UNIFIL marks 41st anniversary of its establishment
Today, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) marked the 41st anniversary of its establishment with a ceremony at its Headquarters in Naqoura. This was to highlight the commitment of the international community and the United Nations to the Lebanese state and its people in providing a safe and calm environment for the local population in southern Lebanon.
“A lot of progress happened since the first deployment of UNIFIL 41 years ago, but we must look forward if we are to achieve a lasting and permanent peace in south Lebanon,” said the UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col. “I would like to share my vision for UNIFIL: sustain the peace, protect civilians, strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and move towards a permanent ceasefire in line with our mandate under UN Security Council resolution 1701.”
In attendance at the ceremony were representatives of the LAF and other security agencies, local authorities, mayors and religious leaders. Major General Del Col and Brigadier-General Roger Helou (representing the LAF Commander) laid wreaths at the UNIFIL cenotaph paying tribute to the memory of the UN peacekeepers from around the world who, since UNIFIL’s establishment in 1978, have given their lives in the cause of peace in southern Lebanon.
During the proceedings UNIFIL leadership and LAF representative awarded 50 military staff officers with the UN Medal for their contribution to fulfilling the Mission’s mandate. In addressing the ceremony, the UNIFIL Force Commander highlighted the Missions continued presence in south Lebanon as a clear demonstration of the UN’s commitment and enduring support to Lebanon and its people.
While noting the work of the Mission in diffusing tensions and avoiding escalations, the head of UNIFIL emphasized the crucial role of the LAF, saying, “The Lebanese Army has grown and progressed to become a respected state institution as well as the recognized provider of security for Lebanon and its citizens. UNIFIL will continue to support this development, as well as working in close cooperation with our strategic partner, to support the stability of Lebanon and to pave the way for progress towards a resolution of this conflict.”
The UNIFIL chief also highlighted the close bonds between the Mission and the people of south Lebanon, “South Lebanon has enjoyed 13 years of calm and stability since 2006. The development of communities and civil society, as well as a normalization of activity throughout the area of operations, are signs filling us with hope for a peaceful future as communities grow and prosper, becoming resistant to a return to conflict and war.”
Following the ceremony Major General Del Col met with the large number of local journalists in attendance. He briefed them on the current situation in the area of operation and the activities carried out by UNIFIL in close coordination with the LAF.
Background on UNIFIL:
UNIFIL was created by the UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 of 19 March 1978, to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area.
Following the July/August conflict in 2006, the Security Council, through its resolution 1701, significantly enhanced UNIFIL’s mandate and capacity and assigned it additional tasks working closely with LAF in Southern Lebanon.
Today, UNIFIL comprises almost 10,500 military personnel from 42 countries, including the Maritime Task Force, the only naval force in peacekeeping operations - and some 1,000 civilian national and international staff.
Speech of UNIFIL Head of Mission Major General Stefano Del Col