30 May 2011
International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
Remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Commemoration of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
United Nations Memorial (Ariana Park)
Monday, 30 May 2011 at 15:00
Ladies and Gentlemen
Friends and Colleagues:
Today, we mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to honour the professionalism, dedication and courage of our peacekeeping colleagues – the more than 120,000 personnel actively serving around the globe and those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.
Keeping the peace is not without risks, it’s a very dangerous task. Last year alone, 173 peacekeepers lost their lives due to natural disasters, violence, accidents and disease, including more than 100 in the devastating earthquake in Haiti. This year, in April, seven of our colleagues were murdered in an attack on a United Nations compound in Afghanistan and just a few days later, a deadly plane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo cost the lives of 32 individuals, most of them United Nations staff. Just a few days ago, peacekeeping units have been attacked in Lebanon; some of them were severely injured. The Secretary-General condemned this act and underscored that it is all the more deplorable because of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers that we celebrate these days.
As we pay tribute to the sacrifices of our fallen colleagues, let us also commend their many accomplishments. Today, military, police and civilian peacekeeping personnel work together on a range of issues – from the protection of civilians to mine action to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. This year, United Nations peacekeepers have played an important role in supporting the referendum in Southern Sudan, helping to resolve the post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, and assisting in a peaceful transition of power in Haiti, among many other achievements.
I take this opportunity to thank the Governments who provide personnel to United Nations peacekeeping for these important tasks. It is a pleasure to have their representatives with us today.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
An important focus of peacekeeping today is the rule of law, which is the theme of this year’s International Day. Establishing respect for the rule of law is fundamental to achieving a durable peace in the aftermath of conflict. To realize this aim, peacekeeping works to strengthen police, justice and corrections institutions. In Liberia, Timor-Leste, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name just a few, peacekeeping operations have worked with national authorities to rebuild or construct new police stations, court houses and prisons. At the same time, these missions have, together with the host Government, helped to develop the local capacity and human resources needed to ensure that these institutions can function.
On this International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, let us pay tribute to those brave colleagues currently serving in dangerous and difficult places under the flag of the United Nations in our 15 peacekeeping operations on four continents. Let us remember – with our deepest respect – those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of peace.
And let us thank the peacekeepers who are present for their many contributions. Their courage and their commitment to helping our most vulnerable fellow human beings is an inspiration to us all.
Thank you very much.