UN Watch

Diwali Foundation's “Power of One” awards honour UN diplomats, officials

During an awards ceremony honouring six serving and former diplomats and international civil servants for their contributions to world peace and development, the UN was hailed as an institution embodying the Diwali spirit of good overcoming evil. Among those who received the award was Assistant Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri, who is also the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.

Dec 12, 2017
By Arul Louis
 
During an awards ceremony honouring six serving and former diplomats and international civil servants for their contributions to world peace and development, the UN was hailed as an institution embodying the Diwali spirit of good overcoming evil. Among those who received the award was Assistant Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri, who is also the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.
 
The first “Power of One” awards were given at a ceremony here on Monday by the Diwali Foundation, USA, which grew out of the campaign for a United States postage stamp to commemorate the festival of light.
 
India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said that foundational power of the UN reflected Diwali's spirit of doing universal good and overcoming evil. The manifestation of Diwali, the light of knowledge, was needed to be shone on the great challenge of the day – technology, which can be of advantage to humanity but was also a matter of great concern.
 
Puri, who is leaving the UN next year to return to India, said her mission had been to light the light of global equality of gender and to dispel the darkness of violence against women.
 
Ravi Batra, the chair of National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, called the “Power of One” awards the “Oscars of diplomacy” and said the recipients fought like Clint Eastwood or the “Magnificent Seven” for a more perfect world. Ranju Batra, who had led the campaign for the Diwali stamp and is the chair of Diwali Foundation, was complimented by many of the diplomats for her success in getting the stamp issued last year.
 
She said that she had spent seven years working for the US Diwali stamp in a spirit of inclusiveness that received the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former US President Barack Obama. On the first day of issue, 172,000 Diwali stamps were sold, creating a record for the postal service, she said.
 
Belarus Premanent Representative Valentin Rybakov, who moderated the ceremony, said that the awards recognised the transformative power of one individual to bring about change in the world for the better. Rybakov said that she had promoted Indian culture at the UN and in the US.
 
Two of the recipients of the “Power of One” awards had a role in the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) elections at the UN. Long-time Lebanon Permanent Representative Nawaf Salam had defeated India's candidate Dalveer Bhandari for the Asian seat on world court bench.
 
Subsequently Britain's Permanent Representative Matthew Ryrcroft had announced the withdrawal of his country's candidate, Christopher Greenwood, in favour of Bhandari enabling his ultimate victory for another ICJ judgeship by breaking a stalemate.
 
The other recipients were former Under Secretary-General Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt, former Director of General Assembly Affairs Ion Botnaru of Moldova, and former Ukraine Permanent Representative Yuriy Seregeyev.
 
The ceremony was organised by the Permanent Missions of Belarus, Georgia and India and the Diwali Foundation. It was co-sponsored by the missions of 22 countries including the US.

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