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Ban pays homage to UN personnel

world Updated: Nov 15, 2012 13:45 IST

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon paid homage to 29 UN personnel, including two Indians, who died over the past year in the line of duty, noting peacekeepers and other UN staff are increasingly working in "high risk" environments across the world.

At a memorial service held at the world body's headquarters on Wednesday, Ban called on governments to uphold their responsibility to provide security and prosecute those who target UN staff.

"My fervent wish is that an event like this would never be necessary – that all our staff could do their job without facing risks to their lives," Ban said.

"Yet we know that United Nations peacekeepers and all personnel are increasingly exposed to high risk environments."

Between November 1, 2011 and August 31 this year, 29 men and women – civilian, military and police staff members – died across 11 duty stations around the world, representing 16 nationalities.

Their deaths were due to malicious acts, natural disasters, accidents at work and other emergencies.

While ceremonies to honour fallen UN staff are held on an individual basis, last year marked the first time that a ceremony to pay tribute to all of them was held.

"Today is yet another reminder of the dangers and vulnerabilities of those serving around the world to promote the universal goals of the United Nations Charter," Ban said.

"It is also a moment to take strength and resolve to carry forward the work for which our fallen colleagues gave everything."

Speaking on the occasion, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said that the UN system must ensure that the families of those who have laid down their lives in the line of duty are tended to and looked after collectively by all nations as well as the UN system.

"It is 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," Puri said.

"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," Puri, speaking in his capacity as President of Security Council, said.

Puri recalled the service of two Indian soldiers Naik Krishan Kumar and Lance Dafadar Ravindera Poonia who died in the line of duty.

Kumar, of 13 Sikh Battalion Group, had served in the UN Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) and died on July 5 this year while defending the population of Bunagana.

Poonia was serving in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Puri said the Indian government is committed to providing any assistance to the families of the two fallen soldiers.

"We stand together with them to honour their commitment to their ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace," he said.

Puri said the 29 UN personnel who died in the past year were performing their official duties, a responsibility that the member states had mandated them to do in the pursuit of peace keeping, peace building and promoting development in inhospitable terrains.