UNITED NATIONS, May 26 (APP): The United Nations Thursday honoured at a solemn ceremony 117 military, police and civilian personnel from 42 countries, including six Pakistani peacekeepers, who lost their lives serving under the UN flag last year.
The ceremony, presided over by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, marked the annual International Day of UN Peacekeepers in which the Dag Hammarskjold Medal was awarded posthumously to the peacekeepers, who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace, during the preceding year.
Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram, accepted the awards on behalf of the families of the fallen Pakistani peacekeepers — Police Lance Corporal Tahir Ikram, Police Lance Corporal Adil Jan, and Havildar Muhammad Nil Naeem, who all served with UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID); NCE Tahir Mehmood deployed with the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO); Havildar Muhammad Shafeeq from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA); and Abrar Sayed who served in a civilian capacity with MINURSO.
“I feel deeply honoured and proud on receiving these awards on behalf of six fallen Pakistani peacekeepers,” Ambassador Akram said while talking to APP after the impressive ceremony.
“Pakistan, one of the longest-serving and largest contributors to UN Peacekeeping for decades, is committed to helping the vulnerable communities affected by conflict and continues to adapt to the changing environment and needs of the peacekeeping operations,” the envoy said.
“There is a steadfast resolve on Pakistan’s part to build upon the glorious past to achieve shared goals of peace and security,” he added.
Also, in a special message, Ambassador Akram offered his heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of the fallen peacekeepers, saying, “We share their pain and assure them that their loss is not in vain. We will always remember them.”
“Their supreme sacrifice is yet another testimony of Pakistan’s enduring service to the United Nations and the cause of international peace and security,” he added.
“The greatest tribute we can offer these heroes is to follow their glorious example and maintain our support and strengthen the edifice of peace in all parts of the world.”
A total of 163 Pakistani peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag over the years, according to the UN.
During the ceremony, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres awarded the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” posthumously to Captain Abdelrazakh Hamit Bahar of Chad, who served with the United Nations Integrated Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The medal is named for a Senegalese peacekeeper, who was killed in Rwanda in 1994 after saving countless civilian lives.
This is the second time the medal was awarded since the inaugural medal was presented to Captain Diagne’s family in his honour in 2016.
The Secretary-General also awarded the ‘2021 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ to Major Winnet Zharare, a Zimbabwean military observer, who served with the UN Mission in South Sudan.
Created in 2016, the Award “recognizes the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.”
In his message on the occasion, the UN chief pointed out that the world body was today honouring the more than one million women and men, who had served as UN peacekeepers since 1948.
“We pay tribute to the nearly 4,200 heroes and heroines, who sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace. And we are reminded an age-old truth: Peace can never be taken for granted. Peace is the prize,” he said.
“We are deeply grateful to the 87,000 civilian, police and military personnel now serving under the UN flag, who are helping to realize the prize of peace worldwide.”
The theme for this year’s observance is “People. Peace. Progress. The Power of Partnerships.”
According to the Secretary-General, “Around the globe, UN peacekeepers work with member states, civil society, humanitarians, the media, the communities they serve and many others, to foster peace, protect civilians, promote human rights and the rule of law and improve the lives of millions of people.”
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said the UN peacekeepers worked on a daily basis to protect vulnerable people in the world’s most fragile political and security situations.
“The dangers they face are greater than ever, with increasing global tensions, ever-more complex threats from terrorist attacks to organized crime and the use of Improvised Explosive Devices as well as a surge in mis and disinformation targeting our missions and the communities we serve,” the peacekeeping chief said.
Despite these challenges, he added, “peacekeepers persevere alongside many UN partners in the collective pursuit of peace.
“Today, we thank them for their tremendous contribution and remember with great sorrow our colleagues, who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the cause of peace.”
The International Day of UN Peacekeepers was established by the UN General Assembly 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 General Assembly designated May 29 as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in commemoration of the day in 1948 when the UN’s first peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine. Since then, more than one million women and men have served in 72 UN peacekeeping operations.