The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be observed on Tuesday, 29 May; the day marks the fourth year in a row the United Nations will honour more than 100 Blue Helmets who lost their lives the previous year while serving the cause of peace. This sombre milestone is a stark reminder of the risks incurred by individuals who put their lives on the line when they deploy to UN missions around the world.
Commemorative activities will be held at United Nations headquarters in New York, as well as at UN peacekeeping operations and offices around the world.
The 112 peacekeepers - military, police and civilian - who lost their lives in 2011 while serving with the United Nations as a result of hostile acts, accidents and disease, will posthumously receive the Dag HammarskjÃ¶ld Medal at a ceremony at the UN headquarters on 29 May.
Among the fallen peacekeepers to be honoured are two military and two police personnel from Sierra Leone who perished while serving with the UN-AU Mission in Darfur, Sudan: Corporal Gibriel Sheku Mansaray, who died on 5 August 2011; and Lance Corporal Ahmed Thomas, who died on 6 November 2011; Police Inspector Isatu Agnes Bangura, who died on 5 April 2011; and Police Officer Patrick Jabbah, who died on 21 February 2011.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The General Assembly designated 29 May as the Day, as it was the date in 1948 when the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message for the Day that, "Currently, 116 Member States contribute military and police personnel to our operations. This impressive number reflects growing global confidence in the value of United Nations peacekeeping as a tool for collective security."
"I am deeply grateful for every contribution of troops and police, as well as for the financial and material resources that make peacekeeping possible," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message marking the Day.
"UN Peacekeeping has evolved significantly beyond its traditional role of monitoring ceasefires. Today, we protect civilians, promote human rights, help countries build institutions, protect the rule of law and more. In these efforts, our partners are essential. They bring the added legitimacy, troops, police and other expertise, and the resources needed for the success of peacekeeping operations," said the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous.
This year's commemorative ceremonies come at a time when the services of United Nations peacekeepers continue to be in great demand. There are more than 84,000 military personnel, 14,000 police officers, 5,400 international civilian and 12,200 national staff serving in 16 peacekeeping operations on four continents.
Sierra Leone currently contributes 401 uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping operations - while most serve in Darfur, Sudan, others serve in Haiti, Lebanon, South Sudan and Timor-Leste.