Statement by Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General on 19 August 2016

Wreath-laying Ceremony to Mark Anniversary of UN Headquarters Bombing in Baghdad
Photo Credit: UN Photo/Manual Elias

"We are here today to honour those who have sacrificed their lives in the service of the United Nations, working for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. I am honoured to represent the Secretary-General who is on travel.

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, we recall and remember colleagues who lost their lives in their mission to help people in conflict and in desperate need.

Twenty-two of them were killed in the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad 13 years ago. Many of us at this solemn gathering today are relatives and friends of those who died in this horrific terrorist attack, which aimed to force the United Nations and its staff to leave Iraq.

I was personally close to several of these colleagues, having served with them in different roles at the UN. They were the best of the best, the most committed of the committed. They were the hope for the future of the United Nations, brutally cut down in the prime of their lives.

When the shocking news broke, I was serving in Washington as Sweden's Ambassador. There were many phone calls with colleagues and friends who were in shock and grief like me. One of them was Kofi Annan. I know that this was a huge personal blow and loss for him.

This tragedy touched all of us who believe in the United Nations and who understand that our blue flag only flies because committed people wave it - like our friends and colleagues in Baghdad.

Having lost our colleagues not only in Iraq on the 19th of August 2003 but all over the world before and since then - the most important thing for us to do is to work in an even more determined way, never losing our faith in the role of the UN, the belief in our own responsibility to work for peace, development and human rights.

Those who attack the United Nations want to make us afraid, feel weak and to retreat. Those we honour today inspire us to be bold and determined to go forward. This challenge we meet all over the world today - from Syria to South Sudan, from Yemen to Libya, from Somalia to Afghanistan, where humanitarian workers and peacekeepers have lost or are risking their lives.

Their legacy is lasting and ever present. It lives on in our commitment to save people from misery and death and in our determination to create a future of peace and justice, and respect of human dignity.

Thank you."