26 May 2003


NEW YORK, 23 May (Department of Public Information) -- The first International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be observed on Thursday, 29 May this year, following its establishment by the General Assembly, in resolution 57/129, last year. The Day is intended to pay tribute "to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations, as well as to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace".

Also that Day, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, will pay tribute to those who died while in the service of peace in 2002, at a special award ceremony in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library auditorium at United Nations Headquarters, at 3:30 p.m. Correspondents are invited to attend.

The date, 29 May, was chosen because, on that day in 1948, the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations, with a group of unarmed military observers in Palestine.

In a videotaped message to be broadcast to peacekeepers around the world on the Day, Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized that the mission of United Nations peacekeeping remains vital. While "peacekeeping by itself cannot end a war ... it can prevent a recurrence of fighting. Above all, it gives time and space for conflict resolution. It gives peace a chance".

As this Day is being observed around the world, peacekeepers are fulfilling roles as military observers, trainers and disarmament experts, civilian police, civil administrators, judges and prosecutors, economists, human rights and humanitarian workers. Others perform the more traditional peacekeeping functions of monitoring ceasefires and buffer zones, in 14 missions on three continents.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will commemorate the day with the peacekeepers of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"There are two threats to the international community’s search for peace and security", he said recently. "First is the difficulty in building common ground (as was seen recently over Iraq). The second is indifference. Crises develop and people die, not because of big conflicts, but because nobody cares. Often peacekeepers are deployed to situations far from the headlines, with complicated but crucial tasks. More are needed, as we can see in the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with more resources and better-clarified mandates. As we work to improve our support for UN peacekeepers, we must acknowledge their vital contribution: they can make a difference."

Memorial panels featuring names of peacekeepers –- both civilian and military –- who died in 2002, will be on display in the United Nations Headquarters Public Lobby from 29 May. (One thousand eight hundred nineteen United Nations peacekeepers have died while on missions over the past 55 years.)

The United Nations Department of Public Information has produced an information kit intended to demonstrate the vast variety of skills and responsibilities of United Nations peacekeepers today.

Ongoing United Nations peacekeeping missions have also planned their own activities in the field to demonstrate the contributions of peacekeepers in resolving conflicts around the world.

For further information, contact the Peace and Security Section, Department of Public Information: Susan Manuel, tel.: 1 (212) 963-1262, e-mail: manuels@un.org; or Sharon McPherson, tel.: 1 (917) 367-2068, e-mail: mcpherson1@un.org.

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