Press Releases

                                                                                                                            29 April 2004

    Through His Extraordinary Intelligence, Good Judgement, Dedication, Sergio Vieira de Mello “Set a Standard for All Humanitarian Workers”, Deputy-Secretary-General Says

    NEW YORK, 28 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, on accepting the Eastwest Institute 2004 Peacebuilding Award on behalf of Sergio Vieira de Mello in New York, on 27 April:

    I am deeply moved and honoured to be with you for this tribute to my dear colleague and friend, Sergio Vieira de Mello.  I am very pleased that Sergio’s memory is being honoured at the same time as that of Anna Lindh, a wonderful woman who did so much to further world peace.

    I think I speak for many of us in saying that Sergio was a precious asset not only to the United Nations, but to the international community as whole.  This award is welcome recognition of that fact.

    I think we can all agree that there has never been a time in world affairs when we were in greater need of Sergio’s qualities, character and courage.  As we meet and consult one another, struggling with the issues confronting us, his absence is palpable.

    Sergio embodied the best of the United Nations.  His work epitomized everything the Organization stands for.  He dealt willingly with the most daunting challenges, undertook the most uncomfortable assignments, tackled the toughest missions.

    One of my most abiding memories of Sergio was when he became the first Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Kosovo in 1999.  This type of trusteeship mission was uncharted territory for the United Nations.  A new kind of history was being written every day.  Sergio left for Kosovo within 24 hours of being given the job, with few tools but his cell phone, his savoir-faire and his sense of humour.

    Once there, he may have needed to improvise much of the time.  He may have relished the adventure in his mission.  But he was the consummate professional, with an innate strategic sense and single-mindedness that surpassed even his well-known charm.  Within a few weeks, he had established a working UN presence in Kosovo, and laid the groundwork for our operations there to this day.

    He brought the same characteristics to bear on all his work -- including his mission to Timor-Leste, which culminated in the independence of the country in 2002.

    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.  He knew how to deliver difficult -- and often unpalatable -- messages to his interlocutors, while retaining their respect and trust.  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 have scarred us all -- and provide a terrible illustration of the new dangers we face in seeking to build peace.

    We will always miss Sergio’s extraordinary intelligence and good judgement, graciousness and wit, as well as his profound dedication to the principles that inform the UN Charter. Through these, Sergio set a standard for all humanitarian workers, peacekeepers, peacemakers, and peace-builders.  I hope his legacy will inspire several generations to seek to follow his example.

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