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UN lauds peacekeepers sacrifices in world's hot spots; 14 Pakistanis decorated posthumously

UNITED NATIONS, May 29 — The United Nations Friday celebrated the dedication and courage of the men and women who play a role in the cause of peace around the world, while honoring the sacrifices of over 200 peacekeepers, including 14 Pakistanis, who paid the ultimate price in that service.

The eighth annual International Day of Peacekeepers pays tribute to the more than 124,000 personnel who are serving in 16 operations on four continents, doing everything from clearing landmines and delivering aid to helping refugees and supporting free and fair elections.

"Pakistan is one the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping missions around the world, with some 10,000 troops. Our courageous peacekeepers are among the best of what the United Nations has to offer," Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro remarked during a wreath-laying ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York to honor fallen colleagues.

"This is a day to celebrate their remarkable contributions. They do so much more than keeping the peace: they build bridges, they earn trust, they help societies, heal the wounds of war," she said. "But today we also remember the terrible price they pay for their critical but dangerous work."

“This year,s observance is a particularly sombre one owing to several tragedies that struck UN peacekeeping over the last year, from ambushes in Darfur, terrorism in Kabul, and the tragic earthquake in Haiti."

As part of the commemorative events, 218 peacekeepers, who lost their lives while serving under the blue flag over the past 14 months were posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskld medal at a ceremony presided over by UnderSecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy.

Colonel Hammad Dogar, military adviser to the Pakistan UN Mission, received the award on behalf of the families of the 14 Pakistani peacekeepers.

This year's theme is “Haiti Standing,” to mark the loss of 101 UN peacekeepers in the January 12 quake and highlight the ongoing contributions by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to the country’s recovery.

The tragedy in Haiti represented the biggest single loss of life in UN peacekeeping history, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in his message for the Day.

"But that dark day also became one of our finest hours, as the men and women of MINUSTAH set aside their own trauma, got the mission quickly back on its feet and helped the people of Haiti cope with the horrific aftermath,” he stated.

Ban, who is currently attending an international conference in Rio de Janeiro, met with the families of Brazilian peacekeepers killed in the Haiti earthquake, and participated at the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for the peacekeepers.

“Hope in action. That is their legacy,” he told the gathering.

“They gave everything for the country of Brazil, for the people of Haiti, for the work of the United Nations.” General Assembly President Ali Treki, in his message for the Day, noted that some 9,000 personnel in uniform are currently providing security, clearing roads, conducting patrols, helping to restore basic services to the Haitian people, and much more.

“Thanks to the courageous efforts of our peacekeepers in Haiti, there is hope and opportunity to recover and rebuild from a catastrophe of such proportions.”

The Assembly established the International Day in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in UN peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

The 192-member body designated May 29 as the Day, as it was the date in 1948 when the first UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine. (PNA/APP)

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