The United Nations Wednesday honoured at a virtual ceremony 129 military, police and civilian personnel from 44 countries, including two Pakistani peacekeeper, who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations during 2020.
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.
Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram, accepted the awards on behalf of the families of the fallen Pakistani peacekeepers — Sepoy Muhammad Azhar Aziz who served with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Imtiaz Hussain who served in a civilian capacity for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
Sepoy M. Azhar Aziz, served with @UN Organization Stabilization @MONUSCO & Imtiaz Hussain, served for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization @UN_CAR were two Pakistani peacekeepers among 129 honoured with UN medals posthumously 🇵🇰🇺🇳@PakistanPR_UN @UNPeacekeeping https://t.co/BjuKimD7Ju
— Dr.Mariam Shaikh (@DrMariamShaikh1) May 27, 2021
“I feel deeply honored and proud on receiving these awards on behalf of two Pakistani peacekeepers who lost their lives in the service of the United Nations during 2020,” Ambassador Akram said while talking to APP after the ceremony.
“Through their ultimate sacrifice, the late Imtiaz Hussain and Sepoy Azhar Aziz upheld the longstanding tradition of honour, courage and dedication of Pakistani peacekeepers,” he said.
“Their singular contribution also manifests Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to international peace and stability.
“We salute these brave sons of Pakistan, and commit to keep their legacy,” Ambassador Akram added.
A total of 157 Pakistani peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag over the years, according to the UN.
Pakistan is the 6th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping, currently deploying more than 4,700 military and police personnel to the UN peace operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Western Sahara.
During the ceremony, the Secretary-General also awarded the ‘2020 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ to Major Steplyne Buyaki Nyaboga a Kenyan military officer who served with the African Union – United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, (UNAMID). 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.”
Earlier, the UN chief laid a wreath to honour the more than 4,000 UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives since 1948.
Addressing the solemn ceremony, the secretary-general spoke of the “immense” challenges and threats faced by UN peacekeepers, saying they work hard every day to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable, while facing the dual threats of violence and a global pandemic.
“Despite COVID-19, across all our missions, peacekeepers have not only been adapting to continue to deliver their core tasks, they are also assisting national and community efforts to fight the virus,” Guterres said.
“I am proud of the work they have done.”
The theme for this year’s observance is “The road to a lasting peace: Leveraging the power of youth for peace and security.”
“From CAR to DRC to Lebanon, our peacekeepers work with youth to reduce violence and sustain peace, including through Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration and Community violence reduction programmes,” the secretary-general said.
"We salute the dedication & bravery of all our peacekeepers – women & men, the young & the slightly older – and we remain grateful for their service & sacrifice."
— United Nations (@UN) May 27, 2021
“In doing so,” he added, “our very own young peacekeepers bring new ideas, hope and energy to our operations. They engage effectively with local populations and contribute to the improvement of overall performance and mandate delivery.
“We salute the dedication and bravery of our all peacekeepers – women and men, the young and the slightly older – and we remain grateful for their? service and sacrifice,” Guterres said, adding they deserve our full support, and we must continue to work together to do all that we can to improve their safety and security and give them the tools to succeed.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said: “We salute the dedication and bravery of our peacekeepers, who serve and perform admirably in challenging environments only compounded by the ongoing pandemic. I also honor our young peacekeepers who bring energy and innovation, and serve as role models to youth populations working tirelessly to ensure meaningful representation and participation in political processes.”
He added: “Our peacekeepers deserve our full support, and we must continue to work together to do all we can to improve their safety and security and give them the tools to succeed.”
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 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the 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 29 May 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 1 million women and men have served in 72 UN peacekeeping operations, directly impacting millions of people, and saving countless lives. Today, UN Peacekeeping deploys more than 89,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 12 operations.