Guterres in Mali for International Peacekeepers Day commemoration

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The UN Secretary General has traveled to the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world to mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

Antonio Guterres arrived in Mali Tuesday to express his solidarity with UN colleagues facing high casualties and enormous volatility in certain conflict theatres around the world.

While an official commemoration will be held on Friday at UN Headquarters in New York to honour the 129 personnel who lost their lives in peacekeeping operations in 2017, missions like one in South Sudan have already paid their respects.

A country where peace has been difficult to keep.

As regional and international efforts make little progress in silencing the guns in the world’s youngest and among the poorest nations anywhere.

Secretary General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer says, “Peacekeepers can work to protect civilians, but ultimately, a safe and secure future can only come through political solutions.”

“Peacekeepers can never be substitutes for the political will of the parties to a conflict. Partnerships including with the regional organisations (I mentioned before), the government and communities, are critical for UN peacekeeping to achieve results.”

“Throughout the UN’s good offices, we will press on to find a negotiated settlement and a lasting solution as we tried very hard at the latest talks in Addis alongside many of the counterparts.”

About 55 troops have died while in the service of the UN mission to South Sudan either in the line of duty or due to illnesses while those who continue to service do so in a complex and challenging environment.

Presidential Advisor in South Sudan, Nhial Deng Nhial says:”We appreciate all that UNMISS is doing, not just in terms of the conditions that enables the international community through the generous donations and assistance of country that provide financial resources to undertake this humanitarian operations, not only do we appreciate them for doing that, but we also appreciate them for having opened their doors to people who are feeling conflict to seek refuge.”

In 2018 the UN marks its 70th anniversary of peacekeeping while Unaisi Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa of Fiji is the first female police commissioner to serve in the UN mission in South Sudan.

“We are engaging with mostly the vulnerable people that are protected within the Protection of Civilians site. Of course, a lot of them are women and children. Therefore, the role of women police in UNPOL is very, very important so that we can be able to bridge the gap with the community that we are serving within the POC site.”

“So much earlier in my career I really had made it a point that, you know, I would really work hard and take with me the aspirations of women in the police force and that has been part of my motivation all throughout my career.”

Since 1948 over one million men and women have served under the United Nations flag in 71 peacekeeping operations, directly impacting the lives of hundreds of millions, while protecting vulnerable populations and saving countless lives.

Issues of widespread sexual abuse and exploitation have tarnished the image of blue helmets in recent years prompting the UN to adopt a zero tolerance approach while the theaters of conflict have become increasingly complex leading to attacks against the very people sent to protect vulnerable populations.

Click video below: