Five Indian peacekeepers, who laid down their lives while serving in UN peacekeeping missions last year, are among 83 military, police and civilian personnel to be honoured this week with a prestigious UN medal awarded posthumously for courage and sacrifice in the line of duty.
Major Ravi Inder Singh Sandhu and Sergeant Lal Manotra Tarsem, who served with the UN Mission in South Sudan; Sergeant Ramesh Singh with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon; Private Johnsion Beck with the UN Disengagement Observer Force and Edward Agapito Pinto, who served in a civilian capacity with the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in Congo, will posthumously receive the Dag Hammarskjold Medal on the International Day of UN Peacekeepers observed on May 29.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will lay a wreath to honour all the UN peacekeepers who lost their lives since 1948. He will then preside over a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjold Medal will be awarded posthumously to 83 military, police and civilian peacekeepers, who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2019.
The world organisation said this year, the challenges and threats faced by its peacekeepers are even greater than ever, as they, like people around the world, are not only coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, but are also supporting and protecting the people in the countries they are based in.
They are continuing their operations to the best of their abilities and supporting the governments and the local populations, despite the risk of COVID-19, it said. The theme for this year’s Day is “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace” to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is commemorated to pay tribute to the uniformed and civilian personnel’s invaluable contribution to the work of the world organisation and to honour more than 3,900 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948.
India is the 5th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping. It currently contributes more than 5,400 military and police personnel to the UN peacekeeping operations in Abyei, Cyprus, Congo, Lebanon, the Middle East, Sudan, South Sudan, Western Sahara as well as one expert to the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.
Bringing honour to India with her service, Major Suman Gawani of the Indian Army, a Military Observer, formerly deployed with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) won the prestigious United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award in 2019, the first year the prestigious award has gone to a peacekeeper from India.
Gawani, along with Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian Naval officer working in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, were named joint winners of the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year 2019 Award.
The award recognises the dedication and effort of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in a peace operation context, as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of peace operations. Gawani and Araujo will receive the award during an online ceremony presided over by Guterres on May 29. Gawani has expressed her gratitude for recognising her work as UN Military Observer.
“Whatever our function, position or rank, it is our duty as peacekeepers to integrate an all genders perspective into our daily work and own it in our interactions with colleagues as well as with communities,” she said in a statement.
Guterres commended Araujo and Gawani, describing them as “powerful role models”.
“Through their work, they have brought new perspectives and have helped to build trust and confidence among the communities we serve. Through their commitment and innovative approaches, they embrace a standard of excellence that is an inspiration to all blue helmets everywhere. As we confront today’s challenges, their work has never been more important or relevant,” he said.
The General Assembly had designated May 29 as the commemoration day because it was the date in 1948 when the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the world body’s first peacekeeping mission, began its operations in Palestine. The Dag Hammarskjold Medal was established in December 2000 and is awarded posthumously to members of peacekeeping operations who lost their lives during service with a peacekeeping operation under the operational control and authority of the United Nations. The medal is named after the second UN Secretary General, who had died in a mysterious 1961 plane crash. He was posthumously awarded a Nobel Peace Prize the year he died.
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