Paying the highest tribute to more then 116,000 UN peacekeepers from some 120 countries – currently serving in 16 peacekeeping operations all over the world “at their great personal risk,” – the UN Secretary General, Thursday honored those who lost their lives under the UN’s flag last year.
“We mourn the passing of every one of these courageous individuals,” said Ban Ki-moon.
The UN chief said 106 peacekeepers died in 2013, mostly in Africa and particularly in Darfur and South Sudan. Another 22 civilians lost their lives while serving in UN peacekeeping missions last year.
On average, one peacekeeper dies every 30 days, and new technology like pilotless aircraft, so called “drones” should be used more to reduce risks on the ground for UN peacekeepers all over the world, the Under Secretary General for peacekeeping operations said on Thursday in New York.
“Using technology can make it necessary not to have so many boots on the ground,” said Harve Ladsous of France. The UN “cannot continue to afford to work with 20th Century tools in the 21st Century.”
Ladsous said drones should become indispensable in the day to day operations of saving lives. Surveillance could replace some military observers on the ground as well, Ladsous said.
The UN peacekeeping chief noted the organization needed more drones in the Central African Republic, Mali and in South Sudan.
Talking at the same Dag Hammarskjold medal awards ceremony, Ladsous claimed that in using drones, the UN is now able to better “monitor movements of armed groups” and “protect vulnerable populations”, as they did with 90,000 civilians fleeing war in South Sudan.
Earlier, at the same ceremony, Ban Ki-moon hailed the long “and proud” history of UN peacekeeping, also envisioning – they should be “global force that can effectively tackle emerging peace” and face future new security challenges.
Ban said that over one million UN peacekeepers have served in more than 70 operations on four continents since 1948, when the blue helmets started their peace patrols with the mission “to help stabilize communities, protect civilians, promote the rule of law and advance human rights”.
The total number of UN peacekeepers who died in operations in the past 65 years is more than 3,200.
The UN also publicly commended its member states for providing troops and police, with resources, funding, training and equipment to UN peacekeeping operations.
Turkey is among the chief UN peacekeeping contributor countries. Turkish peacekeeper numbers have surged since 2006, with the expansion of UNIFIL in Lebanon, the Turkish participation in UN peacekeeping in Haiti, East Timor and African states, and within NATO and EU operations as well as in the Balkans, within Bosnia and Kosovo borders.
World Bulletin/News Desk