UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laid a wreath to honour more than 4,000 UN peacekeepers who lost their lives since 1948, and presided over a virtual ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjold Medal was awarded posthumously to 129 peacekeepers, who died in 2020 and in the first month of 2021.
Thursday’s events formed the annual observance of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, which falls on May 29, reports Xinhua news agency.
“Our fallen peacekeepers, uniformed and civilian, lost their lives due to malicious acts, in accidents and as a result of illness, including Covid-19. They came from 44 different countries and diverse backgrounds but were united by a common purpose: to serve our great organization, promote peace and security and improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” he said during Dag Hammarskjold Medal ceremony.
“We are forever in their debt. I offer my sincere condolences to their families and friends and I hope that the medals presented today offer some comfort. Their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten, and they will always be in our hearts.”
The challenges and threats faced by UN peacekeepers are immense, the UN chief said, adding that they work hard every day to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable, while facing the dual threats of violence and a global pandemic.
Despite Covid-19, across all UN peacekeeping missions, the blue helmets have not only been adapting to continue to deliver their core tasks, they are also assisting national and community efforts to fight the virus, he said.
“I am proud of the work they have done. We salute the dedication and bravery of all our peacekeepers, women and men, the young and the slightly older,and we remain grateful for their service and sacrifice. They deserve our full support, and we must continue to work together to do all that we can to improve their safety and security and give them the tools to succeed,” said Guterres.