21 August 2006

Secretary-General, Observing Deadly Baghdad Bomb Anniversary, Pledges Training, Protections, Policies to Ensure Safety of UN Staff

NEW YORK, 18 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to staff on the third anniversary observance of the 19 August 2003 Baghdad bombing, in New York today, 18 August:

Three years after the UN's darkest day in Baghdad, our hearts remain heavy.

We pause again to recall irreplaceable colleagues and unforgettable friends.

Iraq, which suffered its deadliest period of conflict last month, needed people like Sergio and his team.  Others have now bravely taken their place.  Because we can best honour the memory of our fallen heroes by carrying forward their legacy, by continuing their work, and by seeking inspiration from their example.

Their death marked the UN's loss of innocence.  This Organization had been attacked before, and it has been targeted since.  But the Baghdad attack dealt a fatal blow to the illusion that wearing a blue helmet, or hoisting a UN flag, placed us above the fray.  It undermined the belief that international civil servants could assume that their impartiality would be accepted and respected by all parties to a conflict.

Today, more than ever, UN staff confront direct and deadly threats to their safety.

My first responsibility as Secretary-General is to take care that no staff member's life is needlessly or recklessly endangered.  Let me therefore assure colleagues here, and all those in the field, that I will continue doing my utmost to ensure that UN staff have the training, protections and policies they need to carry out their vital work in the service of humankind.

Were they with us today, I believe our murdered colleagues would be immensely proud that, despite the dangers, the difficulties, and the near unbearable grief, our work for peace continues, undeterred and undiminished, whether in Lebanon, in Darfur, in Timor-Leste, Haiti or Iraq.

This is our answer to their loss.  This is our living tribute to fallen friends.

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