UN chief Antonio Guterres pays tribute to 77 fallen UN personnel, including 5 Indian peacekeepers

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Updated: Jul 01, 2020 3:14 PM

UN chief Antonio Guterres paid tribute to 77 United Nations personnel, including five Indian peacekeepers, who lost their lives in the line of duty between March and December 2019 at a solemn ceremony commemorating their bravery.

UN chief Antonio Guterres, UN personnel, Indian peacekeepers, annual Memorial Service, COVID-19 pandemic,latest news on Antonio GuterreSecretary-General Guterres paid the tributes through a video message during the annual Memorial Service on Tuesday to honour the UN personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty between March 16 and December 31, 2019. (Reuters photo)

UN chief Antonio Guterres paid tribute to 77 United Nations personnel, including five Indian peacekeepers, who lost their lives in the line of duty between March and December 2019 at a solemn ceremony commemorating their bravery.

Secretary-General Guterres paid the tributes through a video message during the annual Memorial Service on Tuesday to honour the UN personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty between March 16 and December 31, 2019.

Out of those, 38 were military personnel, which underscores the increasingly complex and dangerous work our peacekeepers are asked to perform; three were police and and 36 were civilian personnel hailing from 41 nations, he said.

The five Indian peacekeepers honoured for their courage and sacrifice in the line of duty include Lieutenant Colonel Gaurav Solanki, who served in UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Major Ravi Inder Singh Sandhu and Sergeant Lal Manotra Tarsem, who served with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Sergeant Ramesh Singh with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Private Johnsion Beck with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

Sandhu, Tarsem, Singh and Beck were among the 83 military, police and civilian personnel who were honoured posthumously this year with the prestigious Dag Hammarskj ld Medal on the occasion of International Day of Peacekeepers on May 29 for their courage and sacrifice in the line of duty.

”It is a sad fact that, due to the nature of our responsibilities, our personnel often have to face perilous situations where crisis, conflict and instability reign.”That so many of our colleagues choose to serve where risk prevails is testament to their unstinting commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable people, who rely on us for peace, shelter, food, vaccinations and so much more,” Guterres said.

He said this year, when the world is facing the unprecedented upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, ”we are also commemorating 75 years of the United Nations. ”Our organisation was born from the ashes of the Second World War and has promoted peace and human progress ever since. All around the world, especially in the most fragile contexts, the blue flag of the United Nations symbolises hope. That hope is part of the legacy of the colleagues we mourn today,” Guterres said.

”They paid the ultimate sacrifice so that others could look forward to better days,” he said. Emphasising that even one death is one too many, Guterres pledged that he will continue to ensure that the UN constantly reviews and improves its practices related to the safety and care of staff.

”When our colleagues pay the ultimate sacrifice, it is our duty to honour them and support their families. For, without our brave colleagues in the field, we cannot do what we have been asked to do by Member States  to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to pursue better standards of living for all in larger freedom,” he said.

The President of the UN Staff Union, Patricia Nemeth, also spoke during the commemoration online, noting that those who died in service were ?driven solely by a desire to help the most vulnerable to have hope, building a better future and ensuring that everyone can enjoy life, liberty, dignity, peace, security and justice.”

”The service that staff members provide within the United Nations is more than just a job,” she said. ”It is a calling for us, as we want to serve the ideals of the organisation, ensuring a brighter future for the entire human race,” she said.

Noting that 77 colleagues had died over the past year, she said that year-after-year our organisation suffers another loss, a different kind of loss, and that is a loss of innocence for the United Nations.

”That is why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation for those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can continue to live our lives and do our work,” Nemeth said. ”We owe it to them to finish the task for which these men and women have given their lives,” she said.

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