Press Releases

    26 March 2002


    NEW YORK, 25 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, 25 March 2002:

    The United Nations Staff Union deserves high praise for its efforts to raise global awareness on the crucial issue of security for United Nations staff and for our indispensable colleagues in the media and humanitarian communities.

    Almost every United Nations entity has lost a staff member in the line of duty. Our non-governmental organization partners also know the heartbreak of men and women, wanting only to deliver food or provide shelter to the victims of conflict and disaster, instead falling prey to violence, often deliberately targeted at them. And the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl earlier this year highlighted yet again the dangers faced by journalists, whose efforts play an enormous role in raising public awareness and rousing governments to act.

    Risk comes with the territory, but greater protection is possible.

    Less than one third of United Nations Member States have ratified the 1994 convention on the safety of UN and associated personnel. And the impunity enjoyed by hostile elements is further entrenched when prosecutions take place only rarely, and in cases that result in dubiously light sentences or acquittals. The search for justice should receive a significant boost with the entry into force -- now just five ratifications away -- of the Statute for the International Criminal Court, which defines attacks on peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel as war crimes. But legal protections, however welcome, are not enough.

    For the United Nations, funding is one key requirement. It is encouraging that the General Assembly has just provided additional resources for training, equipment, counseling and personnel. But we also need greater political will on the part of governments and all other parties involved in armed conflicts to meet their obligation to provide the protection and access that United Nations staff, humanitarian personnel and journalists not only need, but have a right to expect. There must also be more concerted action for peace and development in the broadest sense, to turn the tide against the insecurity that draws our colleagues into the field in the first place.

    Today is a day on which we remember Alec Collett and express solidarity with all the caring, courageous men and women who venture into the field to help the suffering multitudes and themselves become victims, too. I offer my sincere condolences to all who have lost loved ones in the past, and my solemn pledge to do my utmost to ensure security and protection in the future.

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