The United Nations observed the first International Day of UN Peacekeepers on May 29th, which is intended to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping missions, as well as to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.
The date of May 29 was chosen to commemorate the start of the first mission in 1948, when the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) began operations with a group of unarmed military observers in Palestine a mission that is still going today (and given the state of Palestine, may not be something the UN should brag about).
When the UN deployed for the first time, it seemed like a great idea - free men working together and ignoring their own differences to keep chaos in check and extinguish wars with peaceful solutions. For a time, the blue helmets of UN peacekeepers became a welcome sight. But the world became a far more complicated and unstable place, where graft and political bickering combined with logistical difficulties and a lack of will to dull the effect that most missions had on world events.
Since 1948, there have been 56 UN peacekeeping operations and of those, 43 were established since 1988. There are now nearly 37,000 UN peacekeepers from 89 countries deployed in fourteen missions on three continents. More than 1,800 peacekeepers have been killed over the 55 years of operations.
In a videotaped message broadcast to the peacekeepers around the world, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan emphasized that the mission of UN peacekeeping remains vital. The question is, how relevant are they? - Adam Geibel