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Peacekeepers' courageous spirit, solidarity crucial to sustaining United Nations, says Deputy Secretary-General marking sixtieth anniversary of peacekeeping

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Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro's remarks at the General Assembly's commemorative meeting to mark the sixtieth anniversary of peacekeeping, delivered today, 7 November:

The Secretary-General had intended to join this important commemoration. But, as you may know, he is now in Nairobi, attending an emergency summit on the Democratic Republic of Congo. His mission there aptly illustrates the importance of United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Sixty years ago, the Security Council dispatched a small group of international military observers to the Middle East. Their task was to supervise an uneasy ceasefire between the new State of Israel and its neighbours. This first peacekeeping mission was an experiment that the founders of the United Nations had not foreseen. The model proved to be a great success.

Peacekeeping has now evolved into one of the cornerstones of international diplomacy. The presence of peacekeepers sends a powerful signal that Member States of the United Nations are working together for solutions in the best spirit of the Organization's Charter.

Today, there are more than 100,000 United Nations peacekeepers deployed in 18 missions across the globe. This scale is unprecedented.

Peacekeeping operations have also had to evolve to meet the changing nature of conflict. Beyond monitoring ceasefires, today's peacekeepers have wide-ranging mandates. They help post-conflict societies to rebuild. They nurture democratic governance. They protect civilians, disarm ex-combatants, supervise elections and strengthen institutions.

But the evolution of peacekeeping has not come without cost. The United Nations has learned some hard lessons. Perhaps, above all, we have seen that peacekeepers will not succeed in building true security if there is no peace to keep.

Peacekeeping is not the right tool for every job. We can play a valuable role in accompanying a political process, but we can not substitute for one. Where there is a viable political process, we can confront potential spoilers. Where there is none, we cannot, and should not, fight a war.

Our experiences in Bosnia and Somalia in the early 1990s proved this point. Darfur confronts us with a similar challenge today.

The United Nations provides a system for sharing the costs and responsibilities of peacekeeping among its Member States. Indeed, the cost-effectiveness of our peacekeeping operations remains one of the Organization's key attributes. United Nations troop deployments are less expensive than those of most comparable organizations or national militaries. Moreover, the annual peacekeeping budget, currently about $7 billion, is a tiny fraction of world military expenditures.

Peacekeepers operate in some of the most austere and challenging environments. They do what other people either cannot or will not do in order to protect people at risk. That courageous spirit, that solidarity with other human beings, is crucial to sustaining the United Nations.

Peacekeepers need our support. They need clear and achievable mandates. They need the political will and material resources of our Member States.

With that support, great feats are possible. In the streets and alleyways of Cité Soleil in Port-au-Prince, people no longer live in fear of the once notorious gangs. This is just one example of how peacekeepers are giving people all over the world a chance to live free from the scourge of conflict.

As we look back on the 60-year history of peacekeeping, let us be proud of what has been accomplished. Let us pay tribute to the more than 2,500 peacekeepers and other personnel who have given their lives while serving the United Nations. And let us pledge to face the challenges ahead with real, long-term resolve.

Now more than ever, the world needs the Blue Helmets, and the Blue Helmets need the world's support.

For information media - not an official record