Tomorrow is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers and will see the memory of the more than 3 200 military, police and civilian personnel who have died in service of peace worldwide honoured.
The day also serves as a time to pay tribute to the men and women who are still serving in the various UN peacekeeping operations around the globe for their professionalism, dedication and courage.
The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations said all UN offices along with member states of the world body and non-government organisations will hold events to commemorate peacekeepers.
The first UN peacekeeping mission was set up in 1948 and last year peacekeeping moved onto the offensive with the announcement that the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), part of MONUSCO in the DRC, would have an offensive mandate.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF), along with contingents from Tanzania and Malawi, comprise the FIB which has forced the M23 rebel group out of the DRC as well as engaging with a number of other rebel groups in the eastern part of the country in its efforts to protect civilians and advance peace.
The FIB deployment has also seen South Africa’s home-grown combat support helicopter Rooivalk blooded. The successes achieved by the 16 Squadron aircrews in support of offensives mounted by FARDC and FIB against rebel groupings have been noted by senior UN peacekeeping officials.
Indications are the currently being composed UN peacekeeping mission for the troubled Central African Republic (CAR) will also have an FIB element. This mission is set to become operational in September and will replace French troops, an EU deployment and an AU mission currently in the troubled country.
In a message to mark the UN Department of Peacekeeping said: “As the world is confronted with new challenges, UN Peacekeeping is evolving to meet them, helping more people than ever through some of the most destructive conflicts.
“Un peacekeeping is looking at how innovation and technology can help us not only deliver in these challenging environments but also to offer real value for money. All in an effort to our Blue Helmets are ‘A Force for Peace, A Force for Change, A Force for the Future’.
“UN Peacekeeping is deploying new technologies such as unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles, refining our practices to better protect civilians and boosting the representation of women among its ranks. We are improving logistics and administrative practices and strengthening our partnerships with regional organisations. All to ensure United Nations Peacekeeping is a valuable investment that above all, saves lives.”