Ghana joined other members of the UN May 29 to observe International Day of UN Peacekeepers at a ceremony at the forecourt of the State House. As part of the observance of the Day, five senior high schools in the nation’s capital-Accra, namely Labone, Accra High, St. Thomas Aquinas, Achimota and Accra Girls provided 40 students each to join the official ceremony. This was replicated in all the ten regions as a way of inculcating in the youth, a sense of peaceful coexistence and unity of purpose, so that when they grow up they will not depart from it. The theme for this year’s event “honoring our heroes” is indeed reflective of the sacrifices of the gallant men and women of the Ghana Armed Forces more than three decades ago and the Ghana Police Service in recent years. The Day was so designated by UN General Assembly Resolution 57/129, on December 11, 2002, after an official request by the Ukrainian Peacekeepers Association and the Government of Ukraine to the UN General Assembly and first celebrated in 2003.
May 29 marks the anniversary of the creation of the UN Truce Supervision Organization in 1948 to monitor the ceasefire after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which was the first ever UN peacekeeping mission. The Day is marked at the UN Headquarters in New York City with the presentation of the Dag Hammarskjold Medal, statements by the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General, as well as a press release regarding the state of UN peacekeeping missions and the continued necessity of their work. There are also celebrations around the world. Often, countries honor their own peacekeepers abroad, but the UN also organizes festivals, forums and memorials in cooperation with local and national groups. The International Day of the UN Peacekeepers was established to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage. In other words, the day offers a chance to pay tribute to the Blue Helmets’ invaluable contribution to the work of the UN and to honor more than 3,400 peacekeepers that have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 128 last year. Today, more than 124,000 military, police and civilian personnel are deployed in 16 peacekeeping operations in four continents.
In a message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “They manifest the best attributes of global solidarity. Courageously serving in dangerous environments to provide security to some of the world’s most vulnerable.” Since its beginning in 1948, UN peacekeeping has evolved into one of the main tools used by the international community to manage complex crises that threaten international peace and security. In this period, 71 peacekeeping operations have been established and more than one million military, police and civilian personnel have served as peacekeepers. Over the past year, UN peacekeeping has resulted in protecting people at risk and advancing peace processes. In South Sudan, more than 200,000 civilians, who feared for their lives, sought shelter at UN bases. In the Central African Republic, peacekeepers successfully supported landmark presidential and legislative elections that have set the once deeply troubled country on a path to peace and stability. In Mali, the “Blue Helmets” have suffered grave losses but that has not deterred them from implementing their mandate. In many countries, peacekeepers have addressed the problem of land mines and explosive remnants of war.
The significance of observing International Day of UN Peacekeepers cannot be swept under the carpet and so let us doff our hats in appreciation of the contribution that the armed forces of UN member countries including Ghana have made to global peace and security.
Long live Ghana! Long live peacekeepers! Long live the United Nations!
BY DAN OSMAN MWIN, HEAD OF THE PUBLIC RELATIONS UNIT OF THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION