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THE SOUND OF SILENCE: TRIBUTE TO CIVILIAN PEACEKEEPERS

6/22/2003

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Secretary-General and the United Nations in 2001 offered the amount of one million U.S. dollars. The Secretary-General has proposed to use the full amount of the prize money as a start-up for the establishment of a memorial fund, which would provide financial assistance for the education of children of United Nations civilian personnel who have lost their lives in the service of peace. The Fund would be a way of ensuring both a living memorial to staff who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and a practical way of helping families left behind.

This month, the General Assembly agreed to the Secretary-General's proposal, clearing the way for the Fund to benefit from the full amount of the 2001 Nobel Prize.

May 29 of this year marked the first observance of the annual International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. Following is a tribute to civilian peacekeepers written in the year 2000, when a number of them were defenseless victims of easy targeting at one of the peacekeeping missions:

They serve quietly so we can live in a quiet world. They serve in silent dignity in a world where loud is the rule. They are the exception to that rule. Their rule, like their role, is to give their best in silence. Perhaps they invented a new language -- where the most important work is not spoken but sensed; in which impossible peace amongst people are strived for in selfless dedication. Perhaps one day their silent language will tell us more, so much more that it will transcend spoken languages to a unifying one. Perhaps then we will find the universal language sought by generation after generation of those who struggled for that one language of peace.

And if peace ever comes, perhaps it will be heralded not with loud announcements with booming voices but with silence, a great silence. From that day forward, maybe loud voices could take a vow of silence. And the language of silence that these men and women began in our time will be the language of all of us. On that day we will remember the day when we all marched together, men and women of the United Nations, to honour their memory and to proclaim that enough is enough -- the silent ones are no more an easy target. And the world will listen to the sound of silence.