UN salutes dedicated peacekeepers

United Nations (UN) has saluted the more-than-one- million women and men who have served as UN peacekeepers since 1948.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (left) attending a wreath-laying ceremony on the occasion of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 2022 (Mark Garten photo)

In a message to mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, which will be observed on Sunday, May 29, UN Secretary-General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres has said, “We pay tribute to the nearly 4,200 heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace”.
He added, “And we are reminded of an age-old truth: peace can never be taken for granted. Peace is the prize.”
He said the UN is deeply grateful to the 87,000 civilian, Police, and military personnel now serving under the UN flag, who are helping to realise the prize of peace worldwide.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix

According to him, these peacekeepers face enormous challenges, and he has noted that the rising violence against them has made their work even more dangerous. He noted, too, that restrictions due to the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Nevertheless, he said, UN peacekeepers continue to serve with distinction as partners for peace.
This year, he added, the focus will be on the power of partnerships. “We know that peace is won when Governments and societies join forces to resolve differences through dialogue, build a culture of nonviolence, and protect the most vulnerable,” Guterres explained.
“Around the globe, UN peacekeepers work with the member states, civil society, humanitarians, the media, the communities they serve, and many others to foster peace, protect civilians, promote human rights and the rule of law, and improve the lives of millions of people,” he added.
The UN Secretary-General has said, “Today, and every day, we salute their dedication in helping societies turn away from conflict towards a more peaceful and prosperous future for all. We are forever in their debt.”

Power of partnerships
Meanwhile, in an article titled “The power of partnerships: Why supporting our peacekeepers matters more now than ever”, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said that, every day, UN peacekeepers work to protect hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in the world’s most fragile political and security situations.
“Our civilian and uniformed personnel support ceasefires; prevent and respond to violence; investigate human rights’ violations and abuses; and help build peace, recovery, and development in conflict-affected countries. There is no doubt that lives are saved and changed by their presence.”
In some peace operations, he added, a primary task is to provide robust protection of civilians, due to the nature of the threat on the ground.
“Our military and Police personnel make every effort to carry out this mandate in challenging and often dangerous conditions. However, the ultimate objective is to create the conditions for political solutions and sustainable peace. That is the true measure of our success,” he continued.
But achieving this outcome, Lacroix highlighted, is becoming more difficult in an increasingly tense global political and security climate. He said conflicts are more complex and multi-layered, with local tensions being fuelled by national, regional and international forces acting in their own interests. An increasing number of actors are involved in violence, including criminal, terrorist, and other armed elements, he noted.
According to Lacroix, it is difficult to engage with these individuals and groups with diverse motives and objectives, and often links to transnational organised crime, because they have no real interest in reaching political settlements that foster lasting peace.
He pointed out that the world is witnessing a less united approach to conflict resolution among global powers because of widening political divisions, which in turn takes the pressure off warring parties to end violence and make concessions.
He said, “These divides are exposed in Security Council resolutions relating to peacekeeping mandates with less unanimity in the decisions made by Member States, notably on mandate renewals, but also less support to our missions when they face challenges on the ground.”
According to Lacroix, a surge in mis- and disinformation is also creating new and growing threats to the safety of UN personnel and the communities they serve. For instance, he said, in places like Mali, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fake news fuels fighting as well as hostility towards peacekeeping missions.
“We are experiencing an increase in attacks on our bases, ambushes of convoys, and the increased use of improvised explosive devices. In this environment, the iconic blue flag that should provide safety for peacekeepers now risks making them a target.”

Malicious attacks
Despite the UN’s best efforts to keep personnel safe, he highlighted, more peacekeepers are being injured or killed in these volatile conditions. He said the frequency of malicious attacks against peacekeepers increased from 280 in 2020 to 463 last year. In 2021, there were 24 fatalities due to these violent acts.
“Among those we have lost,” he added, “are eight peacekeepers who died when their helicopter went down in the eastern DRC in March during a reconnaissance mission to help protect civilians. I attended a very moving memorial service alongside colleagues in Goma.
We all understand that risk and loss are inevitable, given the nature of our work, but coming together in these tragic circumstances reminds us of the immense price paid by fallen peacekeepers and their families. I want to pay tribute to them. Their sacrifice inspires us to redouble our efforts to build peace and stability.
“UN peacekeeping is not alone in this endeavour. Many partners work alongside us in the cause of peace. Among them are humanitarians who provide life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable. Strong partnerships with communities are also critical. They inspire us with their resilience and persistence in helping to resolve tensions, supporting reconciliation, and building peace.
Lacroix added, “Women and youths are also vital partners as powerful champions for peace, as are civil society and the media, who shine light on the challenges and help promote solutions. We continue to strengthen our partnerships with the 122 member states that contribute more than 75,000 military and Police personnel to our 12 peacekeeping operations.”

Global peace, security
The Under-Secretary-General explained that the UN relies on the consent and active participation of host Governments, as well as the strong, united support of regional and international partners, to persuade parties to put aside their differences and make the necessary concessions to reach political settlements.
For this reason, he said, International Day of UN Peacekeepers is being observed under the theme “People. Peace. Progress. The Power of Partnerships”. He said, too, that it is a chance to thank partners for their contributions, and to issue a fresh call to action in the pursuit of global peace and security.
“Peacekeeping is an imperfect tool that can never meet all needs or expectations. There are times when we are prevented from, or fail to carry out, our mandates, and let ourselves and those we serve down, including in cases of misconduct by our personnel.
He added, “When this happens, we will continue to be held accountable, to constantly interrogate our performance, and find ways to be more innovative and effective, particularly through the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, which establishes priority areas where progress is needed.”
According to Lacroix, this includes strengthening our capacity to advance political solutions and support sustainable peace; improving protection of civilians as well as the safety of peacekeepers; implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda; and rigorously evaluating our own performance.
He said that even though the UN Peacekeeping goals are ambitious, and not all will be achieved, questions may sometimes be asked about the value and impact of peacekeeping.
“But if not peacekeeping, what else? Does a better solution exist today to maintain ceasefires, protect civilians, prevent chaos, and support peace efforts in the complex, conflict-affected environments where our operations are deployed?” Lacroix asked.
Despite these questions, and in the face of many challenges, UN Peacekeeping will persevere alongside our partners to be a strong force for change in a collective effort to achieve peace and progress for all peoples, he declared.