|WE LOST THE VERY BEST. SERGIO AND NADIA -- WE MISS YOU
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:
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.