I am honoured to pay tribute today to the memory of the 112 peacekeepers who died while serving the United Nations in 2011.
Sadly, this marks the fourth year in a row that more than 100 peacekeepers lost their lives in the line of duty.
I offer my heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and countries.
You in this room represent the governments that contribute these forces – and bear the losses. I am deeply grateful to you for engaging in this global partnership.
I share your sorrow for these colleagues and friends – and your determination to carry on their work for peace.
Today we remember 112 lives cut short. They remind us of the risks of peacekeeping.
But today I also want to remember the rewards.
Recently, I spoke to hundreds of high school students from around the world.
The United Nations Foundation brought them here, to the UN General Assembly Hall.
The UN Foundation asked the students to write a few words to our Blue Helmets as part of their ‘Thank a UN Peacekeeper’ campaign.
The students spoke eloquently about the value of peacekeeping.
One young man said, “I sincerely thank you for doing what most people wish they had the bravery to do; to stand up for and protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
Another teen said, “I’m from Spain and from there we send you forces. I am really proud of what you are doing.”
A young man from the Dominican Republic said, “Thank you for taking on these missions not because they were easy, but because they were hard. Thank you for helping to make a difference in the world.”
And a young woman from Beirut wrote, “As a Lebanese citizen your work has changed the lives of many people around me. Thank you for keeping our world peaceful.”
One young woman from India summed up the thoughts of many people. She wrote to the peacekeepers simply: “Thank you. Because of you, the rest of the world sleeps peacefully.”
Those we honour here today have reached their final resting place.
We now carry on their work for peace.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you know, this medal bears the name of my distinguished predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld.
A few months ago, I travelled to Zambia, the country where Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died when his plane crashed.
Although I did not have the chance to visit the site of this crash, I brought the UN staff in Zambia a token of remembrance.
It was a letter from Hammarskjöld, written in the final months of his life to his envoy, Ralph Bunche, who was heading to a mission in Congo.
Hammarskjöld wrote, “I express my hope that this operation will … benefit not only the people of the Congo but also peace and stability, with justice for all.”
Peace, stability and justice – these are timeless goals of peacekeeping.
The fallen we remember today contributed to these eternal aims – and their legacy will live on for all time.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I ask all of you to rise and observe a minute of silence in honour of our heroes.