Marking Int’l day, UN honours dedication and service of peacekeepers

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UNITED NATIONS, May 24 (APP): The United Nations on Wednesday held
ceremonies to pay tributes to the more than 3,500 people who have died
on duty since 1948 and acknowledge the dedication and courage of those serving on the ground, as it marked the International Day of United
Nations Peacekeepers.
“Every day, peacekeepers help bring peace and stability to war-torn
societies around the world,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres
said, while also underscoring the sacrifices made by the more than 3,500 peacekeepers who have given their lives in the service of peace since
1948.
“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,” he said. “Now, more than ever, it is essential that we continue investing in peace around the world.”
On May 29 in 1948, the first UN peacekeeping mission began
operations in Palestine. In 2002, the UN General Assembly designated
May 29 as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.
At the UN Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General presided
over a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all peacekeepers, who lost
their lives while serving under the UN flag.
Guterres led a moment of silence to remember the fallen peacekeepers,
including 117 military, police and civilian peacekeepers from 43 countries who died in service in 2016. Among them were five Pakistani peacekeepers,
who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace.
Pakistan is one of the largest contributors of military and police
personnel to UN peacekeeping. It currently deploys more than 7,100
uniformed personnel to the UN peace operations in the Central African Republic, Ivoy Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti,
Liberia, South Sudan, Sudan and the Western Sahara.
The UN chief expressed his “deepest condolences and appreciation”
to the family members and friends of those who died, as well as his
“deepest sorrow and greatest appreciation” to the countries that
contributed the troops and police officers.
The UN chief warned that peacekeepers continue to come under
attack from armed groups, spoilers and increasingly by terrorists,
including incidents in Mali, the Central African Republic, and South
Sudan.
“But the closure of our operations in Ivory Coast and Liberia over
the coming months reminds us that the contributions, investments and sacrifices of our United Nations peacekeepers have contributed to the transformation of these countries from battlefields to peaceful states,”
he stressed.
“And the greatest tribute we can pay to those who have died is to
rededicate ourselves to continuing their work to build and maintain
peace,” he said.
Also today, the Dag Hammarskjold Medal was awarded posthumously to
the peacekeepers, who have fallen while serving in the cause of peace, during the preceding year.
“UN peacekeeping is one of the international community’s most
effective investments to support peace, security and prosperity.
While peacekeeping carries a tragically high price in lives lost, it
brings enormous returns in lives saved,” Guterres said.
“And if there is something that makes the United Nations known all
over the world are Blue Helmets,” he said. “Our debt in relation to peacekeepers is something that we will never be able to repay.”
UN peacekeeping operations use the Day to strengthen bonds with
the local populations that they have been deployed to serve. For example
by holding sporting events, school and orphanage visits, art and essay competitions, photo exhibits, neighbourhood clean ups, tree plantings, concerts, and conferences and workshops on peace issues.