UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) addresses an event entitled "Dag Hammarskjold Medal Ceremony and Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award" at the UN headquarters in New York, on May 25, 2023. (Evan Schneider/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that for civilians caught in conflict, UN blue helmets who support security, stability and the rule of law in host countries are seen as "a beacon of hope and protection."
UNITED NATIONS, May 25 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations held ceremonies at its headquarters in New York on Thursday, to honor the memory of the peacekeepers who have sacrificed their lives while serving under the UN flag.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laid a wreath at the Peacekeepers Memorial in honor of the more than 4,200 UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives since 1948.
Moments later, he presided over a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall at which Dag Hammarskjold Medals were awarded posthumously to 103 military, police and civilian peacekeepers who lost their lives serving under the UN flag in 2022.
In remarks at the ceremony, Guterres said that for civilians caught in conflict, UN blue helmets who support security, stability and the rule of law in host countries are seen as "a beacon of hope and protection."
"They represent the beating heart of the United Nations' commitment to peace," he said. "By bringing peacekeepers together from around the world, peacekeeping has also become an inspiring symbol of multilateralism in action."
Thursday's ceremonies were staged to observe the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, which falls on May 29, and to mark the 75th anniversary of UN peacekeeping.
The first UN peacekeeping mission was established in May 1948, when the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of a small number of UN military observers to the Middle East to form the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
According to a UN press release, more than 2 million peacekeepers from 125 countries have since served in 71 operations around the world. Today, 87,000 women and men are serving in 12 conflict zones across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (at podium and on screens) addresses an event entitled "Dag Hammarskjold Medal Ceremony and Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award" at the UN headquarters in New York, on May 25, 2023. (Evan Schneider/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)
Guterres pointed out that peacekeepers face a daunting array of rising global tensions and divides, and "are increasingly working in places where there is no peace to keep."
"Despite all obstacles, our personnel persevere, risking their own lives in service of others," said the UN chief. "I pay tribute to their service and sacrifice, which inspire our work every day."
He expressed the commitment that the United Nations will do its utmost to support the peacekeepers, including improving their safety and security and the effectiveness of peacekeeping.
Guterres also presented the 2022 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award to Captain Cecilia Erzuah, a military officer from Ghana who served with the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei.
Created in 2016, the award recognizes the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
The resolution is a reminder that there can be no lasting peace without involving women at every step, Guterres said, noting that many negotiating teams and peace processes today are totally dominated by men.
"It's up to all of us -- governments, communities and local officials -- to ensure that women play their full part, including as leaders, in building and maintaining peace," he said. ■