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Secretary-General to lay wreath in honour of fallen United Nations peacekeepers, as Headquarters observes International Day, 24 may

21 May 2019

As New York Headquarters observes the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Friday, 24 May, Secretary-General António Guterres will lay a wreath to honour all fallen peacekeepers and preside over a ceremony for the posthumous award of the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to 119 military, police and civilian personnel who have paid the ultimate price while serving in peacekeeping operations in 2018 and early 2019.

During a special ceremony, the Secretary-General will award the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage posthumously to Private Chancy Chitete of Malawi.  The Medal is named for Captain Mbaye, a peacekeeper from Senegal who was killed in Rwanda in 1994 after saving countless civilian lives.  This marks the first time it has been awarded since the inaugural Medal was presented to Captain Diagne’s family in his honour in 2016.

Private Chitete served with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and was killed in 2018 while saving the life of a fellow peacekeeper from the United Republic of Tanzania who had been badly wounded during an operation against the Allied Democratic Forces, which was aimed to stop attacks on local towns and to prevent the disruption of the Ebola response.  His comrade survived, and Private Chitete’s heroism and sacrifice helped the peacekeepers achieve their objective of protecting civilians and forcing the Allied Democratic Forces to withdraw from the area.  Private Chitete’s family is to receive the medal on his behalf during the Peacekeepers’ Day commemorations in New York.

In a video message to mark Peacekeepers Day, the Secretary-General said:  “Today, we honour the more than 1 million men and women who have served as UN peacekeepers since our first mission in 1948.  We remember the more than 3,800 personnel who paid the ultimate price.  And we express our deepest gratitude to the 100,000 civilian, police and military peacekeepers deployed around the world today and to the countries that contribute these brave and dedicated women and men.”

The global theme for the 2019 commemoration is “Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace”.  In his message, the Secretary-General’s said:  “This year, the United Nations marks 20 years since the Security Council first mandated a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians.  Peacekeepers protect men, women and children from violence every day, often at great personal risk.”

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said:  “UN Peacekeeping deploys to some of the most complex and difficult places, protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable.  We are working in partnership with Member States to implement the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative to strengthen peacekeeping, including to improve how we protect civilians, which is at the heart of our work.  For hundreds of millions, peacekeeping is the last best hope and it needs all our support.”

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.  The General Assembly designated 29 May as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in commemoration of the day in 1948 when the Organization’s first peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.

While the Day will be marked at Headquarters on 24 May, United Nations missions and offices around the world will commemorate the Day on 29 May.

Schedule of Events at Headquarters on 24 May

9:30 a.m.:  A wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all fallen peacekeepers will be held at the Peacekeepers Memorial Site in the North Lawn.  The ceremony is open to United Nations-based media.  The event cannot be webcast live for technical reasons, but a recording will be available later in the morning as a “recent on‑demand video” at http://webtv.un.org.  If raining, it will be held at the Chagall Window in the Visitor’s Lobby of the General Assembly Building.

10 a.m.:  The Captain Mbaye Diagne and Dag Hammarskjöld Medal ceremonies will be held in the Trusteeship Council and will be shown live on UN Webcast.

12 p.m.:  Under‑Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix will be the guest at the noon briefing.

12:45 p.m.:  A medal parade for the military and police officers currently serving in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at New York Headquarters will be held in the General Assembly Plaza, which is outdoors, alongside the east side of the General Assembly Building.  If raining, it will be held in the Lobby of Secretariat Building.

For further information, please contact Douglas Coffman, Department of Global Communications, at tel.:  +1 212 963 4481, or e-mail:  coffmand@un.org; or Aditya Mehta, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, at tel.:  +1 917 367 5378 or e-mail:  mehta2@un.org; or visit the