Press Releases

                                                                                                                            25 May 2004

    Peacekeeping Missions Best Way of Ensuring Sustainable Peace, Says Secretary-General on International Day of UN Peacekeepers

    NEW YORK, 24 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message for the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, which will be observed on 29 May:

    Last year, the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was inaugurated to commemorate more than half a century of dedication and sacrifice by peacekeepers serving under the UN’s blue flag around the world to build confidence, reconcile warring parties and relieve suffering.  Alas, the past 12 months have given us many more such sacrifices to mourn.

    Every one of these sacrifices commands our deep respect.  They should also inspire us.  We must continue to strive, as those brave peacekeepers did, to make it possible for the community of nations to live in peace.

    Today, more than 53,000 uniformed personnel and at least 11,000 civilian staff from 94 countries serve in 15 missions across the globe.  Those numbers are likely to increase:  the Security Council has just approved an operation for Burundi, and another is being planned for Sudan.

    The growth in missions is a welcome sign that many countries are choosing a healthier path as they emerge from violent conflicts.  But it places enormous strain on our existing resources.  I urge Member States to provide the additional peacekeepers that will be needed, and the resources to go with them.

    Peacekeeping has long since evolved beyond its traditional role as a monitor of ceasefires.  Today, UN missions engage in such tasks as assisting political transitions, building institutions, fostering the spread of the rule of law, supporting economic reconstruction, supervising elections, disarming militias and former combatants, facilitating humanitarian aid programmes and re-settling refugees and displaced persons.

    In Liberia and Sierra Leone, peacekeepers are disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating former combatants from two brutal civil wars.  In Timor-Leste, they are helping a fledgling nation take its first steps and build national institutions.  In Western Sahara, they have helped organize the first contacts between some refugees and their families in nearly 30 years.

    Peacekeeping missions can never end wars by themselves.  But they do offer the best possible way of ensuring there is a sustainable peace.  On the International Day for UN Peacekeepers, let us remember that the most expensive peacekeeping operation costs far less than the cheapest war.  That is an investment well worth making.

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