Earlier today, a new memorial was unveiled in Victoria Embankment Gardens, London. The Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial will keep company with other nearby monuments to the Second World War, the Korean War, and other conflicts. But this is a memorial with a difference.
What sets this memorial apart is that it recognises both the military and civilian efforts. The Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial recognises the contributions of almost 300,000 members of the Armed Forces, of whom nearly 700 made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also recognises the many civil servants deployed in the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan between 1990 and 2015, and those who supported them back home.
The memorial features two huge stones – one representing Iraq, and the other Afghanistan – linked by a giant, two-sided bronze medallion depicting the memorial’s theme of 'duty' and 'service'. The memorial gives equal prominence to the military and civilian contributions and is specifically intended to be inclusive of all those who contributed, so it bears no names.
I attended the unveiling and was proud to sit with Armed Forces colleagues as well as civil servants from the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, and the Department of Health.
For over two decades, the Civil Service worked alongside Armed Forces personnel and civilians from many organisations, in areas such as aid distribution, education, healthcare, governance and more. Their achievements are significant.
In Afghanistan, UK support has helped to ensure more than 7.2 million children now attend school, 39% of them girls, and to increase access to basic healthcare from 8% in 2003 to 60% in 2014. Support for infrastructure has led to the rehabilitation of more than 4,500 km of roads and increased access to electricity. Investment in agriculture and private sector development has supported the creation of jobs and enabled private-sector-led growth. And last year alone, UK humanitarian assistance reached over 1.3 million vulnerable women, men and children with emergency food, shelter and medical assistance.
The Armed Forces and civil servants made an immense contribution during these challenging conflicts. It is right that future generations will have an enduring monument to the selfless efforts and sacrifice of so many British people.
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