Four diplomats, US lawmaker honoured with 2022 ‘Diwali- Power of One’ award at UN

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 6: Four veteran diplomats and a US lawmaker have been honoured with this year’s annual ‘Diwali- Power of One’ award here for their efforts in working towards a peaceful and secure world.
Hailed as the ‘Oscars of Diplomacy’, the award is presented to former Permanent Representatives or former High-Level members of the UN Secretariat or member state, or soon-to-be “former”, who have “toiled selflessly to help form a more perfect, peaceful and secure world for all.”
Former Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN and current Ambassador to Canada Kaha Imnadze, and former Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations Keisha McGuire were among those who were honoured on Monday.
The other three who were awarded were former Interim Defence Minister and Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN and current Ambassador to the US Georgi Velikov Panayotov, former Permanent Representative of Benin to the UN and now Ambassador to the US Jean-Claude do Rego and former Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives Eliot Lance Engel.
Engel was conferred the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony held in the UN Headquarters with the ‘Diwali Stamp Power of One Awards’, instituted in 2017 by the Diwali Foundation USA.
The global envoys highlighted the significance of the Indian festival of lights and its message of the triumph of good over evil.
India’s Permanent Representative to the UN and President of the Security Council for the month of December, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj, said Diwali signifies the triumph of good over evil and the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya.
“It is a time to not just celebrate but to also pause and reflect…Above all, a celebration of the eternal values that are so relevant to what we do here at the United Nations – goodness, caring and compassion,” Kamboj said.
She addressed a gathering that included ambassadors, diplomats, UN leaders and members of the Indian-American diaspora.
President of the 77th session of the General Assembly Csaba Korosi said that Diwali marks the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, “much like we intend to achieve here at the United Nations.”
“The festival, which dates back five thousand years, carries innumerable lessons that hold true even today, and are relevant for us all – justice, truth, integrity, humility and freedom,” Korosi said adding that these are values that are imbibed in the UN ethos.
“The essence of Diwali transcends cultures and inspires all of us to strive for a better world. The desire that good and enlightenment should prevail over the evil and destruction that has accompanied human beings in all countries for thousands of years, and I hope it will prevail for us all,” he said.
He noted that today’s world is in crises and in need of transformation.
“We must – and I strongly believe we can – reinvigorate multilateralism and progress on our shared goals. I am sure that we too possess the power to create the light and spread it across the world,” he said.
Chair of Diwali Foundation USA Ranju Batra, who spearheaded efforts for over seven years to get a commemorative ‘Forever Diwali’ stamp issued by the US Postal Service in 2016, said at the award ceremony that Diwali Stamp’s celebration is not of a religion or of a nation, but of the spirit of harmonious inclusiveness and cross-cultural understanding that all religions deserve.
“While my journey took seven years, Diwali Stamp is here forever. It will be a matter of pride for generations to come because it was done with help of every faith – because we all are entitled to a better and peaceful tomorrow, no matter where we were born, and no matter how we pray!” she said.
Batra had sent tens of thousands of paper petitions to Citizens Advisory Committee, which William Givker, director of United States Postal Service (USPS) Stamp Development, said: “was the biggest push”.
“The most people writing in, and it was the volume of petitions, and not the high-profile support, that swayed the committee,” Givker said.
She personally sold over 170,000 stamps in 10 days- making it the number one best seller in the history of the Postal Service.
Eminent Indian-American attorney and Chair of the National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs Ravi Batra said the UN is “humanity’s Vatican of Hope”.
“The diplomats are the Arch-Angels, who when doing good, can stop a war from starting, or even stop one that’s raging, do a ‘Black Sea Grain Deal’ as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did with Turkey, Russia and Ukraine to save 50 million men, women and children from starvation,” he said.
“Diplomacy then tilts between life or death, good and evil,” Batra said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that “this is not an era of war. So, we must all help make an Era of Peace”.
He said the ideals of Diwali are the ideals of the UN Charter.
Korosi recognised Ranju Batra’s years-long effort to create the Diwali stamp, saying she worked with the political and business community to bring Diwali to the federal level.
“This is an inspiring proof of how people with true commitment can make all the difference,” Korosi said, invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “be the change that you wish to see in the world”.
In recognition of Batra’s role, Korosi presented her with a signed and dedicated to her copy of the UN Charter.
The 2022 award ceremony was co-organised by Diwali Foundation USA and the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, and the Permanent Missions of Chile, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Morocco, Oman and Sri Lanka to the United Nations.
Previous honourees of the award include former Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Lakshmi Puri, former UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft, Ukraine’s former UN envoy Yuriy Sergeyev and Vietnam’s former Permanent Representative to the UN Nguyen Phuong Ngai.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards were suspended in 2020 and 2021. The UN General Assembly recognised the significance of Diwali in its resolution in 2014. Thereafter, Diwali Foundation USA Inc. Was established in 2017 to promote a peaceful and consensus-based process to achieve societal ‘Good’, as befits the high hopes and ideals of humanity enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
The Foundation established the “Diwali Stamp – The Power of One” Award to celebrate and highlight the important work done in a peaceful manner, especially at the United Nations. (PTI)