About the Author: Dr. Esther Brimmer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.
Today marks the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, a day which allows us to pay tribute to the brave and devoted men and women serving in UN peacekeeping missions far from their families and homes under extremely challenging circumstances.
The UN General Assembly designated May 29 as International UN Peacekeeper Day in commemoration of the date of the authorization of the UN's first peacekeeping mandate, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in 1948.
This date -- so close to our Memorial Day, when Americans pay tribute to the brave men and women who have died in service to our country -- is a chance to reflect not only on the essential role in international security played by UN peace operations, but also on the grave threats that UN peacekeepers face in countries around the globe every day.
Indeed, this has been a very difficult year for UN peacekeeping. The UN suffered its greatest loss of life in a single event, when 96 MINUSTAH peacekeepers tragically perished in the Haiti earthquake in January. But as a shining example of the dedication and courage of UN peacekeepers, the men and women of MINUSTAH have performed admirably despite their own tragic losses, continuing to ensure stability in Haiti, provide training and mentoring for the Haitian National Police, and assist the Government of Haiti in its efforts to promote the rule of law.
During a recent visit to Port-au-Prince to assess first-hand the situation on the ground, I had the opportunity to meet with MINUSTAH's top leadership and deliver to them the message that the United States supports them fully, as we do UN peacekeeping missions around the world. I was also able to meet with representatives of several branches of the U.S. Armed Forces who are serving in MINUSTAH as well as U.S. police officers who were part of MINUSTAH's efforts to improve Haiti's own police force. The men and women of MINUSTAH are living examples of the dedication and commitment of UN peacekeepers worldwide, and I was proud to have had the chance to meet and talk with them.
Today, some 60 years after the UN created the first peacekeeping mission, more than 120,000 peacekeepers from over a hundred nations serve in the UN's 15 peacekeeping missions. More than ever, the United States recognizes the importance of these missions and the need to build the capacity of UN peacekeeping operations. That is why last September President Obama took the unprecedented step of meeting with the leaders of 15 of the top troop contributing countries in New York during the 64th session of the UN General Assembly and why his National Security Strategy outlined on Thursday also makes clear our continued commitment to UN peacekeeping operations.
As the National Security Strategy points out, all responsible nations must work to prevent the tragic suffering and loss of life caused by armed conflict, but no single nation can do it alone. Today, we salute the world's peacekeepers for working to make the world safer and more secure.