UN system pays tribute to martyrs during peacekeeping

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United Nations, May 30 (UNI) UN officials marked the International Day of UN Peacekeepers by voicing gratitude for the work that blue helmets do every day in dangerous missions worldwide and mourning those who have fallen in service during the past six decades.

''Peacekeeping has developed into a flagship enterprise of our Organisation,'' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an official message to mark the Day yesterday, which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the first UN peacekeeping mission.

More than 110,000 uniformed personnel from 115 countries currently serve in 20 operations around the world.

Mr Ban said he had observed first-hand in his travels over the past year the impact the military troops and police officers had in countries trying to rebuild after war.

''I have seen refugees returning home, children heading back to school, citizens once again secure under the rule of law. I have seen whole societies moving, with the help of the peacekeepers, from devastation to rejuvenation,'' the UN chief said.

The Secretary-General noted that peacekeepers perform an array of tasks well beyond any narrow definition of their job, including training police, supporting elections, building bridges, repairing schools, protecting women from sexual violence, disarming ex-combatants and helping flood victims.

''Thanks to their efforts, life-saving humanitarian assistance can be delivered and economic development can begin,'' Mr Ban said.

In his message, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim lauded 'the professionalism, dedication and courage' of the peacekeepers.

He noted that the UN has recently approved the establishment of two new missions in Sudan's Darfur region and in the neighbouring countries of Chad and the Central African Republic.

Mr Kerim said the demands of UN peacekeeping had become so complex over the years that it was necessary last year to set up the new Department of Field Support.

''Our job in the General Assembly is to support the peacekeepers in political, financial and logistical aspects, so that they can get their jobs done on the ground,'' he said.

In a taped message, the UN Messenger of Peace and actor-director George Clooney said the world owed the peacekeepers a debt of gratitude for the work they do.

''These brave men and women go to places where few others will and risk their lives for peace. I am proud to continue my work with the UN to remind those in the United States and around the world that peace is not easy and, like war, must be waged,'' he said.

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