International Day of UN Peacekeepers 2021 – Leveraging the Power of Youth for Peace and Security
We take the time today to think of all United Nations peacekeepers in the service of peace around the world. The day coincides with the first UN peacekeeping mission which was established on 29 May 1948, when the Security Council authorised the deployment of a small number of UN military observers to the Middle East to form the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Since then, hundreds of thousands of peacekeepers have served in over 72 missions. Today there are currently 89,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 12 operations. We also remember today the more than 4,000 who have lost their lives while serving under the blue flag since 1948.
Earlier this week on 27 May in a virtual ceremony, the UN Secretary General António Guterres, laid a wreath at the Peacekeepers Memorial on the North Lawn, UN Headquarters, New York. He presided over a ceremony in which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal was awarded posthumously to the 129 military, police and civilian peacekeepers from 44 countries, who lost their lives serving in 2020 and in the first month of 2021. The head of the UN gave his condolences to the families: “We are forever in their debt… Their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten, and they will always be in our hearts.”
The UN Secretary General paid tribute to peacekeepers around the world: “The challenges and threats faced by our peacekeepers are immense”, he said. “They work hard every day to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable, while facing the dual threats of violence and a global pandemic”.
The theme for this year is “The road to a lasting peace: Leveraging the power of youth for peace and security.” Tens of thousands of young peacekeepers (between the ages of 18 and 29 years) are currently deployed around the world and play a major role in helping the missions implement their mandated activities including the protection of civilians.
Ireland currently has 561 peacekeepers from the Defence Forces serving around the world. Irish troops were first deployed on UN peacekeeping operations in 1958 and since then, holds a unique record were not a single day has passed without Irish participation in UN peace support operations. Since Ireland’s first deployment, 87 members of the Defence Forces and a member of An Garda Síochána have lost their lives in the service of peace overseas.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Mr Simon Coveney paid tribute to Irish Peacekeepers stating: “Each year, the 29th of May, offers a chance to pay tribute to the contributions of uniformed and civilian personnel from around the world, who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping missions. We remember and honour also those brave peacekeepers, including 88 Irish peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the service of peace. This year we acknowledge in particular that young people can be a positive force for peace and development when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to thrive. From climate action to peacebuilding, youth around the world have been demonstrating their commitment to a better future for all.”
Earlier this week Ireland promoted the first women to the rank of Major General. Maureen O’Brien, will take up the appointment of Deputy Military Advisor to Under Secretary General for Peace Operations United Nations Headquarters, New York.
In compliance with Covid guidelines a small wreath laying ceremony will take place today at the Irish United Nations Veterans Association Headquarters, Arbor Hill, Dublin.