Today, we gather at this memorial site to lay a wreath to honour the brave men and women who died while serving under the United Nations Flag.
Last year, 129 peacekeepers from 50 countries lost their lives due to malicious acts, accidents and disease. It was the 12th time in the last 13 years that more than 100 Blue Helmets fell in one year. The tragic total since 1948 is nearly 3,500.
Please join me in a moment of silence in tribute to their bravery.
Peacekeeping is becoming more and more dangerous. All too often our personnel are targeted by armed groups, spoilers and terrorists. In some areas where the UN operates, our blue flag has gone from being a shield to a target.
In just one day – this February 12th – terrorists attacked our base in Kidal, Mali. When the firing stopped, seven of our soldiers were dead and thirty more injured.
Then just yesterday in Mali – five more peacekeepers were killed and a number of others injured. These outrageous crimes will never stop us from pursuing peace in Mali – or anywhere.
The peacekeepers who lost their lives last year worked in difficult missions where progress in peace and reconciliation processes is often way too slow. But their heroic efforts made a difference.
In South Sudan, peacekeepers shelter more than 177,000 displaced persons at their bases across the war-torn country. In the Central African Republic, blue helmets supported successful presidential and legislative elections which advanced recovery. In Liberia, they provided security while medical experts were combatting the deadly Ebola outbreak.
Peacekeeping has become more dangerous and more challenging – and it has also never been in higher demand.
Ten years ago, when the UN’s global deployment surpassed 70,000 military and police, that was described as “the surge”. Now, the surge has become the norm. We currently have more than 107,000 uniformed peacekeepers, as well as 16,000 civilian personnel, serving in 16 peacekeeping operations.
The United Nations is doing everything possible to protect civilians, end fighting and create conditions for lasting peace.
Today we mourn those who lost their lives – and we also pay tribute to the scores of others who were injured.
This wreath is for the peacekeepers who died so that others may live.
We honour their bravery. Although their lives were cut short, their legacy will live on.
Thank you very much.