UNFICYP marks 60 years in the service of peace

4 Mar 2024

UNFICYP marks 60 years in the service of peace

Today is an important and solemn occasion for UNFICYP. 60 years ago, on this very same day, the Mission was established by the UN Security Council, although no one would have ever imagined it would still have a presence on the island up until today. 

As the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Colin Stewart, welcomed guests, peacekeepers and veterans at the multi-contingent ceremony held inside the United Nations Protected Area, he emphasised that marking the occasion of 60 years of the United Nations in Cyprus came hand in hand with acknowledging “the Mission’s efforts to bring peace to the island and help to resolve the Cyprus question”. 
Stewart also acknowledged the presence of representatives of Troop and Police Contributing Countries, peacekeepers, veterans as well as members of the international community by highlighting the indispensable role that many play in the achievements of the Mission over the past 6 decades.

Establishment of UNFICYP
On March 4, 1964, the United Nations Security Council, alarmed by the escalation of intercommunal violence on the island, adopted its resolution 186 and decided that the situation demanded the establishment of a United Nations Peacekeeping Force and the appointment of a mediator on the Cyprus issue. 
By the end of 1964, approximately 6,300 peacekeepers from Austria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, and United Kingdom had formed UNFICYP and established their presence at various locations around the island as they began to work in the impartial, diligent, and caring manner that would set the tone for the decades to come. 
Sixty years later, more than 150,000 peacekeepers from 43 have served with UNFICYP and contributed to the fulfilment of its mandate. Sadly, 187 peacekeepers and staff have lost their lives while serving with the Mission, paying the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace. 
“We honour their memory and pay tribute to their incredible dedication to bringing peace to a faraway country that is not their own. There is no more concrete evidence of the commitment of UN Member States to the cause of peace than the lives they have put on the line as part of United Nations Peacekeeping efforts,” said Stewart.

Multi-contingent medal ceremony
The multi-contingent medal ceremony saw military and UNPOL officers awarded medals and veterans, who served in the Mission in the past six decades, awarded commemorative coins for their service for peace.

 The ceremony was held under the auspices of the Head of Mission, Colin Stewart, the Force Commander, Major General Erdenebat Batsuuri and the Senior Police Adviser, Assistant Police Commissioner Satu Koivu. 
The medal presentation was followed by reflections from Mr. Pertti Torstila, an UNFICYP veteran and former State Secretary of Finland, as well as by Superintendent Li Fang, a former UNFICYP Senior Police Adviser from China. 
Torstila, who was deployed to the island in 1964 when the Mission was established, shared some insights on his experience at the time: “UNFICYP was not an easy operation to establish. The UN in 1964 didn’t have much experience in peacekeeping missions. There were no fixed models in place, no standby force arrangements existed.” 

A presentation of a commemorative item to representatives of Troop and Police Contributing Countries was also carried out by Stewart, followed by a closing address by Lisa Buttenheim, Assistant Secretary-General and former SRSG in Cyprus. 
Earlier on in the day, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, paid tribute to the valuable contributions of UN personnel in Cyprus. “Each of these women and men serving under the blue flag have made an indispensable contribution to maintaining stability on the island. My heartfelt thanks go to all of them, and to the Troop and Police Contributing Countries, whose contingents have served the cause of peace in Cyprus,” said Lacroix.

The UN medal 

The UN medal was introduced in UNFICYP in 1964 to recognise a minimum of 90 days of duty in Cyprus. The bronze medal has a wreathed globe emblem with the letters UN mounted above it. On the reverse is the inscription “In the service of peace”. The medal ribbon has three equal bars, one in white in the centre, and two in the United Nations blue on both sides; the bars are separated by two narrow bands of dark blue symbolising the Mediterranean Sea. The medal has been awarded for various supervisory or observation roles with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus since 1964. For each subsequent tour over the initial qualifying 90 days, a silver numeral is affixed to the ribbon.

Unveiling of memorial
Later in the afternoon, commemorative events saw the Head of Mission, Colin Stewart, together with the Mission' senior management and in the presence of Former UNFICYP Force Commander, Major General Cheryl Pearce of Australia, the Australian High Commissioner, Fiona McKergow, unveil a monument to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the Mission for the last 60 years.

 Speaking at the unveiling, Stewart stated: "To all of them, we extend our deepest gratitude. The monument is also intended to honour the 187 peacekeepers from 11 countries who lost their lives while serving on the island."
Speaking at the unveiling of the monument, Torstila, stated: “For me, the Cyprus assignment became a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a fond memory, and a matter of pride. It helped me expand my vision of the world and prepare for future life. Having experienced the Cyprus conflict from inside, I knew that I wanted to work internationally for a better world, following the noble aim which is written on our medals: “in the service of peace… May Cyprus - this beautiful island - finally see enduring peace,” he concluded.
The ceremony was attended by veterans and members of the diplomatic community and followed by a reception at the Ledra Palace Hotel.
The monument, which is now open to the public, is located outside the Ledra Palace. 

Throughout the day, the Band of the Grenadier Guards provided musical entertaiment. 

Varying commemorative events at specific memorials across the buffer zone will continue to take place throughout the week to pay tribute to the work peacekeepers have been carrying out over the past 60 years, as well as civil society events and occasions to pay tribute to UN staff and personnel.

More photos of the medal parade can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjBgpXo

Watch the documentary about 60 years of the UN in Cyprus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pahDbNXz-7k