3 Indian peacekeepers honoured posthumously with prestigious UN medal for sacrifice in line of duty

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United Nations, May 27 (PTI) Three Indian peacekeepers, who laid down their lives while serving in UN peacekeeping missions last year, are among 129 military, police and civilian personnel honoured on Thursday with a prestigious UN medal awarded posthumously for courage and sacrifice in the line of duty.

Corporal Yuvraj Singh who served with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and two civilian peacekeepers -- Ivan Michael Picardo, who served with UNMISS, and Mulchand Yadav, who worked for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) -- were honoured posthumously with the Dag Hammarskjold Medal during a sombre virtual ceremony here on the occasion of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

India is the 5th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping with more than 5,500 military and police serving in peace operations in Abyei, Cyprus, Congo, Lebanon, the Middle East, Somalia, South Sudan and the Western Sahara, according to the UN.

'On the occasion of the UN International Day of peacekeepers, I salute the men and women who serve in UN peacekeeping missions in foreign lands to preserve international peace and security,' India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said.

The International Day of UN Peacekeepers is observed annually on May 29 to pay tribute to the uniformed and civilian personnel for their invaluable contribution to the work of the world organisation and to honour the more than 4,000 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948.

Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laid a wreath to pay tribute to the fallen UN peacekeepers and presided over the virtual ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjold Medal was awarded posthumously to the peacekeepers who lost their life serving under the UN flag last year and in the first month of this year.

The theme for this year’s observance is ‘The road to a lasting peace: Leveraging the power of youth for peace and security’.

Tens of thousands of young peacekeepers aged between 18 and 29 years deployed around the world play a key role in helping UN missions implement their mandated activities, with the active participation of young people from host communities, the UN said.

“The challenges and threats faced by our peacekeepers are immense. 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,” Guterres said during the virtual ceremony.

The UN chief said despite COVID-19, across all UN 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.

“I am proud of the work they have done,” he said, adding that the fallen UN peacekeepers – uniformed and civilian – lost their lives due to malicious acts, in accidents and as a result of illness, including COVID-19.

The fallen peacekeepers came from 44 different countries and diverse backgrounds but were united by a common purpose: “to serve our great Organisation, promote peace and security and improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We are forever in their debt,” Guterres said.

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 “recognises the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.” Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, saluted the dedication and bravery of UN peacekeepers, who serve and perform admirably in challenging environments only compounded by the ongoing pandemic.

“I also honour 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 said.

Lacroix said UN 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”.

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 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 Organisation (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine. Since then, more than one 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. PTI YAS SCY SCY SCY

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