On May 29th, the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is held to pay tribute to civilian, military and police personnel who have served in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations and to honor the lives lost while serving under the UN flag since 1948. Specifically, peacekeepers are honored for their “high level of professionalism, dedication and courage.” This year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers will be especially important as peacekeepers have strived to “support and protect the people in the countries in which they are based” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The origin of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers begins with the first UN peacekeeping mission founded on May 29th, 1948, titled United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).. The purpose of UNTSO was to “assist peacekeepers and to observe and maintain a cease-fire.” UNTSO’s maintenance of a cease-fire secured the end of hostilities between Israel and Arab League forces that had occured for fifteen days after the end of the British Mandate of Palestine on May 14th of 1948. 18 years later, the UN General Assembly decided to assign May 29th as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers and was later celebrated for the first time in 2003.
2021’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers theme is, “The road to a lasting peace: Leveraging the power of youth for peace and security.” The UN Security Council plans to praise the men and women who play the role of promoting international security and peace. This is because the UN Security Council believes that only once young people are prioritized and their perspectives are highlighted can conflict be prevented and resolved. “Engaging young people and youth community leaders in peace efforts, decision-making and institutional reform processes provides an opportunity to constructively influence areas that directly impact their lives,” the UN Security Council said. For the past six years, the UN Security Council has been striving to get youth more involved in peace and security. In 2015, the UN Security Council introduced the idea of youth being the key to the sustainability, inclusiveness, and success of peacekeeping efforts. Even more, the UN Security Council resolution 2250 implemented a study on the positive contributions to peacekeeping and conflict resolution made by the youth. This independent study was titled, “The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security. The five pillars were also created in resolution 2250, which are: Participation, Protection, Prevention, Partnerships, and Disengagement. These five pillars are the framework of this year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers theme. Three years later, resolution 2419 called for the complete involvement of young people when negotiating, implementing, and making decisions on peace agreements.
Today, resolution 2535 calls for more engagement and implementation of the previous resolutions regarding youth and highlights the established steps of youth peace and security.
As the International Day of UN Peacekeepers is not a public holiday, events take place in the UN headquarters located in New York in the United States and other locations around the world. Memorial services are held to honor those who died amidst peacekeeping missions. Specifically, the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal is awarded to honor the military, police, and civilian personnel whose lives were lost while working on peacekeeping operations. Finally, the UN holds a photographic exhibition to display the achievements and work done by UN peacekeepers.
Through Teen Lenses: What do you know about United Nations Peacekeepers? If you do not know anything about them, would you be interested in learning about them?
“From my knowledge, the United Nations peacekeepers are those who assist countries that are in burden of conflict to a more peaceful environment. Specifically, they protect civilians and advocate for human rights all over the world. However, the current issues that are present in the world as of today are not being as effectively solved by the UN peacekeepers. Particularly, the conflict between Palestine and Israel has brought upon too many injuries/deaths to count. Yet, the UN peacekeepers are doing a poor job in keeping these nations intact. Their tasks are to turn a conflicted environment into a peaceful one but that is not being done in Palestine and Israel–rather the complete opposite. So, I believe that they could definitely do a better job by looking deeper into these world issues while also attending to other countries.” Vipula Thoppae, 17, Junior at Urbana High School, Maryland
“I know that United Nations Peacekeepers constantly act as a peacekeeper between countries to reduce conflict. I also know they work on making sure consent from countries happens, use no force but rather diplomatic methods, and that they work all over the world.” Lindsay Hwang, 14, Freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia
“No, I do not know anything about the United Nations Peacekeepers. However, I would be interested in learning more about them in the future.” Celeste Edwards, 14, Freshman at Park View High School, Virginia