26 September 2007The President of Finland today backed the creation of a new United Nations agency to deal with gender issues and urged greater involvement of women in peacemaking and peacekeeping. The President of Finland today backed the creation of a new United Nations agency to deal with gender issues and urged greater involvement of women in peacemaking and peacekeeping.“We do need to take decisive measures to promote gender awareness across the entire UN system,” said Tarja Halonen, voicing support for a proposal “to set up a new consolidated gender agency” headed by an Under-Secretary-General.Addressing the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate, she stressed the importance of “engaging women in all phases of crisis management: conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding – not forgetting peace talks.” As an example of the positive role women can play in dealing with conflicts, she cited an initiative by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), which has brought together Israeli and Palestinian women under its Middle East initiative. The President said this effort “can help restart peace negotiations.”In his address to the General Assembly, the President of the Czech Republic called on Member States to proceed with a serious discussion of reforming the United Nations so that this “irreplaceable” institution can better reflect current global realities rather than the era in which it was founded. The UN is an extremely important forum for dialogue among its 192 Member States, based on mutual respect for differing opinions, Václav Klaus said, adding that “there is no substitute for it in the current world.” But to move forward and adapt to current realities, “some changes are inevitable and we should discuss them seriously.” At the same time, Mr. Klaus stressed the need to ensure that the reform process does not take place at the expense of individual countries for the sake of expediency. “It is crucial that every Member State has equal status and that its voice is not ignored,” he stated, urging that the views of all countries be respected, regardless of their size.
“Sandya represents the dedication and perseverance of women from all ethnicities across Sri Lanka who are seeking information about their missing loved ones,” said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap. “The American people support their efforts as a step towards a brighter future of truth, reconciliation, and lasting peace for all Sri Lankans.”“Pursuing the truth is not a crime. Protecting the perpetrators is,” said Sandya about her campaign.The 13 honorees were chosen for their advocacy on issues as diverse as combatting early child marriage, gender-based violence, human trafficking, improving interfaith relations, and preserving the environment. They will travel to cities across the United States to discuss the challenges they have faced and inspire others to action. Mrs. Trump applauded the honorees as “true heroes,” saying they’ve “fought on the frontlines against injustice.”The First Lady declared that “we are all ultimately members of one race. The human race.” Ekneligoda’s husband, a well-known political cartoonist and journalist disappeared in January 2010 but she resolved to seek the truth about his fate. She appeared in court more than 80 times in the face of obstructionist judges and authorities. US First Lady Melania Trump, today, honored 13 extraordinary women, including Sandhya Ekneligoda, with the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award.The award recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights, empowerment, and justice, often at great personal risk. The State Department said that a member of the majority Sinhalese community in Sri Lanka, Sandhya has become a symbol for the many thousands of persons — including from the Tamil minority — who have suffered the loss of disappeared relatives over the course of the 27-year civil war and earlier insurrections. Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored nearly 100 women from 60 different countries, including Jansila Majeed of Puttalam in 2010 for her advocacy on behalf of internally displaced persons. (Colombo Gazette)