Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Military Gender Advocate Award and Dag Hammarskjöld Medal Ceremony, in New York on 29 May:
Allow me to ask before I start for us all to have a minute of silence in memory of all those peacekeepers that have lost their lives protecting the lives of the people we care for.
Today, we mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, in a context that is entirely unique in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything we do — both here at Headquarters and everywhere in the field.
Moments ago, I laid a wreath at the Peacekeepers Memorial to honour the more than 3,900 women and men who have lost their lives since 1948 while serving under the United Nations flag. In previous years, hundreds of diplomats, United Nations staff and journalists joined me for this important moment. I know that, today, they joined me in spirit.
The pandemic has required us to hold the ceremonies for the Military Gender Advocate Award and the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal virtually. But, what the virus has not changed is the service, sacrifice and selflessness of the more than 95,000 women and men serving in 13 peacekeeping operations around the world.
Every day, our peacekeepers continue to protect vulnerable local populations, support dialogue and implement their mandates while fighting COVID19. They are doing everything they can to be an integral part of the solution to this crisis while keeping themselves — and the communities they serve — safe. As always, they give the United Nations family many reasons to be proud.
But, the virus is not the only threat that our peacekeepers face. Hostile acts, improvised explosive devices, accidents and diseases continue to take a heavy toll.
Today, with the awarding of the Dag Hammarskjöld medal, we pay tribute to the 83 military, police and civilian personnel from 39 countries who lost their lives last year serving in United Nations peace operations. Unfortunately, I also want to say that, yesterday and today, two of our military colleagues have passed away due to COVID-19, [one peacekeeper from Cambodia and the other from El Salvador] both members of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Now, in in honour of the memories of all those who have fallen in the line of duty I want to express me my deepest condolences to their families. I hope that this medal offers them a measure of comfort. I now ask all of you, wherever you are, to feel strongly the solidarity with those families that are also permanently in our memory, in our attention, because they were the ones who suffered more to get less with those fallen in the line of duty.
Now, this year, as we mark the twentieth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, we are observing the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers with the theme: “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace.”
Resolution 1325 (2000) was a milestone in recognizing that women have a right to full, equal, and meaningful participation in peace processes, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. It is also emphasized that women peacekeepers play an essential role for the success of our peace operations.
Day by day, women peacekeepers help improve all aspects of our operations and performance; they ensure better access to local communities; they prevent and reduce conflict and confrontation; and they serve as role models for their peers and others.
In addition, we have seen that our operations are better able to build trust with those in need of protection when their staffing reflects the communities in which they serve. This is another reason why increasing the number of women in peacekeeping is so crucial.
Peacekeeping is more effective for everyone when we have more women peacekeepers at all levels, including in decision-making. We will continue to do everything we can, including with our troop and police contributors, to reach this goal.
In that spirit, since 2016, the Military Gender Advocate Award has recognized the dedication and efforts of individual military peacekeepers in promoting the principles of resolution 1325 (2000) in peace operations.
Today, I am proud to announce that two peacekeepers will receive the award jointly for their contribution to this cause: Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo of the Brazilian Navy, who is deployed with the United Nations [Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization] Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and Major Suman Gawani of the Indian Army, a Military Observer formerly deployed with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Commander Monteiro de Castro Araujo serves as MINUSCA’s Military Gender and Protection Adviser. In this role, she has strengthened the Mission’s ability to protect civilians, address conflict-related sexual violence and prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. She also strived to improve the living conditions of her fellow women peacekeepers.
Major Gawani, during her deployment in South Sudan, mentored more than 230 Military Observers on conflict-related sexual violence and ensured the presence of women military observers in each of the Mission’s team sites. She also trained the South Sudanese Government forces and helped them launch their action plan on conflict-related sexual violence.
Commander Monteiro de Castro Araujo, Major Gawani, your inspiring work has made a remarkable difference in promoting gender equality and empowering local women and your own colleagues. Your contributions are proof that women peacekeepers are vital to peace and security everywhere.
In closing, let me again express my great appreciation to all the women and men of United Nations peacekeeping for your courage and commitment. You are helping the world to cope with today’s emergency while paving the way for recovery and a more peaceful future.