Press Releases

    2 March 2004

    Secretary-General Pays Tribute to Devotion, Honesty, Generosity of Late Jean-Sélim Kanaan, as France Honours UN Staff Member with Posthumous Legion of Honour

    NEW YORK, 1 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, translated from French, on the occasion of the posthumous award of the Legion of Honour to Jean-Sélim Kanaan, read by Iqbal Riza, Chef de Cabinet, in Geneva, 27 February:

    It is with pride, but also with deep sadness that I join in the tribute being paid today to Jean-Sélim Kanaan.

    Jean-Sélim had chosen to place his talent, his passion and his generosity in the service of humanity.  At 33 years of age, he had already devoted nearly half of his young life to the struggle for justice and freedom and he had done so where it truly matters -- in the field, at the side of the oppressed and the disinherited of the earth.  By awarding him posthumously the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, France pays him a tribute that is richly deserved.

    Throughout his career, Jean-Sélim worked tirelessly to defend his ideals, whether in Somalia, Bosnia, Burundi, Kosovo, at United Nations Headquarters in New York or, in the end, in Iraq.  A brilliant graduate of Harvard and of the Paris Institute of International Management, he earned the admiration and, by his intelligence, energy and courage, the respect of all those who knew him.  His French and Egyptian background, his mastery of seven languages and his openness to others had made him a true citizen of the world.  He had crossed the oceans by sailboat, piloted airplanes and climbed the highest mountains.  He had friends in every corner of the globe.  But his greatest joys were no doubt his marriage to Laura and the birth of their son, Mattia-Sélim, events that had added a new dimension to his life.

    This ceremony is a tribute to the father, the husband, the son, the brother, the friend and the colleague that was Jean-Sélim.  Each of these roles he had assumed with devotion, honesty and generosity.  We shall treasure the memory of a man who fought to the end to make our world a better place.  His example, like that of all those who fight for justice and peace, will continue to inspire us.  May it also be a source of comfort to Laura and her family at this difficult time.

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