Ukrainian peacemakers will now celebrate two holidays: International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on May 29 and the Day of Ukrainian Peacemakers on July 15.

According to the Defense Ministry data, for 20 years of peacemaking more than 35 thousand militaries of the Armed Forces  of Ukraine have participated in international peacemaking operations. For this period Ukrainians have taken part in UN missions on the territories of Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan, Georgia, former Yugoslavia and other countries.  Participants of missions include not only militaries, but also Interior Ministry representatives, doctors and other specialists. The date, May 29, marks the anniversary of the creation of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), in 1948 to monitor the ceasefire after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which was the first ever UN peacekeeping mission. Considering Ukraine's contribute to peacemaking and  establishment stability in various regions of the planet, the holiday in our country was approved by President's decree of April 30, 2003 and is celebrated annually.

Separate, Ukrainian day of peacemakers was adopted a week ago. On May 21, 2013 the parliament of Ukraine decreed that July 15 is the Day of Ukrainian Peacemakers, which is to be celebrated at the state level.

Nevertheless, the question arises why Ukrainian peacemakers need two similar holidays and how decent they look amid colleagues from other countries, armies of which are better financed. ForUm has decided to ask those in the know.

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, MP (UDAR faction), former SBU head:

- Our faction supported the establishment of the Day of Ukrainian Peacemakers. Why? First of all, there is a necessity to bring attention of local governments to the issue of social maintenance of people who participate in peacemaking operations on Ukraine's behalf.

I want to remind that peacemakers include militaries, representatives of interior ministry, doctors, technical specialists.  These people devote their work, knowledge and sometimes life to bring peace in various regions of the planet. Such people merit reward, recognition and support.

Moreover, Ukrainian army, medicine, science need to adopt world standards, including standards of salaries, pensions and social insurance.  I believe we need to improve the legislation on financial support for combatant and to extend it to doctors and civilian personnel.

Oleksandr Holub, MP (CPU  faction):

- Our faction has supported the establishment of Ukrainian day of peacemakers because it concerns those people who do their military duty under the aegis of the United Nations, and sometimes without it.

Participation in military operations is often the only way for Ukrainian militaries to earn some money and gain experience. However, peacemakers often sacrifice their health and lives, and we considered it necessary to establish the Day of Ukrainian Peacemakers.

As for already existing holiday, International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, it is somehow general, not congenial. In fact, nobody celebrates it.

Anatoly Hrytsenko, MP (Batkivshchyna (Motherland) faction), former defense minister:

- The sixth parliament has considerably increased military salary of peacemakers, and now it is high enough to motivate people to improve their professional development. In fact, in the Defense Ministry there is a long line of those who wish to join international missions. People want to see the world, to gain experience, to study languages and, of course, to earn money. I believe in the future we can raise question on increase of military salary for peacemakers. However,  salaries should be increased for all militaries.

Viktor Gvozd, expert, head of the independent geopolitical center "Borisfen-Intel", former head of the main intelligence department of the Defense Ministry:

- The establishment of special "Ukrainian" day for peacemakers is somehow controversial. I believe those who celebrate the International Day in May for decades have the right to ask about the logic of such move. But before I want to say some words about the history of peacemaking.

United Nations Peacekeeping began in 1948 when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East. The mission's role was to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours – an operation which became known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). Since then, 67 peacekeeping operations have been deployed by the UN, 54 of them since 1988.  Over the years, hundreds of thousands of military personnel, as well as tens of thousands of UN police and other civilians from more than 120 countries have participated in UN peacekeeping operations.

In 1988, UN peacekeepers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. However, despite the importance of UN missions all over the world, the holiday itself did not exist before 2002. In fact, it was Ukraine to initiate establishment of such day. I was a member of Ukraine's delegation to UN Security Council when Ukrainian Peacekeepers Association and Government of Ukraine submitted official request to UN General Assembly in 2002. The initiative was not adopted on the first try, but on December 11, 2002 United Nations General Assembly adopted the Resolution 57/129 and established the "International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers" first celebrated in 2003.

Since 2003 both Ukrainian peacemakers and their colleagues from all over the world have been celebrating this holiday on May 29. This day is celebrated as international, because peacemaking is an international activity, not Ukrainian. On July 15 of 1992 the first group of Ukrainian peacemakers was sent to Sarajevo, and this day is considered the beginning of our peacemaking acidity. However, is there a necessity to establish such holiday on a national scale? I believe it is sufficient to celebrate it once a year with the whole world. Don't you think that "cloning" of holidays devalue them?

Volodymyr Polishchuk, independent expert, former head  of the Office of Public Relations of Interior Ministry of Ukraine:

- Though salaries of our peacemakers are not the highest, their image is pretty decent. Our specialists, including pilots, dog handlers, miners, etc. are highly praised by UN. On May 29 Ukrainians rightly celebrate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

There is nothing wrong in having additional holiday - Day of Ukrainian peacemakers. It is just another occasion to meet and praise dangerous work of these people.

Oleksandr Paliy, independent expert:

- Ukrainian peacemakers do their duties and do not cause any scandals or problems, as it happens in other countries. Our peacemakers have proper training and professional level. Moreover, Ukraine is a contributor, not receiver. Ukrainian peacemakers contribute to the establishment of peace in Africa, Asia and even Europe.

As for the holiday, it cannot hurt. Our peacemakers will have just another occasions to meet and talk.


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