1 September 2004

Commemorative events varied from Cairo, Rio to Kabul. The most erratic was in New York, the most poignant in Geneva. Joining them together was genuine sorrow and serene remembrance of lost colleagues. Common to them all was an impressive and brief yet compelling video presentation by the Department of Public Information narrated by the unmistakable baritone voice of Media Director Ahmed Fawzi:


These are the faces of the United Nations.

They came from many backgrounds, but shared a vision.

They embody our ideals.

And they sought, throughout their lives, so violently and prematurely interrupted, to realize those ideals.

Twenty-two faces of our consciousness: Twenty-two aspects of our common humanity.

Together, they were the United Nations.

As individuals, each left his or her own mark on our lives.

Each of us recalls them through a different prism.

They were, and they remain, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends.

We each have different memories of them: some of them overlapping, others entirely separate.

But we are unanimous in recognizing the unique place they occupy in our hearts and in the history of the United Nations.

They come to Baghdad; men and women from many different countries and backgrounds. They joined together to do the work the world asked of them in very complicated and difficult circumstances.


"We have a huge task ahead. And one that my colleagues, I'm sure, will help me carry out."


What they shared, above all, was a stubborn refusal to accept things as they are. They rebelled against the status quo that too many accept. They believed that despite everything, the United Nations can and should respond to their grievances of the forgotten and voiceless of the world.

SERGIO DE MELLO (to local staff):

"I am very proud that you, Iraqis, have upheld the ideals and the role of the organization through exceedingly difficult times."


Mixed in with this was a desire to live life fully, with spirit, passion and enthusiasm.

They had absolutely no patience for apathy -- individual or collective -- in the face of misery.

They knew, intuitively and through raw experience, what human dignity really is, what it really means.

They understood because they had witnessed -- or themselves suffered -- the indignity that humans so often heap on each other.

And they were not willing to accept that.


The United Nations is the sum of its parts. On 19 August 2003, that value -- that sum -- was greatly diminished.

Our friends and loved ones are indispensable. Our constant challenge in the years to come will be to live with the ever-present pain of their absence; to remember their inspiration, selflessness and friendship; and, through our actions, never to forget.

May they rest in peace. And may we, like them, always find the strength to refuse to accept things as they are.