The United Nations is marking the annual International Day of Peacekeepers by honouring the brave troops, police and civilians who serve in some of the most difficult places around the world, and by stressing the unique role played by women and the need to deploy more of them.
This year’s commemoration comes at a time when the services of UN peacekeepers are in greater demand than ever. Deployment is at a record high, with more than 113,000 peacekeepers serving in 18 operations on four continents.
Yet, “there are still far too few women peacekeepers,” as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in his message for the Day, pointing out that women make up only 8 per cent of the UN police and 2 per cent of its military personnel.
“With women joining national militaries and police in greater numbers, it is critical that Member States contribute even more female personnel to the United Nations,” he stated, highlighting the “power of women” to strengthen UN peacekeeping while helping women and girls themselves to transform their destinies – and societies – for the better.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has urged troop- and police-contributing countries to deploy more women. India was among the first to answer the call in 2007 with the deployment of a 125-member all-female police contingent to Liberia.
The world body is also working to increase the number of women in senior positions at Headquarters and in field missions.
“We have done a lot but we need to do a great deal more,” Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy stated.
“Peacekeeping has become more multifaceted. We assist in providing security, reforming State institutions and supporting political transitions. Our women peacekeepers make a critical contribution in all of these areas and their work encourages others to participate in local peace processes,” said Mr. Le Roy.
General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, in his message for the Day, stressed that peacekeepers do not just carry out their mandated tasks. “They create a lasting legacy by exemplifying how military and police can engage in humanitarian work while interacting respectfully with civil society.
“UN operations do more than just silence the guns,” he said. “Increasingly, they help to foster a culture of sustainable peace in countries devastated by conflict, some that have lasted for decades.”
From New York to Naqoura, Darfur to Dili, the Day is being marked globally with a range of events, including ceremonies to honour those who paid the ultimate price in the service of peace. In 2008, 132 peacekeepers – including 10 women – lost their lives, whether through attacks, illnesses or accidents – the highest one-year total in the history of the Organization.
Designated by the General Assembly in 2002, the International Day is observed on 29 May, the date in 1948 when the first UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.