A commemoration of the bombing of U.N. Baghdad office was held on 19 August this year at U.N. Headquarters in a very brief ceremony, from 10:20am - 10:30am. The Secretary General placed a wreath in the General Assembly special area near the meditation room. Very few staff attended, as they are now dispersed around Manhattan and no real mobilization effort was made, particularly that the commemoration was merged -- or blurred, to be more exact -- with the World Humanitarian Day proclaimed by the General Assembly two years ago. Although the immediate purpose was to remember the 2003 bombing which claimed 22 of our best colleagues and injured about 150 people, this year's ceremony seemed more like a general ceremony with a message by the Secretary General on a wider plea that "we are humanitarian workers." The theme moved from the dedication of international civil servants who gave the ultimate sacrifice while on a field assignment, to the cause of humanitarian aid. "On World Humanitarian Day, we renew our commitment -- to life-saving relief efforts and remember those who died serving this noble cause," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his message. The occasion was arranged by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs.

Yet no oversight, intentional or otherwise, could distance the U.N. Secretariat from that painful tragedy. Even when squeezed into ten minutes and merged with a wider occasion, the heroism and sacrifice of our fallen colleagues came across when a minute of silence was observed in memory of the team led by our colleague Sergio Vieira de Mello. Next to the wreath, U.N. Security Officers wearing white gloves gave their respects. The torn blue and while U.N. flag which once flew outside Baghdad U.N. Headquarters laid there just behind the wreath, a vivid reminder. "Fallen in the Cause of Peace" said the caption.

Regardless of persistent attempts by transient newcomers to bend the facts, merge or blur them, a devotion to HUMAN DIGNITY, not just humanitarian social work, will always be a symbol of a U.N. culture of dedication and enlightened sacrifice. 19 August, 2003, was an unforgettable example.