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Guterres honours service and sacrifice of UN peacekeepers

Mr. Guterres began the day by laying a wreath at the Peacekeepers Memorial Site on the grounds of UN Headquarters in New York in honour of the more than 4,300 “Blue Helmets” who lost their lives over the Organization’s nearly 80-year history. 

Later, at a ceremony in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, he called for a minute of silence to remember the military, police, civilian personnel and national staff who have paid the ultimate price.

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“The memory of our fallen Blue Helmets reminds us of the tragic human cost of conflict,” he said.  

“Each loss underscores the urgent need to prevent violence, protect the most vulnerable, and spare no effort to end these deadly conflicts.” 

‘We will never forget them’ 

Last year, 61 peacekeepers from 33 countries died in service. 

Their families have received Dag Hammarskjöld medals, named after the second UN Secretary-General, who died in a plane crash in September 1961 in what is now Zambia. 

“We share our deepest sympathies with the families and friends,” said Mr. Guterres. “We will never forget them.” 

The UN chief noted that the world is going through a difficult and dangerous time, with the international community deeply divided, and UN peacekeepers are more important than ever. 

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More than 76,000 women and men from 121 countries are currently deployed in 11 operations worldwide. 

“Peacekeepers are often engaged in countries or areas where there is no peace to keep,” he said. 

“Despite direct attacks by armed groups, harsh operating environments and the emergence of new weapons of war, including digital technology and artificial intelligence, our peacekeepers persevere. And we must support them.”  

Gender Advocate Award 

Mr. Guterres also presented the 2023 UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award to Major Radhika Sen, an Indian peacekeeper who served in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

Major Sen was deployed in eastern DRC with the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO, as the Commander of the Indian contingent’s engagement platoon.

Listen to our interview with Major Sen: 


She led the unit on countless patrols at a time of escalating conflict in North Kivu province. 

Major Sen helped to create community networks, providing a safe platform for women to share their ideas and concerns so that the UN Mission could better respond to their needs.  

The Secretary-General called Major Sen “a true leader and role model”, adding that “her service is a true credit to the United Nations as a whole.”  

The wreath laying and ceremony were held to mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, commemorated annually on 29 May. 

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) greets Major Radhika Sen, recipient of the 2023 UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) greets Major Radhika Sen, recipient of the 2023 UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.


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