26 March 2003

Secretary-General, at Headquarters Ceremony, Accepts Pin Symbolizing "Shared Memory of Lost Friends", Unity in Pursuing Peace

NEW YORK, 25 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan upon accepting the first lapel pin highlighting the importance of staff security in New York on 25 March:

Let me thank you very much for the gathering this morning. And I think I should congratulate the Staff Union -- and in particular its Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service -- for the determination and creativity with which they are pursuing their campaign to focus global attention on the importance of staff safety and security.

Your efforts are especially timely at a moment when many of our colleagues are braving danger and difficulties in responding to the humanitarian needs of the conflict zone of Iraq. But of course, quite apart from those hostilities, United Nations staff around the world risk their lives and face threats every single day.

Eighteen years ago today, armed men in Beirut abducted our colleague Alec Collett, on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. His fate has never been determined. Mrs. Collett, I know this is a painful anniversary for you. But I hope you will find at least some small solace in the fact that the tragedy which befell your husband also inspired the entire United Nations community to redouble its efforts -- to address the plight of staff who have been arrested, detained, abducted or "disappeared", and to do everything possible to ensure that all staff have the safety and security they need to carry out their work.

I think this pin -- this pin you have given me today, that you've made public today -- symbolizes our shared memory of lost friends and colleagues, our collective admiration for the heroic men and women who cannot be here with us today, and our unity in pursuing our global mission for peace and development. It is a message that should be clear to all: staff security is a legal, moral and managerial responsibility; and staff security is essential for the United Nations if the staff is to serve effectively in the cause of peace.

So let me, once again, thank the Staff Union and the designers of the pin. It is a worthy cause. I'm very happy to be the first to get it.

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