South Sudan

Partners for Peace: UNMISS marks International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

PRIYANKA CHOWDHURY JUBA - “I want young girls to dream big and join law enforcement. Who knows, one day they will be serving as a peacekeeper and wearing a Blue Beret,” says Christeel Philip, a United Nations Police (UNPOL) officer from Indonesia with a smile.

Christeel’s excitement is palpable. She has just been part of a meaningful ceremony held at the headquarters of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to mark International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

Her enthusiasm is shared by fellow peacekeeper Marcela Alicia Vallejos from Argentina. “What makes our job so special is that we can’t do it alone,” she reveals. “We work with everybody—our counterparts in the South Sudanese police and military, with the government, with humanitarian colleagues, and most importantly, with the people. We can’t build peace in isolation,” she adds almost philosophically.

The voices of these two peacekeepers found a fitting echo in the overarching theme of today’s heartfelt event—People, Peace, Progress – The Power of Partnerships.

The day began with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom, and Stephen Par Kuol, the South Sudanese Minister for Peacebuilding, inspecting a Guard of Honour formed by Blue Berets from China, Nepal and Rwanda as well as a mixed group of countries representing UNPOL.

“We know that peace is won when governments and societies join forces to resolve differences through dialogue, build a culture of nonviolence, and protect the most vulnerable,” said SRSG Haysom. “In this spirit, UN peacekeepers in South Sudan work with national and local government authorities, opposition groups, civil society, humanitarians, the media, and communities, to foster peace, protect civilians, promote human rights and the rule of law.”

Minister Kuol agreed. “The core goal of having the United Nations today is peace and ensuring that our people can enjoy the fruits of peace and progress. This year’s theme captures the essence of our collective efforts in South Sudan,” he stated.

Perhaps one of the most poignant moments of the day was when names of peacekeepers who had paid the ultimate price while serving the cause of peace were called.

As the flags lowered and wreaths were laid to honour their legacy, there was a collective moment of silence in their memory.

This reflective mood was, however, uplifted by the grace and vigour of South Sudanese Acholi dancers, who had even.

But perhaps the most simple but heartfelt endorsement of the work UNMISS does in the world’s newest country as it makes the difficult journey from war to peace came from one of our own.

“I have been a soldier for 12 years with the Nepalese Army. I never imagined that I would, one day, be selected to join a UN Peacekeeping mission. My time at UNMISS has been very special because I am truly working to create a better tomorrow,” said Manita Pradhan, a peacekeeper.

At UNMISS, 12000 military, 1500 police, and 2500 civilians – including nearly 400 UN Volunteers – serve with dedication and professionalism under the UN flag.