Top United Nations officials voiced support for India's initiative to establish a memorial wall honouring fallen UN peacekeepers as they lauded the country’s role and contribution to the global organisation's peacekeeping missions across the world.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was commemorated here Thursday with solemn ceremonies, including a wreath laid by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Peacekeepers Memorial to honour the women and men who sacrificed their lives while serving under the UN flag.
Guterres also presided over a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medals were awarded posthumously to 103 military, police, and civilian peacekeepers, who were killed in the line of duty last year, including three Indian personnel.
Border Security Force personnel Head Constables Shishupal Singh and Sanwala Ram Vishnoi, who both served with the Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Shaber Taher Ali who served in a civilian capacity with the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) were honoured with the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal at the solemn ceremony.
India's Permanent Representative at the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj received the medal from the Secretary-General.
Later at a traditional reception hosted by the Permanent Mission of India on Peacekeepers Day, Kamboj said "We are collectively working towards installing a Peacekeeping Memorial Wall with all names inscribed of our fallen heroes." She called on UN Member States to collectively join in co-sponsoring the resolution for the memorial wall that is expected to be put up for adoption in the General Assembly soon.
"In essence, the idea is to set up a memorial wall in a prominent location at the United Nations headquarters with the names of all the fallen heroes, and I do believe very honestly, that this is the very least that we can do for them as we salute them today." The Secretary General's Chef de Cabinet Courtenay Rattray said at the reception that "we welcome India's initiative to honour fallen peacekeepers through the establishment of a memorial wall. We call on all Member States to support this worthy idea." Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix expressed appreciation and support for India's initiative to honour the fallen peacekeepers through the establishment of the memorial wall. “In addition to our collective remembering of the fallen heroes, we will also continue our efforts to enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers,” he said.
India is currently the 3rd largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping with more than 6,000 military and police personnel deployed to Abyei, the Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, the Middle East and Western Sahara.
About 177 Indian peacekeepers have made the supreme sacrifice, the highest number by far from any troop-contributing country.
Kamboj added that despite all doubts and uncertainties, "we believe in UN peacekeeping and that UN peacekeeping has made this world a less violent and a more stable place." Kamboj, during remarks to the UNSC meeting on Peacekeeping Operations in September last year, had reiterated that the least the UN system needed to do was to ensure that the proposed memorial wall at UN headquarters in memory of the fallen peacekeepers is installed urgently and in a visibly prominent location at the headquarters. India stood ready to contribute, including financially, towards this noble endeavour, she had said.
In 2015, the Permanent Mission of India to the UN launched a virtual memorial wall, dedicated to the Indian troops who gave their lives while doing active service as UN peacekeepers. The wall of honour included details of 161 Indian peacekeepers who had made the supreme sacrifice in 16 UN Peacekeeping Missions in the years up to 2015.
The initiative was a precursor to the eventual construction of a UN Peacekeepers Memorial Wall on the UN headquarters premises. India had proposed the construction of the memorial wall as an appropriate way to commemorate all the troops from member states of the United Nations who had given their lives while on duty under the Blue Flag of the United Nations.
Rattray said the UN remembers with gratitude the more than 4200 peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the service of peace since 1948. He said India's contributions to peacekeeping has been amongst the largest since the inception of UN peacekeeping. He noted that over 200,000 Indian men and women have served in 49 peacekeeping missions in the last seven decades.
He added that India is not alone in its support of UN peacekeeping and expressed gratitude to all countries "whose citizens step up to answer the call to peace around the world.
"Each and every day, these women and men work to support countries, communities and people in the midst of instability and violent conflict. They bring the United Nations Charter's values to life in the most extreme situations," Rattray said.
He added that strengthening the UN's support of peacekeepers is a central part of the Secretary General's action for the peacekeeping plan initiative.
"It includes enhanced accountability for acts of violence against peacekeepers," he said adding that the Security Council resolution 2589, adopted in August 2021 under India's Presidency of the Council, "was the first Council resolution specifically devoted to this imperative of better accountability for crimes against peacekeepers." Lacroix paid special tribute to peacekeepers from India, "certainly one of the biggest troop and police-contributing countries with more than 200,000 peacekeepers having served since the inception of peacekeeping." Under Secretary General, Department of Operational Support Atul Khare highlighted the contributions made by India to peacekeeping efforts over the last few years.
"India has contributed to the work of my department in many important areas, such as improving the United Nations peacekeeping missions' medical support systems, including the vaccination doses against coronavirus, support to enhancing intensive care capacities in our missions" as well as the phase one rollout of UNITE AWARE, a technology platform launched by India in collaboration with the UN during its August 2021 presidency of the Security Council aimed at ensuring the safety and security of peacekeepers.
Khare also expressed gratitude for the "support that we have received from India for the peace and security operation in Somalia", its contributions to the trust fund for the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and for being an "active member" of the Group of Friends for leading on environmental management in the field (LEAF), for demonstrating a commitment to better environmental management.
Khare noted that India's contribution to green energy, the Gandhi Solar Park installed at the UN headquarters in 2019 "are all measures which we deeply appreciate." He also acknowledged "the good work" of nearly 28 nationals from India in his department and 14 in the Office of Information and Communication Technology, "who do great work." This year marks the 75th anniversary of UN Peacekeeping and the theme for this year’s observance, ‘Peace Begins with Me’, recognizes the contribution and efforts of UN peacekeepers alongside many partners including communities to secure peace and progress.
More than two million peacekeepers from 125 countries have served in 71 operations around the world in the last 75 years. Today, 87,000 women and men are serving in 12 conflict zones across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
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