Press Releases

    28 October 2002


    Statement at Staff Day Memorial Ceremony Calls For Support from
    Governments In Dealing with Perpetrators of Violence

    NEW YORK, 25 October (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today at a memorial ceremony on Staff Day at United Nations Headquarters in New York:

    As we do on every Staff Day, we come together today to honour the lives of colleagues and loved ones who have given their lives while serving under the flag of the United Nations.

    These irreplaceable colleagues worked on the frontlines of peace to bring help to the needy, comfort to the bereaved, and security to people suffering the ravages of war and disaster. Their efforts and achievements showed the United Nations at its best.

    We remember the joy and inspiration they brought into our lives, and share the pain of their families and friends at their untimely death. The United Nations family is not alone in mourning. For whenever a "Blue Helmet", relief worker or local interpreter falls victim, the communities in which they served also feel an acute sense of loss.

    Today we pay tribute to the 57 peacekeepers and six civilian staff who lost their lives since Staff Day last year. These numbers are a grim reminder of the real and mortal danger faced by United Nations staff in the field, more than anyone else in the Organization.

    I have just returned from a visit to Afghanistan. Important progress has been made toward stability, reconstruction and the resumption of normal life. But of course, staff and Afghans alike continue to face serious security risks. Despite this fear and uncertainty, every single staff member I met showed an admirable sense of duty. I left Afghanistan deeply impressed by their dedication, and even more convinced that all of us must do our utmost to ensure that they, and their colleagues around the world, have the safest possible environment in which to carry out their mission.

    Much can be done in this regard. The United Nations has taken important steps in recent years to strengthen its capacity to protect field staff.

    The Secretariat now has, for the first time, a full-time United Nations Security Coordinator, Mr. Tun Myat, who took up his post on 1 August. Furthermore, the General Assembly approved last year a package of proposals by the Secretary-General, which is enabling us to increase the number of personnel dedicated to staff security, to improve their training and equipment, expand counselling and other services, and to enhance the accountability of United Nations managers responsible for security-related decision-making.

    The Secretary-General is also committed to providing support to the families of staff members who lose their lives. Toward that end, he is exploring the possibility of using the money from last year’s Nobel Peace Prize to establish a "United Nations Nobel Peace Prize Memorial Trust Fund", for the education of children of staff members who have lost their lives in the line of duty. He is also looking into ways to secure additional monies for such a Fund.

    Member States must also fulfil their responsibilities. Only governments can fight impunity by arresting and prosecuting those responsible for violence against United Nations and associated personnel. Only governments can sign and ratify the relevant legal instruments, including the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines attacks against peacekeepers and humanitarian workers as war crimes. And only governments can provide the resources that are a crucial factor in improving security.

    As we pay tribute to our fallen colleagues, let us remember all the others who continue, day in and day out, often in dangerous circumstances, to bring the Charter to life. We owe it to our fallen colleagues, and to their loved ones, to ensure that that work is carried on. Let their memory guide our efforts.

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