New York, 25 May 2015 – The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be observed on Friday, 29 May, marking the seventh successive year in which the Organization will honour more than 100 “blue helmets” who lost their lives the previous year while serving the cause of peace. Commemorative activities will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and at peacekeeping operations and offices around the world.
The 126 peacekeepers – military, police and civilian – who lost their lives in 2014 while serving with the United Nations as a result of hostile acts, accidents and disease, will posthumously receive the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal at a ceremony at the UN Headquarters on 29 May.
Among the fallen peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2014 and who will be honoured posthumously with the Dag Hammarskjöld medal are two from South Africa: Rifleman Ashwin Ashrick ZASS and Rifleman Zongezile Victor NKOHLA who both served with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, in tribute to all men and women serving in 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 Assembly designated 29 May as the Day because it was the date in 1948 when the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the world body’s first peacekeeping mission, began operations in Palestine.
This year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers falls during the significant 70th anniversary of the United Nations, offering a chance to honour the Blue Helmets’ invaluable contribution to the proud history of the Organization and to reaffirm our commitment to make them even more effective in the years ahead. Thus, the theme for the Day this year is “UN at 70: Peacekeeping: Past, Present, and Future.”
In a message to mark the Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “United Nations peacekeeping has given life to the UN Charter’s aim “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security”. Through years of struggle and sacrifice, the iconic Blue Helmet has earned its place as a symbol of hope to millions of people living in war-ravaged lands.”
“At the same time, demands far outpace resources. We need better funding, training and equipment. Our troops and police must carry out ever more complex mandates while being held to the highest standards of conduct. We need developed countries to resume their historically influential role as contributors of troops. And we need stronger political support from the Member States that are responsible for authorizing, financing and contributing troops and police to the missions, ” the Secretary-General further said in his message.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: ““We pay tribute to those courageous men and women who have lost their lives while serving on our Peacekeeping Missions. I express my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have paid the ultimate price. Today, we are witnessing our largest deployment in the history of UN Peacekeeping. This is a testament of the international community’s faith in Peacekeeping as a fundamental tool in helping to bring peace and security”
According to Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support “The international community has high expectations from our civilian and military peacekeepers and we must ensure they are provided with all the support they need to undertake their important tasks. We must continue to work together to enable operations in remote and dangerous environments, at the same time, prioritising the safety and security of our personnel, strengthen our collaboration and partnerships with troop and police contributing countries, improve the quality of service delivery, and make the most of our limited resources,”
The 2015 commemorative ceremonies will be held at a time when the demand for United Nations peacekeepers is at an all-time high. There are now more than 125,000 UN peacekeepers, including 91,000 military personnel, 13,000 police officers as well as 17,000 international civilian and national staff serving in 16 operations on four continents.
South Africa is the fifteenth largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping. It currently deploys 2,133 military and police personnel to the UN peacekeeping operations the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and South Sudan.