Pakistani soldier among 83 honoured with UN medals posthumously

08:54 PM | 29 May, 2020
Pakistani soldier among 83 honoured with UN medals posthumously

NEW YORK – The United Nations Friday honoured at a virtual ceremony 83 military, police and civilian personnel from 39 countries, including one Pakistani peacekeeper, who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations during 2019.

The ceremony, presided over by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, marked the annual International Day of UN Peacekeepers in which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal was awarded posthumously to the peacekeepers, who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace, during the preceding year.

Coronavirus restrictions took away from Friday’s event much of the splendor marking the ceremonies held in previous years, which were attended in person largely by military officers in colourful uniforms.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram accepted the awards on behalf of the families of the fallen Pakistani peacekeeper, Sepoy Amir Aslam, who served with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

“We thank the Secretary-General for organizing this ceremony to honour the sacrifices of those who laid down their lives for serving the noble cause of peace,” he said while speaking to APP after the ceremony.

“As a troop contributing country that has suffered the loss of 157 peacekeepers, including a female peacekeeper, we can empathize fully with others here today,” Ambassador Akram said.

“We are also reminded today that in the cause of peace ‘all give some but some give all’,” the Pakistani envoy remarked.

“Pakistan’s commitment to the cause of peace and peacekeeping remain unwavering”.

Pakistan is among the largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peace operations. It currently contributes 4,462 peacekeepers to the UN operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan and Western Sahara as well as one expert to the UN Support Office in Somalia.

The secretary-general also bestowed the ‘2019 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’, for the first time, to two peacekeepers. Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian naval officer serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and Major Suman Gawani, from India, who served in UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) received the accolade.

Created in 2016, the Award recognizes an individual peacekeeper’s work in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

In his remarks, the secretary-general, who led a moment of silence to remember the fallen peacekeepers, expressed his “deepest condolences and appreciation” to the family members and friends of those who died, as well as his greatest appreciation to the countries that contributed the troops and police officers.

“Today we honour more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” the UN chief said. “We also express our gratitude to the 95,000 civilian, police and military personnel currently deployed around the world. They are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The secretary-general added, “The theme of this year’s observance – Women in Peacekeeping – highlights their central role in our operations. Women often have greater access in the communities we serve, enabling us to improve the protection of civilians, promote human rights and enhance overall performance yet, women continue to represent only six per cent of uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in field missions.

“As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security,” the secretary-general added.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, under-secretary-general for Peace Operations, said: “As our peacekeepers continue to carry out their essential work amidst the constraints presented by COVID-19, ensuring women’s meaningful, equal and full participation in peace operations, as well as in peace and political processes, is key to protecting civilians and building durable peace.”

“Women who serve in peace operations play an essential role in helping communities in the fight against COVID-19. They must be a central part of all international, national and local responses,” he added.

Atul Khare, under-secretary-general for field support, pledged UN peacekeepers all the support to ensure they are well-equipped, well-trained and well-prepared to complete their missions successfully.

The General Assembly established the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The assembly designated May 29 as the Day because it was the date in 1948 when the first UN peacekeeping mission – the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization — began operations in the Middle East.”

Earlier, the secretary-general laid a wreath to honour all UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives since 1948.