UNIFIL Commemorates International day of UN Peacekeepers

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27 May 2011

UNIFIL Commemorates International day of UN Peacekeepers

27 May 2011 - Naqoura, Lebanon - The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today commemorated the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, remembering colleagues who lost their lives in the line of duty and celebrating their contributions to peace.

A ceremony was held today at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura to mark the international day that is observed every year on 29 May. Peacekeepers representing UNIFIL's 35 different national contingents were joined by local authorities, officers of the Lebanese armed and security forces and diplomatic representatives.

UNIFIL Acting Force Commander Brigadier-General Santi Bonfanti, and Brigadier-General Emile Salloum representing the Lebanese Armed Forces Commander, laid wreaths at the UNIFIL Cenotaph in honour of the peacekeepers who lost their lives in the service of peace. A minute of silence was observed. There have been 292 fatalities of peacekeepers serving with UNIFIL since its establishment in 1978.

"I pay tribute to you all peacekeepers - men and women, civilian and military, who serve selflessly, tirelessly and courageously in UNIFIL every day. Your work is a source of pride for the United Nations every day of the year", Brigadier-General Bonfanti said at the ceremony.

The commemoration is an occasion to pay tribute to those peacekeepers deployed around the world and to remember those who gave their lives in the line of duty. Since January 2010, tragedies have befallen UN peacekeeping, with about 100 killed in a single blow in an earthquake in Haiti that month. In April 2011, 32 lives, many of them UN staff, were lost in the crash of a plane serving with the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A few days earlier, seven personnel were killed in an attack on a UN compound in Afghanistan.

The theme of this year's commemoration is upholding the rule of law, which is essential for successful peacekeeping in conflict and post-conflict settings.

"Rule of law assistance is an essential tool that the United Nations relies upon to help maintain peace and security around the world," Brigadier-General Bonfanti said.

The International Day of UN Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002 to pay tribute to those serving in UN peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives. The Day was set on 29 May, the date in 1948 of the first UN peacekeeping mission: UNTSO (UN Truce Supervision Organization). Today, there are about 120,000 peacekeepers worldwide from 115 countries. They include UNIFIL's 12,000 soldiers and about 1,000 civilians.