The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is marked on the 29 May each year. To honour this, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence attended a memorial service at the Cenotaph on the 25 May, as part of global events to mark the occasion.
We welcomed the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women from around the world who have given their lives in the name of peace. This year's event resonates all the more following the Prime Minister's decision to deploy 70 British military personnel to Somalia and up to 300 to South Sudan as part of UN peace support operations.
The first members of those deployments are already on the ground in Somalia, proudly wearing their blue berets. The UK troops will complement the existing UN personnel in Somalia and South Sudan by bringing expertise in areas such as engineering, medical and logistical support.
These new commitments double Britain's contribution of military personnel to UN peacekeeping missions. There are now more than 300 UK Armed Forces personnel supporting UN peacekeeping missions overseas, including in Cyprus, and we would like to express our thanks to every one of them. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that 2016 marks a turning point for the UK's involvement in global peacekeeping operations.
Looking back, it's been more than twenty years since the UK was able to withdraw its peacekeepers from Bosnia. Four years after that, our troops would deploy in support of the UN operation in Sierra Leone.
Since then, peacekeeping missions have expanded. In 1994, there were around 75,000 peacekeepers in the field. The UN now has approximately 105,000 personnel, including troops and police. These personnel are currently deployed in 16 peacekeeping missions across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
UN peacekeepers' blue berets are a symbol of reassurance for the people they protect. They identify peacekeepers as protectors of civilians, something which has become a central task of the majority of peacekeeping missions.
The UK is committed to working with partners to further strengthen the UN's capability to end conflict and support global stability. Our goal is to improve the UN's ability to deploy efficiently the right people and equipment to the right place at the right time. This means focussing on three priority areas: better planning; encouraging pledges; and improving performance.
UN peacekeeping needs to be ready to tackle tomorrow's challenges if it is to remain a guarantor of safety to the most vulnerable. To achieve this, the UK will campaign to make peacekeeping more effective. For example, we will harness initiatives make the most of opportunities such as such as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's Panel on Peace Operations.
There may be obstacles on the way to reaching our peacekeeping goals, but we are more committed and determined than ever to overcome them in order to ensure peacekeeping delivers for the UK and the wider world.
Baroness Anelay is the Prime Minister's Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict and a minister at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Penny Mordaunt is the armed forces minister and Conservative MP for Portsmouth North
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