May 29 marks the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers and the international organization pays tribute to its uniformed and civilian personnel and honours more than 3.800 peacekepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948. A hundred and eighty-four of them were killed in Cyprus, where the UN peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) was deployed in 1964, constituting one of the longest-running UN peacekeeping missions.
UNFICYP Spokesperson, Aleem Siddique, told CNA, on the occasion of the International Peacekeepers Day that “today we honour more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers since our first mission in 1948. We remember the more than 3,800 personnel who paid the ultimate price including 184 in Cyprus.”
“We will not forget them. We will remember them. And we express our deepest gratitude to the 100,000 civilian, police and military peacekeepers deployed around the world today including just over 1000 in Cyprus, and to the countries that contribute these brave and dedicated women and men,” he noted. A ceremony was held on Wednesday morning at UNFICYP headquarters, in Nicosia, to honour the men and women who have served under the UN flag.
UNFICYP was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions.
The Mission’s responsibilities expanded in 1974, following the Turkish invasion of the island. UNFICYP’s Chief of Mission also serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus.
The ceasefire line extends over 180 kilometers across the island. As noted on UNFICYP’s website, its 800-plus troops and 60-plus police officers deal with hundreds of incidents each year.
Moreover, it is added, UNFICYP delivers humanitarian aid to Greek Cypriots and a small Maronite community living in the northern Turkish occupied part of the island and assists Turkish Cypriots living in the southern, government-controlled, part of the island.
The Mission is currently headed by Elizabeth Spehar of Canada, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
The Mission’s work is based on four components that work together closely: the military, UN Police (UNPOL), the Civil Affairs Branch and Administration, which supports all activities.
The Security Council established UNFICYP through resolution 186 (1964) on 4 March 1964 and has renewed the Mission’s mandate for six-month terms since then.
The UNFICYP budget for the period from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 amounts to $55,152,000
Today, one-third of UNFICYP’s budget is financed by the Government of Cyprus, while the Government of Greece contributes $6.5 million annually. The rest is financed from contributions assessed on the entire membership of the United Nations, as decreed in 1993.
The first UN peacekeeping mission was established on 29 May 1948, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of a small number of UN military observers to the Middle East to form the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Today, in 14 peacekeeping operations on four continents, it deploys more than 88,000 military and police personnel — from 124 member states — nearly 13,000 civilian personnel, and 1,300 UN volunteers.