Remarks by the United Nations Resident Coordinator Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio at the Prayer Service for the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 2021: 29 May 2021

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr. Felix Phiri
Service Chiefs

  • Senior Officers
  • Chaplains and other members of the Clergy
  • Uniformed personnel from all defence and security wings
  • UN colleagues
  • Members of the media
  • Ladies and gentlemen
  • All protocols observed

Let me on behalf of the United Nations family in Zambia thank the Ministry of Defence for inviting me to join this year’s Prayer Service on the occasion of the 2021 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers which is observed annually on 29 May. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 2003 resolution A/RES 57/129.

Today I was honoured to join the Defence Permanent Secretary Dr Felix Phiri, reps of Service Chiefs and uniformed personnel at a Prayer Service to pay tribute to our peacekeepers & to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. @UN thanks Zambia for continued support to UN Peacekeeping – now ranking as 20th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to the UN Peacekeeping.

Today, we mourn the fallen peacekeepers and salute the more than 117,000 personnel currently serving in 16 missions in the world’s most dangerous places.

As you are aware, two days ago, the UN Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. António Guterres, awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to 129 military, police and civilian peacekeepers, who lost their life serving under the UN flag in 2020 and in the first month of this year. 

Among the fallen peacekeepers who were honoured are two Zambians:  Warrant Officer Class 1 Godfrey Philimon Mwape who served with in the Central African Republic under MINUSCA; and Ms. Norma Sialumba Mwambazi who served in a civilian capacity with MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

In his message, the Secretary-General said of the fallen peacekeepers:

Their service and sacrifices will never be forgotten.” 

Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen

Since 1948 when the UN’s first peacekeeping mission began operations in Palestine, more than 1 million women and men have served in 72 UN peacekeeping operations.

They have over these years made a huge difference and saved lives. UN Peacekeeping currently deploys more than 89,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 12 operations.  

UN Peacekeepers, including the about 1,000 currently deployed from Zambia, devote their lives to the protection of the vulnerable people in countries that are at war and as I have just noted, sometimes pay the ultimate price for their service to humanity.

Zambia has continued to be a notable supporter to UN Peacekeeping. I am proud to note that Zambia is the 20th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to the UN Peacekeeping with military and police personnel serving in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Mali, and South Sudan. 

Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen

The theme for this year’s observance is “The road to a lasting peace: Leveraging the power of youth for peace and security.” In view of the focus on youth, two days ago, my office organised a virtual discussion for Zambian youth and pupils from five schools including Arakan Secondary School located right here to interact with young Zambian peacekeepers from the Zambian Battalion serving under MINUSCA in Birao, Central African Republic. It was great to see the passion as the young men and women shared their experiences about their service with sacrifice.

From the interaction, it remains clear that peacekeeping is about how our brave peacekeepers work to help war-torn countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace and back to normal life.

This period has been particularly challenging for the peacekeepers in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The young peacekeepers shared how despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, they have continued with their work and even provided support to the local communities in the fight against COVID-19. This is heart-warming and a true mark of service with sacrifice.

Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen

The United Nations continues to take pride in the wonderful work by Zambian female peacekeepers who are through the Female Engagement Teams (FETs) engaging with communities and ensuring the protection of civilians. Through this concept, female peacekeepers also gain valuable insights into the local communities and come up with effective strategies to foster peace.

As I close, let me commend the Government of the Republic of Zambia for its continued support to UN Peacekeeping. We must all support our peacekeepers and continue working together to ensure their safety and security and access to the tools they need to provide effective peacekeeping.

I thank you.



Speech by
Coumba Mar Gadio
Resident Coordinator
Coumba Mar Gadio, PhD
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office