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On Eve of UN Peacekeepers Day, Annan Pays Tribute

On Eve of UN Peacekeepers Day, Annan Pays Tribute to Those Serving Across World

New York, May 29 2006 12:00PM

Looking back on a year when more blue helmets died in the service of peace than any other over the past decade, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan paid tribute to their sacrifice on the eve of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

In a message marking the occasion, formally observed on 29 May, Mr. Annan noted the growing complexity of peacekeeping operations, which often include organizing elections, enacting police and judicial reform, promoting and protecting human rights, conducting mine-clearance, advancing gender equality, achieving the voluntary disarmament of former combatants, and supporting the return of refugees and displaced people to their homes.

In the past year in particular, UN police have taken on an increasingly vital role, filling the gap between the role of UN military forces and local security institutions that are unable to fully maintain public order, he observed.

But this "invaluable work does not come without risk," he added. More peacekeepers died in the service of the UN in 2005 than in any other year in the past decade, with 124 peacekeepers from 46 countries losing their lives to violence, disease and accidents. A further 32 have fallen in the line of duty so far in 2006, including eight Guatemalan soldiers who died while striving to bring peace to the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At the same time, the number of peacekeepers exposed to risk has increased exponentially, and continues to grow. More than 72,000 uniformed personnel and 15,000 civilians now serve in 18 peace operations administered by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, making the United Nations the largest multilateral contributor to post-conflict stabilization worldwide, according to the message.

"The demand for United Nations peacekeeping reflects growing confidence in the Organization's ability to calm tensions and restore stability," M
personnel, including a 71-nation mission in the Sudan -- the most diverse coalition ever assembled.

The Secretary-General acknowledges the need for more professional and responsive institutional support for those serving in hotspots around the world. "We are determined to achieve this through critical management and oversight reforms, and through strict enforcement of the highest standards of conduct and of the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse," he stressed. "We are also asking Member States and troop contributors to match our resolve on this critical issue."

The International Day of UN Peacekeepers offers the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women from countries across the world "who serve selflessly, tirelessly and fearlessly in United Nations peacekeeping operations," Mr. Annan said, calling for remembrance of the "heroes who have laid down their lives in lands far from their own in the service of peace."


ENDS

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