Today we join together in this solemn ceremony to honour the memory of the 129 men and woman who lost their lives last year while serving under the United Nations flag.
These brave personnel came from 50 countries. They were international and national. They were military and police. They were civilians and UN Volunteers. They served in different jobs – but they held fast to the same universal values.
Some were killed in malicious attacks. Others died in accidents. Still others fell to disease.
They were all heroes and heroines who we will never forget.
My predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld set the gold standard for what an international civil servant and peacemaker should be. He died himself a hero’s death while on a mission of peace. This fact still resonates throughout the United Nations and around the world.
In March, I had the honour of visiting Sweden to deliver the Dag Hammarskjöld lecture.
When I was researching his writings, I found something very meaningful he said to the staff.
Teamwork, he explained, generally means we all work together under the same payroll with the same rules with the same general objectives. But it should mean much more than that. Hammarskjöld said that we will only fully contribute when we “develop within ourselves, and in our relations with others, [a] sense of belonging.”
The United Nations staff are often called a family. We share that sense of belonging and the collective will to act.
Like Secretary-General Hammarskjöld, those who we honour today were inspiring men and women. They were not supporting peace in the abstract – they were in the arena. They lost their lives doing critical work in some of the most dangerous and difficult places on earth.
Peacekeeping remains the flagship of the United Nations enterprise. The number of people who serve in our operations – more than 124,000 – demonstrates how much the international community continues to depend on our Blue Helmets.
With such large numbers of peacekeepers deployed in such dangerous areas, the risk of fatalities is extremely high.
Just yesterday, five of our peacekeepers were killed in Mali when their convoy hit an improvised explosive device. My heart goes out to their families. I also send my best wishes for the speedy recovery of the injured.
There will always be risks – but the peacekeeping community – Member States, the UN Secretariat and the Peacekeeping Operations -- must all join forces to make the Blue Helmets’ invaluable work in these hazardous locations as safe as possible. We owe this to the women and men who risk their lives to fulfil our mandates.
Today, I offer my sincerest condolences to their loved ones and my highest tribute to their memory.
Ladies and Gentlemen, will you join me in rising in observing a moment of silence?
Thank you very much for your attention.