanon, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I salute their courage and commitment.

As Secretary-General, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the tremendous efforts of Spanish peacekeepers working to restore peace and stability in countries emerging from conflict. Just days ago, I saw the superb work they are doing in Lebanon, where the situation remains tense.

I have seen how communities shattered by decades of war have begun the process of rebuilding peace and stability with their help.

So today is a celebration.

But it is also a time to remember fallen colleagues.

Over the years more than 2,400 men and women have died serving the United Nations in the name of peace.

Twenty-nine have come from Spain. Each one is a hero. We mourn each loss.

Today we recommit ourselves to ensuring that their sacrifices are never forgotten, and that the vital work of the blue helmets will continue as long as they are needed.

As we look back on the history of UN peacekeeping, Spain can be rightly proud of what it has accomplished.

On this anniversary of Spain's commitment to peacekeeping, I am honoured to send my congratulations and my thanks to the Government and people of Spain.

Above all, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to every Spanish peacekeeper, past and present, who has, through thick and thin, served with dedication the cause of peace around the world.

May your fine example inspire others to strengthen their commitment to UN peacekeeping and the vital role it plays around the world.

Muchas gracias, EspaƱa, por apoyarnos en la lucha por la paz.