Marking the UN International Day of Peacekeepers, he said:
“The British Government is joining others across the world today to honour the memory of UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.
“It is important that we take time to reflect on their sacrifice and pay tribute to the men and women who have served - and who continue to serve - for this noblest of causes.
“Around the world today, around 120,000 people from 117 countries are serving in UN peacekeeping missions, putting their lives on the line in the most physically and politically hostile environments.
“This year, during the Olympic Truce period, I am pleased that we are also encouraging recognition of the unique role that UN peacekeepers play in building peace as part of our efforts in the UK and across the globe to promote the ideals of peace and conflict resolution for the duration of Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The Foreign Office’s Director for Multilateral Policy, Vijay Rangarajan, laid a wreath at the Women of WWII memorial today among representatives from the Armed Forces, Police and Civil Service, as well as foreign embassies and civil society in laying wreaths at the memorial.
The UN International Day of Peacekeepers takes place each year on 29 May. This year marks the 64th anniversary of the deployment of the first UN peacekeeping mission, organised by the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), to monitor the ceasefire after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It is still deployed today.
Over the past 64 years a total of 67 peacekeeping missions have been deployed, three of which were deployed in the past year; to Libya, South Sudan and the area of Abyei disputed between Sudan and South Sudan. During this time, almost 3,000 peacekeepers from 120 nations have lost their lives, including 103 British personnel.
In the UK, the United Nations Association UK (UNA-UK) leads efforts to mark the anniversary. This year the UNA-UK is holding a conference at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), along with a service of commemoration at the Women of WWII memorial on Whitehall on 29 May. Women currently make up around 4% of military and 10% of police personnel currently deployed by the UN. Three women lead peacekeeping operations and there are a number of all-female military and police units deployed in the field. They play a crucial role alongside their usual peacekeeping duties in helping to support the role of women in building peace and promoting women’s rights.
All 193 UN member states co-sponsored a resolution in October last year pledging to promote the ideals of the Olympic Truce internationally and ensure the safe passage of athletes and spectators for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. British Diplomatic Missions around the world are organising a broad range of activities such as sports competitions, community level dialogues, youth events and workshops, as well as events that recognise the contribution of peacekeepers.