The United Nation Headquarters will observe the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Wednesday, 24 May.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will lay a wreath to honour all fallen peacekeepers and will preside over a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to 117 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations during 2016.
Two fallen peacekeepers from South Africa are among those to be posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld medal — Private Moalosi Albert Mokhothu, who served with MONUSCO and Corporal Edward Mxolisi Mnyipikai, who was deployed with UNAMID.
In a video message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General said: “Every day, peacekeepers help bring peace and stability to war-torn societies around the world. On the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, we pay tribute to the more than 3,500 peacekeepers who have given their lives in the service of peace since 1948.”
He further said: “Their sacrifice only strengthens our commitment to ensuring that United Nations peacekeepers continue protecting civilians in harm’s way, promoting human rights and the rule of law, removing landmines, advancing negotiations and securing a better future in the places they are deployed. Now, more than ever, it is essential we continue investing in peace around the world.”
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: “We pay our greatest respects to the committed and courageous peacekeepers no longer with us today. I offer my deepest and most sincere condolences to the families of those we honour and to the bereaved. It’s critical we continue to invest in peace and make every effort to carry forward their noble work and that we continue to pursue reform efforts to make United Nations peacekeeping more efficient and effective. That is the best way we can honour the memories and sacrifices of our fallen peacekeepers.”
“United Nations peacekeeping is an investment in global peace, security, and prosperity and remains the most reliable and used tool by the international community to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for lasting peace. We are continuing to work hard to ensure that UN peacekeeping is fit for purpose, performance-driven and cost-efficient. These efforts coupled with the implementation of the Secretary-General’s reform of our peace and security architecture enables us to deploy uniformed and civilian peacekeepers in difficult and challenging environments around the world in an efficient and an effective manner,” said Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare.
More than 96,000 uniformed personnel from 124 troop-and-police-contributing countries currently serve under the blue flag, alongside more than 15,000 international and national civilian staff and nearly 1,600 United Nations volunteers.
South Africa is the 17th largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping. It currently deploys more than 1,400 peacekeepers to the UN missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and South Sudan.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, 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 United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), the world body’s first peacekeeping mission, began operations in Palestine.
While the Day will be marked in New York on Wednesday, UN Peacekeeping operations and UN offices around the world will commemorate the Day on or around May 29..