27 August 2003


NEW YORK, 26 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is today’s statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council meeting on the protection of humanitarian workers:

I wish to express my strong support for the draft resolution before you.

I can think of no issue about which I feel more strongly, as Secretary-General -- and I believe none should be more important to each of you, as members of the Security Council -- than the safety of those brave men and women who serve this Organization in the places where it matters most -- that is, in zones of conflict and danger. 

It is, of course, a fact of life that much of our work is done in dangerous places, since that is where it is most sorely needed.  But that only strengthens the obligation on all of us to take every step in our power to protect those working under the blue flag, and to bring to justice those who attack or harm them. 

Regrettably, in recent years we have not lived up to that obligation.  Attacks on humanitarian workers and on United Nations personnel have increased alarmingly. 

Again and again, peacekeepers or unarmed civilians, who have voluntarily gone in to help their fellow men and women, have been deliberately targeted by armed factions seeking to make a political point or a military gain, or to intimidate the international community.

Last week’s vicious attack on our headquarters in Baghdad, with all its tragic consequences, has brought this vital issue to the forefront of our priorities.  It shows us what we must expect if we allow the impression to continue gaining ground that international workers are a soft and cost-free target.

Impunity for those who commit such unpardonable crimes cannot stand.  There must be action.

Once again, I urge Member States in whose territories attacks against United Nations personnel have been committed to take practical and effective steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible for such crimes. 

I also urge those States that have not yet done so to sign, ratify, and accede to the Convention for the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

And I urge you here, today, to adopt the timely draft resolution that you have before you.  I hope very much that you will pass it unanimously, and that you will follow it up with action. 

In so doing, you will send an unambiguous message to all those who mistakenly believe that, in today’s turbulent world, they can advance their cause by targeting the servants of humanity.

And if you succeed in strengthening the security of United Nations staff, you will not only do what, in all conscience, is your duty.  You will also increase the authority and the effectiveness of this Council, by making clear that you are determined to protect those whom you send into the field to implement your decisions.

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