An Indian police officer deployed to the UN mission in Congo and a consultant with the UN development programme killed in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash are among 115 UN peacekeepers and staff honoured by the global organisation for their sacrifice in the line of duty.
Police Officer Jitender Kumar serving in the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Shikha Garg, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) consultant attached with India's Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, along with 113 UN personnel and staff, lost their lives in the service of peace between January 2018 and March 2019.
Garg was among four Indians who died when the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed after taking off from Addis Ababa in March this year. She was on her way to attend a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting in Nairobi.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, President of the General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the Security Council, Indonesian Ambassador to the UN Dian Triansyah Djani and Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare along with top UN officials and Peacekeeping personnel paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty at the solemn ceremony Monday.
Names of all the 115 UN personnel and staff members, 103 of them African peacekeepers, were read out during the service, which was attended by diplomats and family members of the fallen.
Guterres said that it was a "sad reminder of the often-perilous nature of our work" but also "testament to the commitment of the thousands of women and men from around the globe who are prepared to risk all to promote peace and provide assistance to some of the world's most vulnerable and needy people.”
The UN chief lit a candle in honour of the 115 colleagues from 43 different nations. Espinosa expressed her profound respect and admiration for their dedication, passion and commitment to humanity. She said that their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Guterres noted that most of the fallen came from the UN peacekeeping family, "which faces increasingly complex and deadly challenges," and the vast majority hailed from African nations, who have donned the 'blue helmet' to service in some of the most dangerous environments in the world.
The commitment and sacrifice of African peacekeepers is "a stark testament to the commitment and sacrifices of our African partners to our joint endeavours toward global peace and security," he said.
He also noted the tragic loss of 21 colleagues who died in the Ethiopian air crash in March, and 19 civilians from agencies, funds and programmes. “Our deepest condolences go to all their families and loved ones, many of whom are present here today with us.”
People from 35 countries were on board flight ET 302 when the Boeing 737 max plane crashed into a field 60 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa.
After a moment of silence, Guterres said the UN was working hard to mitigate the risks that colleagues face and promoting "better individual preparedness for crises" and providing "enhanced medical and psychological support."
"We are working to speedily settle claims and we are providing more comprehensive counselling, care and assistance to survivors and families," he said. "But I am aware that there is always more we can do, and I am committed to ensuring our Organization reviews and constantly improves our practices related to the safety and care of staff."
The UN chief said he was “particularly outraged when our humanitarian and peacekeeping colleagues are directly targeted,” adding that it was “essential that we demand justice and accountability for what, in many instances, constitute war crimes.”
He called on the world organisation to honour the memory of the fallen, “by rededicating ourselves to the noble cause of promoting peace, prosperity and opportunity for every woman, man and child on the planet.”