New York, 29 May - United Nations offices and missions around the world today observed the International Day of UN Peacekeepers and the 60th anniversary of UN peacekeeping. The first blue helmets were authorized by the Organization on 29 May, 1948.
In a statement marking the day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “peacekeeping has developed into a flagship enterprise of our Organization. Today, we have more than 110,000 men and women deployed in conflict zones around the world. They come from nearly 120 countries -- an all-time high, reflecting confidence in United Nations peacekeeping.”
Mr. Ban added that “Each one is a hero. Today, we recommit ourselves to ensuring that their sacrifices are never forgotten and the vital work of the Blue Helmets continues as long as they are needed.”
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno led a wreath-laying ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday morning, noting that 90 peacekeepers died last year, taking the total number of personnel who have died since the first operation was established in 1948 to over 2,400.
One fallen peacekeeper from Ethiopia was among those honoured at a wreath-laying ceremony in New York. He was Sergeant Eyasu Amare Woldu who lost his life while serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in December 2007.
“Serving far from home in challenging and dangerous environments, these men and women represent the best the international community has to offer; we pay tribute to their sacrifice and dedication in pursuit of the noble goals of the United Nations,” he said.
“But even as we mourn those we have lost, we pay tribute to the professionalism, dedication and courage of those who continue the work of their departed comrades whom we honour here today.”
Military, police and civilian personnel currently serve in 20 UN peace operations around the world, and the UN peacekeeping budget stands at $6.5 billion, an all-time high.
Ethiopia is currently the world’s fourteenth largest contributor of troops and police to the United Nations with more than 1,800 peacekeepers serving in three peacekeeping missions. In addition to serving in Liberia, Ethiopian peacekeepers serve with the United Nations in Southern Sudan and Darfur.