9 December 2003


This is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan (delivered for him by Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs) at a “Human Security for All” symposium in New York today in tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello:

I am delighted to send my greetings to all the friends and colleagues of Sergio Vieira de Mello who have gathered to pay tribute to him and to discuss a topic that was dear to his heart and central to his professional life -- human security for all.

Sergio would have been glad that you are addressing this simple but powerful theme:  the notion that every man, woman and child must have clean water, enough food to eat, adequate shelter, basic health care, a decent education, protection from violence, and a popularly elected government.

He would have been equally glad to see that you will be delving into the real complexities that arise when trying to turn this simple principle from words into action.

Sergio knew, as a staff member of UNHCR for many years, the challenges of ensuring the rights of refugees.  He was acutely aware, particularly from his time as the Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, of how difficult yet important it is to protect humanitarian space in conflict zones.  And as the head of United Nations efforts in Kosovo, East Timor and Iraq, he understood how central promoting justice and the rule of law is to post-conflict transition.

In everything he did, Sergio reached out to local communities, empowering them to take up leadership roles.  He sought to ensure that the United Nations was not simply implementing projects, but helping to build the basis for good governance and long-term peace.  If anyone had the diplomatic skill, insight, compassion and commitment to make local communities true partners in the work of the United Nations on the ground, it was Sergio.

Sergio, and many other outstanding people, gave their lives as they sought to empower Iraqis to build their own future.  Their deaths were a shock to us all -- and a terrible illustration of the new dangers we face in seeking to bring relief to suffering populations.

Sergio set a standard for all humanitarians, peacekeepers, peacemakers, and peace-builders.  I hope his legacy will inspire you in your discussions at this symposium.

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