In 2003, the first International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers was observed globally on May 29. Since then, the world has paid tribute to these men and women who have bravely served in some of the most hostile conditions, in order to restore an element of normalcy to the lives of the hundreds of thousands who are forced to live within war-torn zones.
Many have unfortunately lost their lives in the line of duty. To these, current and past participants in UN Peacekeeping operations, we pay homage today. Jamaica joins the rest of the world in expressing our gratitude to them for their contribution towards making this world a better and more secure place in which to live. To them we owe a debt of gratitude, which will be difficult to repay.
We recognize the exemplary service of these individuals, who have selflessly aided in the maintenance of international peace and security. Through their efforts, peace and stability have been achieved in previously, weary, war- ravaged societies.
The role of the United Nations peacekeepers has evolved over the past sixty four (64) years. The first Peacekeeping missions were focused on the monitoring of cease fires and enforcing of border security. Peacekeeping operations now embrace a multi-dimensional approach spanning a range of programmes and policies designed not just to secure the peace, but to aid in the realization of developmental goals of the peoples affected by such conflicts.
Many UN Peacekeeping Missions, in recognition of the link between peace and development, now undertake a range of social intervention programmes in these societies. These include, training sessions with local police officers, distribution of food, the promotion and protection of human rights, assisting with the organization of free and fair elections, mentoring, community improvement and securing the well-being of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Jamaica is proud of its contribution to UN Peacekeeping operations. Since 1989, when we first participated, over seventy (70) Jamaican Police and Military officers have served in Missions in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. We continue to maintain this tradition, with seventeen (17) officers currently deployed in Sudan (Darfur), Timor – Leste and Haiti.
A total of thirty eight (38) female officers have been deployed. All of whom have been vital members of their teams, becoming contingent commanders, teachers, mothers, care-givers and friends. They have been instrumental in conducting gender patrols and confidence building sessions with local women and becoming involved in sensitizing local men, in gender sensitive missions such as Darfur, Sudan, about abuses against women, including: rape, domestic violence and genital mutilation.
Jamaica’s participation in these Missions bears testimony to our commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security. We have demonstrated that we can, despite our size and limited resources, play an important role, in not only the multilateral discourse on such matters, but in actualizing decisions taken on the most appropriate way to combat and prevent conflicts which can and sometimes do threaten international peace and security.
Our officers continue to serve with much distinction, and are often the subject of several requests from the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) for extended tours of duty. Quite remarkable also, is the fact that Jamaican peacekeepers have been instrumental in facilitating positive interaction with rebel groups at the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), a feat unheard of in situations such as these.
Today, we salute these courageous individuals. We encourage them to continue to use the knowledge and experience gained in these areas, in addressing our own security challenges. As we work together as a nation to transform our society, to make Jamaica the place to live, work and raise a family, their expertise will be indispensable in the transformation process.
We are confident of their devotion to duty and look forward to their continued efforts in building a society of which we can all be proud.
In this our 50th Year of Independence, we must consider also the plight of the many Internally Displaced Persons worldwide who do not have a place to call home, even within their own countries. In so doing, we remember the words of our National Pledge to: “promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace …” so that Jamaica may, through you our peacekeepers, play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.