Thank you for attending this commemoration. This is a sad occasion on our UN calendar – but one we will always honour with the greatest possible dignity.
It is appropriate that we meet at this UN Peacekeeping memorial site, which pays eternal tribute to our fallen colleagues.
Let us now observe a solemn moment of silence to honour the 126 heroes from 38 countries who died while serving under the United Nations flag in 2014 – and to remember the 3,366 who have lost their lives in the history of UN peacekeeping.
[OBSERVED MOMENT OF SILENCE]
This is a time of danger and growth for our United Nations blue helmets.
We now have more peacekeeping personnel serving than ever before, with more than 125,000 in the field.
The deployments are higher – and so are the death tolls.
In the first 45 years of the United Nations, there were four years when more than 100 peacekeepers lose their lives. In just the last 14 years, we have suffered that terrible loss already ten times.
Last year was the seventh year in a row that more than 100 peacekeepers lost their lives.
The conditions were especially hazardous in Mali. Our Mission there lost 28 of their colleagues due to malicious acts and 41 overall. This is one of the highest one-year fatality rates for any peacekeeping operation in UN history.
Also last year, in Darfur, two dozen peacekeepers lost their lives. Three of them, from Ethiopia, were senselessly killed while protecting a water pump that was used by internally displaced persons and students from a nearby school.
In Liberia, for the first time we lost peacekeeping personnel to Ebola.
Elsewhere in Africa, the Middle East, Haiti and beyond, men and women from UN peacekeeping succumbed to deadly diseases, accidents and acts of violence. These dangers are all too prevalent in the course of their life-saving work.
The threats continue. Already this year, 49 peacekeepers have lost their lives.
The operational environments are getting worse. Our peacekeepers are increasingly exposed to asymmetric threats. They are attacked, targeted and killed by extremists.
I take these dangers very seriously. That is why I have been doing everything possible to adapt our operations to these more dangerous environments. We need new capabilities. We cannot do 21st century peacekeeping with 20th century tools.
Our experts are taking steps to provide better safety and security. We have started deploying more armoured vehicles. We are enhancing security at our facilities. We are utilizing new technology to carry out work which would be more dangerous if it had to be done by peacekeepers.
We can never eliminate the risks entirely but the peacekeeping community – the Secretariat at Headquarters, missions in the field and Member States – must recommit to doing everything possible to protect our personnel in the field.
Today’s solemn remembrance is not just a look back. It is a time to look ahead with resolve. Right now, the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations is preparing its report. I look forward to their recommendations.
Right now, in these difficult environments, blue helmets are patrolling insecure areas, disarming combatants, supporting elections, monitoring human rights, removing landmines and much more. Most importantly, they protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people. I thank them for their service and I honour their sacrifice.
Let us also remember that the vast majority of UN peacekeepers hail from developing countries. I thank those nations in particular for sending their sons and daughters to serve proudly under our blue flag. And I ask the developed nations – which have greater resources – to carry their fair share of this collective burden and resume their historic role in UN peacekeeping.
In this 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we celebrate many accomplishments. This institution has saved many lives in its history – but we must never forget those who lost their lives to make this possible.
Let us honour the memory of our fallen peacekeepers throughout this day – and even more importantly let us carry on their mission every day around the world.
I thank you for your leadership and commitment.