SEPTEMBER 15, 2018


This year Secretary-General Guterres laid a wreath for the observance of the fifteenth anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad. He reminded those assembled of the Organization's core commitment -- embodied by those who died on 19 August 2003 -- to stand "with those who are suffering, to bring them the relief they need."

After observing a minute's silence, he said the fallen U.N. staff had "made the ultimate sacrifice for the values and the Charter of the United Nations, and for the people of Iraq."

The ceremony took place in front of the memorial established to commemorate the attack, where the U.N. flag from the Canal Hotel and the names of the victims are displayed.

"I was personally close to some of these colleagues including their leader, the incomparable, Sergio Vieira de Mello," he mentioned. "I had the opportunity to be in close contact with him during his time in East Timor where he played an absolutely essential role in guaranteeing the freedom of the people of East Timor and a smooth transition for their sovereignty."

Addressing the audience, which included families and colleagues of the deceased, he said "this was a huge personal loss to so many of us. And an even greater blow to the families of those who were killed."

The attack, which was the first time the U.N. was deliberately targeted on a massive scale, "was traumatizing for the whole organization, and we learned some very difficult lessons," said Mr. Guterres, explaining that "the mechanisms in place to look after survivors and the families of victims were inadequate, and it has taken too many years to improve them."

The U.N. Chief regretted that "before and since that day, United Nations staff have been targeted by those who would like to weaken us and make us afraid to do our jobs." Referring to attacks against the U.N. that have taken place in Algiers, Kabul, Mogadishu, Abuja and other locations, he said "terrorists have attempted to silence and to banish us."

Though he stated that the work of the U.N. "will never be free from risk," the Secretary-General stressed that he is "committed to improving security for all United Nations staff. The blue flag of the United Nations flies high because of the brave women and men who carry it to the farthest corners of the world," he said, adding that "the legacy of the humanitarian workers, the peacekeepers, the military and civilian staff who have given their lives is lasting and will be ever-present in our hearts."