We are here today to honour the 117 men and woman from 43 countries who lost their lives last year serving under the United Nations flag.
The medal we confer at today’s ceremony is named after my predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, who lost his life in the cause of peace, like the recipients of this medal.
Those we honour today died while protecting the world’s most vulnerable people and supporting countries in making the difficult transition from conflict to peace.
Our fallen heroes come from different countries and performed different jobs. They served as soldiers and police officers, and as national and international civilian staff. But they shared a common purpose, and an uncommon courage.
Recent attacks on our peacekeepers in Mali and in the Central African Republic remind us of the dangerous conditions in which our peacekeepers work. But these are not the only hazards they face. Every year, dozens of our staff die from injuries sustained in accidents, or from disease, while deployed far from their homes and families. We pay tribute to all who lost their lives in the service of peace.
I express my deepest sympathies to the 43 countries who lost peacekeepers last year. Some countries lost more lives than others—and we remain forever grateful. But every life is precious and each and every one of the 117 people we honour today helped to improve the lives of others and contributed to peace.
UN peacekeeping is one of the international community’s most effective investments to support peace, security and prosperity. It has a positive impact on the lives of millions of people around the world. While peacekeeping carries a tragically high price in lives lost, it brings enormous returns in lives saved.
There are risks when deploying peacekeepers to a crisis area, but inaction may carry even greater risks. We are still learning hard lessons from the Rwanda genocide.
We must continue to invest in the safety of our peacekeepers. The peacekeeping family – Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, the UN Secretariat and the Member States -- must work together to make peacekeeping as safe as possible using modern technology and equipment and better intelligence gathering.
We owe this to the women and men who risk their lives every day to fulfil our mandates.
I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those we honour today. Your sons and daughters, wives and husbands gave more than we can even ever repay. Our thoughts are with them and with you.
And if there is something that makes the United Nations known all over the world are Blue Helmets. In the modern times in which people talk about the word branding, peacekeeping is the most important element of UN branding. Peacekeeping is the most important aspect of the UN image. Our debt in relation to peacekeepers is something that we will never be able to repay.
And so ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in rising and in observing a moment of silence.