UNITED NATIONS: Four prominent diplomats have been honoured with 'The Diwali - Power of One' award in recognition and celebration of their work, especially at the United Nations, for a secure and peaceful world.
The diplomats who were honoured are former foreign minister and Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN Kairat Abdrakhmanov, former Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations Nicholas Emiliou.
Former Chef de Cabinet to the President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly and Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the UN Frantisek Ruzicka and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko were also honoured with the 'Power of One' awards during a ceremony at the UN Headquarters on Friday.
The awards, which have come to be known as the 'Oscars of Diplomacy', were established by the Diwali Foundation USA, Inc in 2017.
They are awarded to former Permanent Representatives or high-level UN diplomats or those diplomats who will soon finish their tenure at the world organisation for working selflessly "to help form a more perfect, peaceful and secure world for all."
Diwali Foundation USA Chair Ranju Batra said this year's awardees, all "exceptional world-class diplomats", have well earned the award "by their lifetime of principled efforts to help enhance peace and security by their many victories of 'good' over 'evil' and 'light' over 'darkness'."
"Whatever the UN Charter dreams of, the Diwali Foundation USA's Power of One awardees have helped to make it a reality," she said during the ceremony at the UN's the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) chamber.
India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, in his remarks at the event, said that as a tribute to the power of one to bring about change, as exemplified by the "passionate pursuit" by Batra of the Diwali Forever Stamp in 2016, "we have also celebrated the pursuit of excellence at the UN."
"We annually honour those who have made exemplary contributions in upholding the values that the United Nations stands for," he said, congratulating UN colleagues who have stood up for the timeless spirit of Diwali.
Noting that Diwali is observed as a floating holiday at the United Nations, with no official meetings scheduled for the day, Akbaruddin said celebration of Diwali at the world organisation "has also evolved as an expression of our collective commitment to promote peace, prosperity, justice and dignity for all as enshrined in the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
"At a more personal level, Diwali is a time to turn inward and introspect.
It is a time to rekindle the light of knowledge and truth in our heart and to dispel the dark forces of ignorance," Akbaruddin said.
In his message, India's Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty applauded the efforts of Ranju Batra and eminent Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra "for taking the unifying message of Diwali far and wide and for making it truly international.
The 'Power of One' award institutionalises the Diwali Stamp effort of Ranju Batra and her partners who worked tirelessly and made it the most popular stamp issued by the US Postal Services, Akbaruddin said.
Ravi Batra, in his remarks honouring the four awardees, said that "the world needs diplomacy, and excellence in diplomacy can, and does, enhance peace and security by preventing the start of, or bringing to an end, our present-day endless wars."
Ranju Batra had spearheaded efforts for nearly seven years to get a commemorative 'Forever Diwali' stamp issued by the US Postal Service in 2016, reaching out to the Indian-American community members and influential lawmakers, garnering support for petitions for the stamp.
Previous honourees of the award include former Deputy-Executive Director of UN Women Lakshmi Puri, former Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN Catherine Boura, the Permanent Representative of Tunisia to the UN Mohamed Khaled Khiari,.
Former Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the UN Andrej Logar, Azerbaijan's former envoy to the UN Agshin Mehdiyev, Vietnam's former Permanent Representative to the UN Nguyen Phuong Nga and Thailand's former Permanent Representative to the UN Virachai Plasai.
The co-organisers of the awards this year were the Permanent Missions of Belarus, Georgia and India to the UN, along with 32 co-sponsors, including the Permanent Missions of Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Viet Nam and the Permanent Observer Mission of State of Palestine.
Diwali Foundation USA, Inc was established in 2017 to promote a "peaceful and consensus-based process to achieve societal good," as befitting the "high hopes and ideals of humanity enshrined in the United Nations Charter."