The Auschwitz Institute recognizes May 29 as the annual International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. The commemorative date was established through A/RES/57/129, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003 to honor the individuals who have served as United Nations Peacekeepers since operations began in 1948. Thus far, over one million Peacekeepers have carried out their duties under the UN banner, with over 3,900 peacekeepers losing their lives in the line of duty since 1948, including more than one hundred in the last year.
In his message for the 2020 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said:
Today we honor more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We also express our gratitude to the 95,000 civilian, police and military personnel currently deployed around the world. They are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The theme of the 2020 observance of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace“. This theme was chosen in part to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Women in peacekeeping roles “…improve overall peacekeeping performance, have greater access to communities, help in promoting human rights and the protection of civilians, and encourage women to become a meaningful part of peace and political processes.”
As of December 2019, only 6% of all uniformed military police, justice, and corrections personnel in field missions are women. However, the UN has set a target of having 15% women serving in its military contingents (20% for police) by 2028. For more information, please see this Unformed Women in Peace Operations infographic. Additional UN statistics on gender in peacekeeping operations can be found here.
On this International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, the Auschwitz Institute honors and recognizes the work of United Nations Peacekeepers, especially women, who do vital work in preventing mass atrocities around the world. AIPG pays tribute to the thousands of service members who have given their lives for the protection of vulnerable populations experiencing conflict. The Auschwitz Institute celebrates the invaluable role that UN Peacekeepers play by facilitating peaceful transitions of power, assisting in demilitarization, and protecting processes for dialogue and reconciliation, human rights, and the rule of law, which all contribute to the prevention of future violence.
Additionally, this year on May 29, AIPG joins with the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations to hold a virtual high-level discussion entitled “Making the Moral Case for Peacekeeping.” The discussion will feature Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, and AIPG’s Director of Academic Programs, Dr. James Waller. In this online dialogue, participants will examine the moral case for peacekeeping and reflect on the broader themes impacting it today. This will include consideration of how peacekeeping has learned from past failures to fully embrace its responsibility to protect civilians as well as how the current COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of collective responsibility.