United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon thanked Uruguay for being one of the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping worldwide. Ban Ki-moon is currently on a South American round of visits that included Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
“Uruguay’s commitment to global peacekeeping is without rival,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the National School for UN Peacekeeping Operations, located in Montevideo. “When adjusted for population, no country contributes more troops than Uruguay.”
Speaking directly to Uruguayan peacekeepers, the Secretary-General said: “Your efforts directly help millions of people by providing security and promoting reconciliation, clearing land-mines and demobilizing combatants, strengthening institutions and the rule of law, delivering aid and repatriating refugees and displaced persons, supporting democratic elections, reforming the security sector and so much more.”
Later addressing the Uruguayan Parliament, the UN Secretary General said that the country provided what he called a “special brand of Uruguayan leadership and global example.”
“Uruguay’s peacekeepers are your brave sons and daughters,” he said, “but they are also the world best and brightest. So, in truth, my message today comes down to three words: Muchas gracias, Uruguay”.
Ban Ki-moon also joked with the fact that to reach Uruguay he had to travel by air, land and sea, in direct reference to the volcanic ash cloud in the region that has distorted air traffic. “If I had tunnelled my way to Uruguay, maybe I could have reached on time”, said the UN Secretary General.
From Colombia Ban Ki-moon flew to Cordoba, from where he took a bus to Buenos Aires. Half way in the route he celebrated his 67th birthday. From Buenos Aires he travelled to Montevideo on the ferry.
More than 25,000 Uruguayans have served in 21 peacekeeping missions since 1951, with some 2,400 Uruguayans currently serving under the blue flag. Twenty-seven Uruguayans died in UN service.
“They have maintained peace and security in some of the world’s most dangerous places. For millions of people, United Nations peacekeepers are their last, best chance,” he said.