More than one million military, police and civilian personnel have served as United Nations peacekeepers over the years, and despite growing security threats and the sacrifices that come with being deployed in challenging environments, over 100,000 men and women continue to work for the cause of peace.
“This is one of the most admirable features in peacekeeping, that despite all the dangers and the risks… they want to go to these places and contribute,” said Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations.
“This is what we admire and we appreciate enormously and it’s why we have UN Peacekeepers Day, in order to express our gratitude to them,” he added during an interview with the UN News Centre.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, observed annually on 29 May, is an occasion to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.
In its 70 years, the United Nations has established 71 peacekeeping operations. More than one million people have served as peacekeepers, helping countries gain independence, supporting historic elections, protecting civilians, disarming hundreds of thousands of ex-combatants, establishing the rule of law, promoting human rights and creating the conditions for refugees and displaced persons to return home.
“It’s about tremendous gratitude to those people, men and women, and to the countries who actually contribute them, because without them, the partnership that is peacekeeping simply could not work,” Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told the UN News Centre.
Today, there are more than 107,000 uniformed peacekeepers from 122 troop- and police- contributing countries serving in 16 missions. However, their service does not come without costs.
More than 3,300 women and men serving the organization as peacekeepers have lost their lives since the UN’s first operation in 1948. This year marks the seventh successive year in which the UN will honour more than 100 ‘blue helmets’ who lost their lives the previous year while serving the cause of peace.
“Almost every day now, we’re losing peacekeepers around the world, especially in Mali,” noted Mr. Mulet. “Mali has become the most dangerous mission we have right now.”
Earlier this week, another peacekeeper serving with the UN operation in Mali, known as MINUSMA, was killed, bringing the number of fatalities to 50 since the mission was established two years ago. For the UN, the safety and security of its staff is paramount.
“Given the nature of the challenges that we are facing on the ground, we are experimenting with a number of new tools to improve the safety of our people but also to enhance the way they can perform their mandates,” said Mr. Ladsous.
The UN has modernized its operations, introduced new technologies, broadened its base of contributors and strengthened its partnerships with regional organizations. At the same time, demands far outpace resources, and better funding, training and equipment is required.
To assess the threats and explore how best to meet today’s challenges, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a High-Level Independent Panel to assess the state of UN peace operations today and the emerging needs of the future. Mr. Ladsous believes the Panel’s report will be critical for the future of UN peacekeeping.
“I do hope, in fact I’m convinced, that that report, when it comes out sometime in mid-June, will actually help us chart the way ahead for the next 15 years or so of peacekeeping.”
Learn more about the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers