To honour the close to four thousand women and men who lost their lives under the UN flag since 1948, Secretary-General António Guterres laid a wreath at the Peacekeepers’ memorial on Friday, International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
At a related event, he said while the COVID-19 pandemic changed almost all the world body does, it has not inhibited the sense of “service, sacrifice and selflessness”, of the 95 000 plus women and men serving in 13 peacekeeping operations worldwide.
“Every day, our peacekeepers protect vulnerable local populations, support dialogue and implement mandates while fighting COVID-19. They doing everything possible to be an integral part of the solution to this crisis while keeping themselves – and the communities they serve – safe”.
Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix noted their “tremendous contributions towards peace” and paid tribute to “the service of peacekeepers who paid the ultimate sacrifice”, saying in a tweet it was “their memory that we continue to carry our work forward”.
Saluting women in blue helmets
Under this year’s theme, “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace”, Guterres stressed how women improve UN peacekeeping, saying it is “more effective when we have more women peacekeepers at all levels, including decision-making”.
During an awards ceremony, the Secretary-General bestowed the 2019 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award on Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian naval officer serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and to Major Suman Gawani from India, who served in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Diversity in peacekeeping
As UN peacekeeping evolves to better reflect the populations it serves, women are increasingly involved, generating positive impacts in areas ranging from serving in a police or military role, as well as civilian.
In all areas, women proved they can perform the same roles too the same standards and under the same difficult conditions as their male counterparts.
Women ‘blue helmets’ have greater access to communities, help promote human rights and protect civilians as well as encourage women to be part of peace and political processes.
They help build trust and confidence with communities and support local women, by interacting with those prohibited by custom from speaking on equal terms with men.
Peacekeepers also work to mitigate the disproportionately negative effect conflict has on women addressing their needs in conflict and post-conflict settings – including ex-combatants and child soldiers during demobilising and reintegration into civilian life – and serve as mentors and role models.
“More women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping”, the world body’s peacekeeping department said.