H.E. Mr. Ban ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations & Madame Ban,
H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, President of the General Assembly, & Mrs. Jeremic,
Excellencies, colleagues and members of the larger UN fraternity, & most importantly, families of those who have lost their lives defending the cause of the United Nations,
On behalf of my colleagues at the United Nations Security Council, allow me to first salute all the 29 United Nations personnel – civilian, military and police- whom we remember today- for having made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty- martyrs to the cause of peace.
No cause is greater than the belief and conviction, which our 29 brethren stood for, and laid down their lives for – the cause of global peace, espoused by this cradle of multilateralism – the United Nations.
They were out there performing their official duties, a responsibility that we, member states had mandated them to do, either in the pursuit of peace keeping, peace building or at times, even promoting development in inhospitable terrains- all behind the hallowed blue flag of the United Nations- and yet they had to make that supreme sacrifice.
It is therefore, incumbent that we all come together with the highest sense of respect and gratitude because no ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honour the sacrifice they have made in the line of duty. We must commit today to ourselves, to do more in serving them and their families, as they served the cause of the UN.
Today’s solemn moment also reinforces the challenges of the high risk environment in which UN personnel are increasingly called upon to perform their assignments. Even though continuous enhancements to staff security, safety systems, emergency preparedness and risk mitigation are being made, the UN still continues to face extremely tragic losses of its own personnel in the line of duty.
It is therefore imperative that the safety and security of UN personnel – civilian and uniformed- must be accorded the top most priority for all involved: the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretariat. And all three must work closely with host countries, who bear the primary responsibility for safety and security, to ensure that all measures are in place so that any avoidable casualty can be eliminated.
Another thought that I would like to flag for the consideration of this august assembly today is that we must look at building systems, whereby families of those who have laid down their lives in the line of duty, are tended to and well looked after collectively by all of us, including the UN system.
Am reminded of a quote from Francis Quarles in this regard and I quote, “Our God and soldiers we alike adore even at the brink of danger; not before: After deliverance, both alike requited, Our God’s forgotten, and our soldiers slighted”.
Let us today resolve to ensure that this should never happen as I sure that this will not happen.
Amongst the list of 29 brethren whom we remember today, are also two soldiers from my country, Naik Krishan Kumar and Lance Dafadar Ravindera Poonia, and in my national capacity I would like to place on record that their courage and dedication to the cause that they laid their lives for, would never ever be forgotten. While their families have been unable to join us today, allow me to promise the full support of the Indian Government towards any assistance that they may ever require. We stand together with them to honour their commitment to their ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace.
And before I conclude, I would like to complement the UN Secretary General H.E. Mr. Ban ki-moon, for his initiative to make the memorial service an annual event in New York. It not only provides us with an opportunity to remember our fallen colleagues, but also to draw inspiration from their remarkable dedication to work even harder for the collective cause envisaged in the United Nations charter: to keep peace and to promote better standards of life in larger freedom.
For let us always remember that: A UN soldier does not fight because he hates the enemy in front of him, he fights to keep the peace, for that is the only cause he loves and leaves behind!