The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be observed on Thursday, 29 May 2014. This marks the sixth year in a row the United Nations will honour more than 100 Blue Helmets who lost their lives the previous year while serving the cause of peace. This sombre milestone is a stark reminder of the risks incurred by individuals who put their lives on the line when they deploy to UN missions around the world.
In a message to mark the Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: ‘Last year, 106 Peacekeepers perished carrying out their duty under the UN flag, bringing the total number of lives lost in the history of peacekeeping to more than 3,200. We mourn the passing of every one of these courageous individuals. We grieve with their friends and families and we recommit ourselves to ensure that their contributions to the cause of peace will never be forgotten.’
Among the peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2013 were three from Ghana: Lt Col Jack Franklin GLAWU who died of disease while serving with the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and Corporal Daniel Kwaku SASU and Private Kwabena NYARKO, who both died of disease while serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Commemorative activities will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, as well as at UN peacekeeping operations and offices around the world.
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 United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The General Assembly designated 29 May as the Day, as it was the date in 1948 when the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.
This year’s commemorative ceremonies come at a time when the services of United Nations peacekeepers continue to be in great demand. There are nearly 85,000 military personnel, 12,500 police officers, 17,000 international civilian and national staff serving in 16 peacekeeping operations on four continents.
To honour the fallen peacekeepers and those who continue to serve in the cause of peace, there will be several events held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 29 May. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will oversee a solemn wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all fallen peacekeepers. And Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will make remarks at a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to 106 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations in 2013, including Lt Col GLAWU, Corporal SASU and Private NYARKO.
Ghana currently contributes nearly 3,000 military and police personnel to the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan and Western Sahara.
According to the Secretary-General: “United Nations peacekeeping is modernizing to ensure that it can tackle tomorrow’s peace and security challenges. It is deploying new technologies such as unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles, refining its practices to better protect civilians, and boosting the representation of women among its ranks while strengthening its partnerships with regional organizations. The United Nations is improving logistics and administrative practices, strengthening infrastructure and taking other steps to harness the power of our personnel. Our goal is to ensure that peacekeeping is a cost effective, valuable investment that brings enormous benefits and, above all, saves lives.
‘We honour those who have lost their lives while serving on our peacekeeping operations. Our courageous peacekeepers who made this ultimate sacrifice did so so that others could have a better life. I express my deepest and most sincere condolences to the families and friends of those we honour today. We honour their memory and pay tribute to their dedication,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous.
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