The United Nations has run peacekeeping missions around the world for more than 70 years. But during that time more than 3800 blue helmet personnel have been killed in action.
As the International Day of Peacekeeping approaches, the U.N. has once again remembered those who have given their lives protecting the world’s most vulnerable in the name of peace.
CGTN’s Nick Harper reports from New York.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres led the commemorations to honor the fallen peacekeepers. He laid a wreath at the Peacekeeper Memorial at the U.N. headquarters in New York and spoke of the bravery of the 100,000 peacekeeping personnel serving around the world.
“Today, in 14 missions around the world, our peacekeepers serve heroically to preserve peace and stability,” said Guterres. “They also face grave threats. Attacks on our patrols and our facilities have become all too common. Disease and accidents also take a heavy toll.”
More than 1 million men and women have served under the blue flag of the United Nations since peacekeeping operations began in 1948.
The International Day of Peacekeeping is an opportunity to recognize the value of peacekeeping, but also its cost.
In the last year alone 98 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty. Of the 14 active peacekeeping missions, those in Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic are among the deadliest the UN has ever undertaken.
The fallen peacekeepers were awarded posthumous medals. The highest honor – the ‘Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage’ – went to Malawian soldier Chancy Chitete. He died rescuing a fellow peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Under‑Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix paid tribute to the peacekeeper’s selfless sacrifice.
“Private Chitete’s heroism and sacrifice is an important reminder to what we owe to these men and women who put their lives on the line every day in the service of peace,” Lacroix said.
The Secretary-General Guterres also praised Private Chitete saying, “The world does not have many true heroes. But the late Private Chancy Chitete, of Malawi, was indeed one of them and we, unfortunately, lost him last year.
“He saved his comrades and helped the UN protect the vulnerable. He personally made a difference. A profound one.”
But despite these sacrifices, the UN peacekeeping budget is under continued strain with bills not paid on time.
The UN ended 2018 with $2 billion still owed by member states. The Secretary-General has warned “frequent cash constraints” make the work of protecting civilians and upholding peace a harder challenge.