Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour to be here with you today to remember the brave women and men who lost their lives while serving United Nations Peacekeeping.
Since UN Peacekeeping opened its first mission 70 years ago, more than 3,700 military, police and civilian peacekeepers have lost their lives. They include 132 from 37 countries last year. These peacekeepers gave their lives to protect the lives of others. We are forever in their debt, and they are always in our hearts.
Please join me in a moment of silence as we remember them, and more than 3,700 peacekeepers who have paid the ultimate price over the past 70 years.
Last year saw the highest number of fatalities in our operations as a result of malicious acts, the highest in many years. Unfortunately, the United Nations flag no longer offers protection to peacekeepers, and defining activity of multilateralism is more and more dangerous for the brave women and men who serve as peacekeepers.
But the past year has also demonstrated the value of our peacekeeping missions. The closure of two of them in Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, is a landmark on the road to peace and stability in a region that was once in chaos. When the right strategies, resources and political support are in place, United Nations peacekeeping saves and improves lives for millions of people.
Earlier this week, I visited our Blue Helmets serving with the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA. I was deeply impressed by the important work they are doing, and the many challenges they face. Threatened by terrorists, criminals and armed groups of all kinds, they are helping to build peace, to protect civilians and guarantee the political process.
They are demonstrating the same courage, dedication, service and sacrifice as their comrades in the other 13 UN peacekeeping missions.
Peacekeeping losses have risen dramatically in recent years.
In response, we are now implementing new measures to improve the safety and security of peacekeepers.
We are already seeing a positive impact on the ground. While attacks continue in Mali and the Central African Republic, our ability to defend ourselves and doing that, to defend our mandates and the people we care for, have improved.
I hope to see further improvements in safety. Protecting United Nations Peacekeepers enables them to protect the civilians they serve.
I am committed to improving security for all United Nations personnel, and particularly our military on the front lines.
We are also working with Member States to provide better equipment and training for the women and men sent by the international community into harm’s way.
Over the past 70 years, more than 1 million men and women have served under the United Nations flag.
We acknowledge the sacrifice made by the families and friends of all our peacekeepers, but especially of those who did not return home.
Today, as we honour the memory of our fallen peacekeepers, we recommit to carrying forward their mission for a better future.
May they rest in peace.