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UN Peacekeepers Day celebrates 70th anniversary

May 29 - 2018 NEW YORK
A Unamid photo accompanying International Day of UN Peacekeepers 2018 (Unamid)
A Unamid photo accompanying International Day of UN Peacekeepers 2018 (Unamid)

This year, the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of UN peacekeeping with the theme “70 Years of Service and Sacrifice”.

The first UN peacekeeping mission was established on 29 May 1948. Today, UN peacekeeping deploys more than 100,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 14 peacekeeping operations on four continents.

The 70th anniversary offers a chance “to pay tribute to the contributions of uniformed and civilian personnel to the work of the organisation and to honour more than 3,700 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 129 who died last year”, a statement by the UN reads.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he will spend this Day in Mali.

Unamid downsized

In Darfur, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission (Unamid) has been authorised with the mandate to protect civilians, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, mediate between the government of Sudan and give support to mediation of community conflicts since 2007.

The authorised strength of the mission is to have 11, 395 military personnel and 2,888 police advisers and formed police units on the ground in Darfur. The budget, meanwhile, is $1,039,573.2 for the fiscal year 2016 – 2017.

Exit of the mission

The Sudanese authorities began to push for the exit of Unamid in end 2014, after the peacekeeping mission urged an investigation into a mass rape in North Darfur's Tabit on October 31 that year.

On June 29, 2017, the UN Security Council renewed Unamid’s mandate for another year. It also decided on a reduction of the peacekeepers “in two six-month phases while closely monitoring the situation on the ground.” More than a third of the nearly 19,000 Unamid military troops and police officers were to be withdrawn.

The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the decision, and called it “an explicit recognition of the realisation of peace and security” in the region.

Darfur displaced, Sudanese politicians, and international activists have all warned for the consequences of a downsizing of the number of peacekeepers for the people in Darfur.

Abandoning protective role’

In response to Joint Special Representative (JSR) Jeremiah Mamabolo’s recent report to the UN Security Council on the peacekeeping mission, Human Rights Watch urges the peacekeepers “to deepen and strengthen – not abandon– its human rights and protection role”.

Jehanne Henry, team leader of the HRW Africa Division however said in a comment on Thursday that “there’s a real risk the dire protection needs of civilians will be ignored or forgotten” – with “such a gloss-over assessment from peacekeepers.

“Sudan has restricted access and the peacekeeping mission has been under pressure to quickly downsize. While Jebel Marra was recognised as a trouble area over a year ago, construction on a temporary operating base for Unamid is only just beginning and peacekeepers still face access problems.”

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