UN honours fallen colleagues and friends who ‘risk all to promote peace’

UN Photo/Mark Garten Secretary-General António Guterres lights a candle at the annual memorial service to honour United Nations personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1 January 2018, including fallen colleagues from the Funds and Programmes. (6 May 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The lives of 115 colleagues who lost their lives between the beginning of last year and the end of March, serving the United Nations, were honoured on Monday at the annual Memorial Service for Fallen Staff, in New York.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that it was a “sad reminder of the often-perilous nature of our work” but also “testament to the commitment of the thousands of women and men from around the globe who are prepared to risk all to promote peace and provide assistance to some of the world’s most vulnerable and needy people.”

The UN chief lit a candle in honour of the 115 colleagues from 43 different nations, alongside the President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, and this month’s President of the Security Council, Dian Triansyah Djani, who is Indonesia’s UN Ambassador.

Ms. Espinosa expressed her profound respect and admiration for their dedication, passion and commitment to humanity. She said that their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Mr. Guterres noted that most of the fallen, came from the UN peacekeeping family, “which faces increasingly complex and deadly challenges”, and the vast majority hailed from African nations, who had donned the ‘blue helmet’ to service in some of the most dangerous environments in the world. Mr. Guterres said he was grateful for the presence at UN Headquarters of the African Union Chairperson, Moussa Faki.

The commitment and sacrifice of African peacekeepers is “a stark testament to the commitment and sacrifices of our African partners to our joint endeavours toward global peace and security”, said the UN chief.

He also noted the huge loss of 21 colleagues who had died in the Ethiopian air disaster just in March, and 19 civilians from agencies, funds and programmes. “Our deepest condolences go to all their families and loved ones, many of whom are present here today with us.”

After a moment of silence, he said the UN was working hard to mitigate the risks that colleagues face and promoting “better individual preparedness for crises” and providing “enhanced medical and psychological support”.

“We are working to speedily settle claims and we are providing more comprehensive counselling, care and assistance to survivors and families,” he said. “But I am aware that there is always more we can do, and I am committed to ensuring our Organization reviews and constantly improves our practices related to the safety and care of staff.”

The UN chief said he was “particularly outraged when our humanitarian and peacekeeping colleagues are directly targeted”, adding that it was “essential that we demand justice and accountability for what, in many instances, constitute war crimes.”

He called on the whole UN to honour the memory of the fallen, “by rededicating ourselves to the noble cause of promoting peace, prosperity and opportunity for every woman, man and child on the planet.”        

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