The United Nations Association of New York
2014 UN Day
Humanitarian Awards Dinner




From left: UNA-NY Executive VP Robin van Puyenbroeck; UNA-NY Executive Director Ann Nicol; Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Under Secretary-General; Honoree Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director and UN Under Secretary General; Honoree Stefan Persson, H&M Chairman; UNA-NY President Abid Qureshi; Honoree Lord Raj Loomba; UNA-NY Treasurer Peter Rajsingh; and MSNBC Anchor Richard Lui. | Photos: | Click on above photo for enlarged view

On October 29th, the United Nations Association of New York announced the honorees for its annual Humanitarian of the Year awards, during its celebratory gala dinner commemorating the 69th Anniversary of the United Nations.

Receiving the award this year was Stefan Persson, Chairman of H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. In addition, a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Lord Raj Loomba, CBE and The Loomba Foundation.

This year's UN Day theme was Empowering Women, Promoting Peace and Progress, and the honorees selected were individuals and organizations which have shown extraordinary commitment to social entrepreneurship, gender equality and the empowerment of women throughout the world.

"Each year the board and selection committee of UNA-NY considers individuals who have shown extraordinary commitment to social entrepreneurship, gender equality and the empowerment of women throughout the world. Honorees have accomplished important strides in achieving the Millennium Development Goals," said Abid Qureshi, president of the United Nations Association of New York (UNA-NY).

Championing gender equality has been H&M's mission since its founding in Sweden in 1947. H&M today employs more than 116,000 people, of whom 77 percent are women. H&M also helps to create more than a million jobs for women in the textile industry in Asia, where H&M's sustainability work is dedicated to long-term development. In addition, the non-profit H&M Conscious Foundation, with support from the Persson family, works with the humanitarian organization CARE in some of the world's poorest communities in addition to supporting the work of UNICEF and WaterAid.

"We are very grateful and honored that the United Nations Association of New York has chosen to recognize the work of H&M in empowering women," said H&M chairman Stefan Persson. "By investing in the economic empowerment of women we can help transform the lives of individuals and families, we can fight poverty and bring positive development for entire communities. This work will not only help women here and now but aims for lasting and positive change."

Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who represented UN Women, was honored for being a strong champion for women and girls, providing them with a powerful voice at the global, regional and local levels. With the creation of UN Women in 2010, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

UN Women strives for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls, empowerment of women and achievement of equality between women and men as partners for change and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security. Twenty years after the adoption of the landmark Beijing Platform for Action that continues to define the gender equality agenda, UN Women has undertaken a major public campaign to accelerate implementation of this framework to benefit women and girls.

"As we look around the world, we see conflict and destruction, at the same time as progress and change. Women and girls bear the brunt of war, but they are also champions for peace. Empowered women are the best drivers of economic growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against radicalization and the repetition of cycles of violence," said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Lord Raj Loomba, CBE, founder of the Loomba Foundation, received a Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing his pioneering work raising awareness for the plight of poor widows and educating their children. There are an estimated 245 million widows around the world and 500 million children. Lord Loomba was behind the global initiative to name June 23rd "International Widows Day," the date on which his own mother became a widow at 37. The UN adopted the IWD Resolution on December 22, 2010 at the 65th UN General Assembly.

"One area we have been involved since the inception of the Loomba Foundation is the education of children belonging to widows," said Lord Loomba. "I know from personal experience how important this is and also, when a woman becomes a widow in India there is usually no money for living purposes let alone educating their children. As a result children are quite often forced to work either in the streets or in factories. Sending a child to school is a cost a widow can't afford."

At the heart of the work of the Loomba Foundation is empowering widows and educating their children. The Loomba Foundation does this by making widows self-sufficient through skill building, training, provision of business start-up capital and other programs for economic empowerment. This also has an important impact on widows' psychological well-being, allowing them to become self-confident and to develop self-worth. The Foundation also seeks to change attitudes towards widows and expand human rights through legal reforms. It has conducted programs in many countries including India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Syria, Rwanda, Malawi, South Africa and Guatemala.

The reception was held on October 29, 2014 at the J.W. Marriott Essex House in New York at 6:30 PM, followed by dinner at 7:30 PM. To further brighten the gala, the Bernhard Haaks Quintet, an accomplished group of jazz musicians, each with a varied and impressive background of performance history, provided the pre-dinner lush soundscape. Later on, the dinner's entertainment was served up by the young Asian duo FJ Music Fusion, who enjoy updating China's traditional music for today's audiences with a contemporary sound.

The evening also featured an auction of the exclusive and dazzling creation by international artist and potter Miranda Thomas — the lovely Golden Dove vase in a limited edition of twenty, representing the dove of peace. It represents a dove which is, in her words, "determined and committed, passionately believing in its mission… It represents each of us, facing the many challenges ahead. The dove is emblematic of all our hard work towards peace," she said about this work.

The United Nations Association of New York is the host UN chapter of UNA-USA, and we are dedicated to supporting the principles and vital work of the United Nations, strengthening the UN system and promoting constructive U.S. leadership. We want to express our deepest gratitude for the ongoing passion and commitment of our attendees and sponsors, who generously continue to acknowledge and support the important work of the UN.

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