1 September 2003

For two days, reports were unclear. We all hoped against hope that Nadia Younes had somehow miraculously survived. It was first confirmed that our outstanding colleague and everyone's charismatic friend Sergio Vieira de Mello was killed. The Special Representative on leave from is post of High Commissioner for Human Rights had about one more month to go in Iraq before returning to Geneva. Very few knew that his equally outstanding Chief of Staff Nadia was also preparing to return to New York to take over as Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Services. The dynamic Brazilian and the irreverent Egyptian -- both unique international civil servants -- made a perfect team beaming with hope, energy and sense of humour. They also shared a work ethic, an unflinching commitment to the objectives of the United Nations. They were workers, not mere networkers. But somehow their performance networked for them. They were among the best that the U.N. system could produce.

They started from different routes at about the same time. Sergio in the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, and Nadia at U.N. Conference Services and Public Information in New York. Sergio served his first political post with U.N. Forces in South Lebanon where he made lifelong friends; then returned to HCR where he handled emergency refugee problems around the world. That prepared him for the post of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Operations when his former HCR colleague Kofi Annan became Secretary-General. He then handled the U.N. takeover in Kosovo and the establishment of East Timor, returning to Geneva this time as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Nadia made her way up in communications and public information, getting a break as Deputy Spokesman to Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. Her adaptable human skills were reflected in a close cheerful and effective teamwork with Spokesman Francois Guiliani. She was a favourite confidante of that greatest of gentlemen -- Don Javier -- who selected her to travel with him on special missions. She accompanied him during that fateful trip in 1990 to persuade the Iraq dictator to get out of Kuwait in order to avert a looming war. After initial difficulties with his successor and her compatriot, Dr. Boutros-Ghali, Nadia overcame sensitive challenges, going to Rome as Director of the Information Centre (where staff adored her) and returned to New York in a more senior position as Director of Media in the Department of Public Information, then as Chief of Protocol. Distraught by death in the family, she almost gave up her international career except that she received an offer she couldn't refuse. The Director General of the World Health Organization, former Norwegian Prime Minister Brundtland offered her the post of Assistant Director General. She went to Geneva, then joined Sergio in Baghdad.

Tragedy has more than one face. For the U.N. the tragedy is to lose such special people at its time of perceived decline. For Iraq, it is a loss of those who believed in the potential of one of the oldest societies in the world and in the need to help the Iraqi people to reclaim their identity and achieve their independence. The grief of their families is inconsolable.

For us, their friends and colleagues who worked with them at times of hardships, pain and hope:

Obrigado Sergio.

Shukren Habibti Nadia.

For the affectionate human bond you offered us. For your care when we needed it and for your readily shining smile. You will always be in our memory, always in our thoughts. May your souls rest in peace. We miss you already.