Thursday, 3 June 2010

Released on behalf of Soldiers of Peace International Association, Australian Branch & Oceania

The Soldiers of Peace International Association (SPIA) aka l’Association International des Soldats de la Paix (AISP), commemorated the 62nd Anniversary of the world’s first Peacekeeping Troops to deploy into the field on 29 May 1948, at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), Switzerland on Tuesday 31st May 2010.

The Australian Branch and Oceania Representative (Paul Copeland, OAM, JP), were represented by former Royal Australian Navy Quartermaster Gunner, later Stoker, Steve Wright.

Steve Wright served alongside the First and Second UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM I & II), during his tour of duty as crew on board HMAS JERVIS BAY in 1993.

“I am pleased to have Steve represent Australia and myself at this very important commemoration, which remembers well over 1,250,000 UN Peacekeeping Troops and Police, who have served since 1948.” Mr Copeland said. “Unfortunately, almost 2,800 Peacekeepers have been killed on UN Duty, with many becoming ill, injured, wounded and traumatised from their experiences.” Mr Copeland added.

This important milestone comes after the airing of the difficulties of UN Peacekeeping Operations, particularly with the ABC1 “Australian Story”, which provided an insight to an Australian Army UN Military Observer’s experience of the Israeli and Lebanese War of July to August 2006. Major Mattina Jewell (nee Stanfield) told her story with honesty and courage of her experiences with war and peacekeeping.

Australia has been an active donor country to UN Peacekeeping Operations since 14th September 1947, and has continued this contribution non-stop to the current operational contributions to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI); The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA); The UN Office in Timor Leste (UNOTL); The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS); The UN & African Union Hybrid Operation to Darfur (UNAMID); The UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO); and the Australian Federal Police Contingent to the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

“I thank the Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Minister for Defence Personnel, The Hon Alan Griffin, MP, for recognising Australia’s contribution to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, by Media Release last week.” Mr Copeland said. “This is a welcome recognition, of which we would like to see the Australian Government recognise Non-warlike Peacekeeping Service with the proposed Australian Peacekeeping Service Medal; and for warlike Peacekeeping (Enforcement) Operations of numerically larger contingents for Somalia, Cambodia, Rwanda and East Timor in the recognition of a proposed General Service or Operational Service Medal.” He said.

“Many Australians do not know or fully understand the significant contributions made by the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police of the ongoing contribution toward world peace and security under arduous and very dangerous conditions. We call on the Government to recognise this service not only with appropriate and equal medallic recognition in comparison to other operations during the Imperial and Australian Award Systems, but to also contribute significantly to the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial, which is sited on ANZAC Parade in Canberra.” Mr Copeland said.

The Australian Branch of the SPIA was established by Formal Agreement on 30th of May 2008 and finalised in September 2009. The SPIA is Affiliated with the Australian Peacekeeper & Peacemaker Veterans’ Association (APPVA), of which the SPIA Australian Branch and the Oceania Representative is the joint International component of the APPVA, website: www.peacekeepers.asn.au

Below is a brief overview of the UNOG Commemoration in Switzerland:

International UN Peacekeepers Day - 31st May 2010, By Edward P. DOYLE (Rgr Retd) S/F - SPIA Ireland Wednesday at 02:37 31 May 2010:

'I took part at the International Peacekeeping Day in the UN HQ Geneva, Switzerland.

We had over 130 members of SPIA worldwide, some from Senegal, Australia, Kenya, and many members from France. The Ambassadors attending this ceremony were from France, Rwanda, China and Canada. Others present in the audience were from Australia, France, Ireland, Uruguay, Brazil, Russia, Singapore, India and Tunisia.

In the afternoon we attended a Wreath Laying Ceremony in the Garden of Remembrance for all Soldiers killed on UN service Worldwide. The speakers there were : Mr Laurent Attar-Bayrou, International President of SPIA/AISP and Mr Sergueï Ordzhonikidze. Director General of the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and also Mrs Helena Ponomareva-Piquier. Second Director General of the Information Department UN HQ Geneve.

Mr Laurent Attar-Bayrou made a presentation of medals to members of SPIA/AISP and members of FNAME for action to Peace. and action to Service.

He also made a special presentation of a Blue Helmet to Mrs Helena Ponomareva-Piquier on her retirement in November, after 30 + years service to the United Nations.

On Saturday the 29th May 2010. Mr Laurent Attar-Bayrou, SPIA International President and I went, from Lyon to Paris, to take part in a special Wreath Laying Ceremony at Arc de Triomphe in Honour of Peacekeepers worldwide, the Wreath was layed by his children : Maxence and Amaury.

I have attended these meetings for many years, and I feel this one has been the best so far because of the large numbers attending and how fast this Association has grown (to date 6,000. members).'