20 August 2003


NEW YORK, 19 August (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan was issued today at Headquarters:

The loss of Sergio Vieira de Mello is a bitter blow for the United Nations, and for me personally.

The death of any colleague is hard to bear, but I can think of no one we could less afford to spare, or who would be more acutely missed throughout the United Nations system, than Sergio.  Throughout his career he has been an outstanding servant of humanity, dedicated to relieving the suffering of his fellow men and women, helping them to resolve their conflicts and rebuild their war-torn societies.  In his work with the peoples of every continent -- as an official of the High Commissioner for Refugees, as Emergency Relief Coordinator, as my Special Representative in Kosovo and East Timor, and (all too briefly) as High Commissioner for Human Rights -- in all those positions he impressed everyone with his charm, his energy, and his ability to get things done -- not by force, but by diplomacy and persuasion.

In Iraq, where he spent the last months of his life, he was working day and night to help the Iraqi people regain control of their own destiny and build a future of peace, justice and full independence.  It is tragic that he has now given his life in that cause, along with others who, like him, were devoted and much-loved servants of the United Nations.  Those who killed him have committed a crime, not only against the United Nations, but against Iraq itself.

I share the grief of Sergio’s family.  We shall all miss him sorely, as a colleague and as a friend.  Let us also strive to be worthy of him, and to complete the work that he began, so that his death will not have been in vain.

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