International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 2018
29 May 2018
Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Christine Evans-Klock at the flag-raising ceremony in commemoration of Peacekeepers Day
Thank you for being here today to commemorate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. I especially thank Hon. Minister Botchway and the many colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the members of the Planning Committee for organizing this Flag-raising ceremony as a mark of respect and gratitude for 70 years of UN Peacekeeping.
Over these decades, peacekeepers have helped bring peace and stability in many places, most recently in Ivory Coast, Haiti, Timor Leste and Liberia.
There and elsewhere, peacekeeping is about supporting efforts to find political solutions. Our peacekeepers help make space for the political will to end conflicts and for political leaders to protect their people.
It is especially noteworthy that in March this year, the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, successfully completed its mandate, becoming the 57th UN peacekeeping operation to do so. The closure of UNMIL ended more than two decades of UN Peacekeeping in West Africa’s Mano River Basin.
I am glad to be with you this morning, on this important occasion to honour Ghanaian men and women who have served in UN Peacekeeping Missions as military personnel, police officers, immigration officers, prison officers and civilians.
And I am honoured to share with you the message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres for this year’s International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. His message is as follows, and I quote:
“On May 29th, 1948, the United Nations Security Council authorized the first United Nations peacekeeping operation – the UN Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East.
“On this 70th anniversary, we express our gratitude to the more than one million men and women who have served under the UN flag, saving countless lives.
“We honour the more than 3,700 blue helmets who paid the ultimate price.
“And we pay tribute to the fourteen missions working around the clock today to protect people and advance the cause of peace.
“This year, I will spend International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in Mali to express my solidarity with colleagues facing high casualties and enormous volatility.
“As we recognize a legacy of service and sacrifice around the world, I am also committed to taking action for peacekeeping — action to make our operations safer and more effective in today’s challenging environments.
“We also are committed to reinforcing the important role our forces must play in promoting human rights and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse.
“United Nations peacekeeping is a proven investment in global peace, security and prosperity.
“Together, let us pledge to do all we can to enable that mission to succeed.
The International Day of UN Peacekeepers will be observed in UN Headquarters in New York on Friday this week, 1st of June. The UN Secretary General will preside over a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving under the UN flag and will award the 2018 Dag Hammarskjold Medal posthumously to the 134 fallen peacekeepers in 2017, as we have honoured those fallen heroes and their families here this morning.
Last year, 62 of the 134 fatalities of UN peacekeepers were due to violent actions. This is the highest number of peacekeeper fatalities through violent actions in over two decades. Others lost their lives in transportation accidents and to illness while serving far from home in the cause of peace.
Among those whose sacrifice will be recognized with the Hammarskjold Medal on Friday will be Ghanaian civilian UN peacekeeper, Mr. Victor AMEGBOR, who died on 6th January 2017 while serving with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur.
I am also humbled to pay tribute this morning to Corporal Mercy ADADE, who served in the Ghanaian Contingent with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon and passed away on 5th April this year.
Because women are increasingly the targets of violence and abuse in conflict situations, the role of uniformed women in UN Peacekeeping is increasingly important. The United Nations is working to attract more police women to join the 1,098 female police officers from 69 countries currently serving in UN Peacekeeping Missions. The goal is that women make up 20 percent of UN police by 2020.
To give you just one example of the important work of women UN police officers, last year Assistant Inspector of Police Annah Chota from Zimbabwe received the International Female Police Peacekeeper Award for her work in the UN Interim Security Forces for Abye to empower communities to deal with rape, domestic violence and other gender-based crimes.
It is important that the UN recruit uniformed women peacekeepers to help protect women in conflict areas, and it is important that the UN continue to respond forcefully to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.
The Secretary-General has set out a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse across the entire UN system. Prevention and accountability are at the core of this policy. In response to allegations of wrongdoing, what matters most is the seriousness with which the UN and the contributing countries respond to the independent investigations and the swiftness with which they apply commensurate consequences. This is what will protect civilians and maintain the confidence in the integrity of the UN as a whole and of UN Peacekeeping Missions in particular.
The UN is also taking action to respond to the growing risks to UN Peacekeepers from armed groups, extremists, organized crime and other criminal elements and threats.
The Secretary-General’s initiative called “Action for Peacekeeping”, or A4P, and the Action Plan to Reduce Fatalities, target measures on improving the performance of Missions, enhancing flexibility to adapt to different threat environments, improving training and equipment, and enhancing leadership.
I hope that in recognizing service, impact, accountability and safety, that we also emphasize that UN peacekeeping is cost-effective. Despite the size and breath of its operations, today’s UN peacekeeping budget of just under 7 billion US dollars a year is less than half of one percent of global military spending.
Service and Sacrifice Campaign
To increase public awareness and appreciation of UN peacekeepers, the UN has launched a communications campaign called “UN Peacekeeping: Service and Sacrifice”.
The campaign targets the Troop and Police Contributing Countries, and is being rolled out this year in 26 top contributing countries. 15 of these countries are in Africa, and of course Ghana features prominently in this group.
Here in Ghana, a social media campaign will share the experience of Ghanaian military, police and civilian peacekeepers. It will show how these men and women have made a tangible difference in the lives of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people, and how they save lives every day. It will show how they protect civilians against violent attacks and support the delivery of crucial humanitarian assistance.
This campaign will give us all additional opportunities to say Thank You.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing I would point out how appropriate it is that this year, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers falls within the holy month of Ramadan. Fasting in solidarity with the poor brings to mind those whose suffering is due to insecurity and conflict.
Respect in Ghana for diversity of religious beliefs and traditional culture has no doubt strengthened the effectiveness of Ghanaian contingents of peacekeepers serving in different parts of the world.
It is also in keeping with Ghana’s commitment to achieve the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development which explicitly recognizes that we cannot eradicate poverty and sustain development without tackling conflict and insecurity, or without ensuring the recognition and protection of human rights for everyone.
Governments’ contributions of uniformed personnel, equipment and money to UN Peacekeeping is a powerful confirmation of making common cause, of collective efforts to support civilians in conflict situations, and of commitment to the fundamental values shared by UN Member States to strengthen peace.
I thank the Ghanaian military, police, migration, prison officers and civilians for your commitment and service as UN Peacekeepers. May God bless you all.