The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) marked Monday the 39th anniversary of its establishment with a ceremony at its Headquarters in Naqoura highlighting “the Mission’s commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for the local population in southern Lebanon,” a UNIFIL statement said.
“Since 2006, UNIFIL successfully facilitated the development of communities and civil society, while simultaneously assisting the Government of Lebanon in extending its authority in the South of the country,” said the UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major-General Michael Beary.
“Our work, conducted in conjunction with our valued strategic partners and colleagues in the Lebanese Armed Forces, has also created an environment for economic development and investment, activities that will, in time, facilitate meaningful economic growth for the growing population of South Lebanon,” he added.
In attendance at the ceremony were representatives of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and other security agencies, the Governor of Nabatieh Mahmoud al-Mawla, local mayors and religious leaders.
Beary and Brigadier-General Mohamed Janbay, representing LAF Commander, laid wreaths at the UNIFIL cenotaph paying tributes to the memory of the 325 U.N. peacekeepers from all around the world who have “given their lives in the cause of peace in southern Lebanon since UNIFIL’s establishment in 1978,” the UNIFIL statement said.
During the ceremony, UNIFIL’s leadership and the LAF representative awarded 45 military staff officers with the U.N. Medal for their contribution to fulfilling the Mission’s mandate.
In addressing the ceremony, the UNIFIL Force Commander highlighted the Mission’s continued presence in south Lebanon as “a clear demonstration of the U.N.’s commitment and enduring support to Lebanon and its people.”
“I will never tire from expressing my admiration of the residents of the South. UNIFIL and its 40 different Troop Contributing Countries have been welcome guests since 1978 throughout our entire area of operations,” Beary said.
The UNIFIL Force Commander strongly emphasized the “close bonds” between the Mission and the people of south Lebanon.
“We are only guests here in this wonderful country. We need the continued help, guidance and assistance of our LAF colleagues, the regions respected religious leaders, local politicians and the communities themselves, if we are to achieve the elusive peace that will guarantee the future of the current and future generations,” he said.
UNIFIL was created by the U.N. Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 of March 19, 1978, to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area.
Following the July-August conflict in 2006, the Security Council, through its resolution 1701, significantly enhanced UNIFIL’s mandate and capacity and assigned it additional tasks working closely with LAF in Southern Lebanon.
Today, UNIFIL comprises almost 10,500 military personnel from 40 countries, including the Maritime Task Force, the only naval force in peacekeeping operations — and some 1,000 civilian national and international staff.