25 March 2003


NEW YORK, 24 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, observed 25 March:

Eighteen years ago today, armed men in Beirut abducted our colleague Alec Collett, who was on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). His fate has never been determined. Other United Nations staff members are under arrest or missing, some for as long as 20 years. And every day, throughout the world, United Nations staff and our humanitarian, media and other colleagues face a variety of threats, assaults and abuse, as well as the difficult living conditions that prevail in zones of conflict and disaster.

United Nations offices have received bomb threats and threats of chemical or biological contamination -- incidents that proved to be hoaxes but which resulted in serious disruptions to the work of offices and mental anguish for the staff involved.

The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members is meant to raise awareness -- about the dangerous environments in which some of us have to work, and about what can be done to improve the safety and security of all United Nations staff.

Staff security is a legal responsibility. I call on those Member States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. The General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Scope of Legal Protection under the Convention is meeting this week; I urge them to recognize the urgent nature of their work. It is particularly troubling that so few perpetrators have been prosecuted for crimes against United Nations staff; surely, the swift application of justice would be a real deterrent and a blow against such impunity.

Staff security is also a managerial responsibility to which I attach the highest importance. The United Nations Security Coordinator’s office is continuing its efforts to strengthen security training and management.

Today the United Nations Staff Union and its Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service are giving us all a chance to show that we care about this issue. They have designed and produced a lapel pin that symbolizes our common memory of lost friends and colleagues and our unity in pursuing our global mission peace and development. I hope staff will wear the pin and thereby help raise global awareness of a crucial issue for the success of our work.

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