24/10/2003
Press Release
SG/SM/8961



IN INCREASINGLY HIGH-RISK ENVIRONMENT, NO MORE SERIOUS DUTY THAN TO PROTECT STAFF,


SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS AT UNVEILING OF HEADQUARTERS MEMORIAL


Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the unveiling of the memorial to the fallen, New York, 24 October:


I’m sure we are all profoundly moved by the solemn beauty and dignity of this place of remembrance.


This Memorial to the Fallen was made possible by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces; but equally, it could not have taken shape without the contributions of the friends and colleagues who put so much empathy, thought and work into the concept.


Let me thank Agnes Gund -- who sadly could not be with us today -- Kynaston McShine, and our own Brian Urquhart for their guidance and advice.


My gratitude also goes to Bernardo Fort Brescia of Arquitectonica for the time, vision and exceptional talent he has devoted to designing the memorial.


As you can see, it is a memorial deeply rich in symbolism -- the slabs hewn from quarries in all five continents; the 191 stones representing the 191 Member States of the United Nations; the fountain pool reflecting the river of time, hope and life. 


It is an ideal place for contemplation and for paying tribute to our fallen colleagues.  After more than half a century of United Nations field operations, we finally have a site fit to honour our heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice. We have waited far too long for it.  This memorial fills a gaping void.


It is also a highly appropriate place to reflect upon the ongoing mission of the United Nations, and the men and women who continue to work for peace every day, often risking their lives in the process.


Let us never forget that those men and women serve as a result of decisions taken by Member States of our Organization.  And that for them to carry out their mission as effectively and safely as possible, we need Member States to give effect to the resolutions they adopt; to provide genuine and steadfast support for the principles of the United Nations; to pull together on the basis of a collective and coherent policy that is both viable and visionary.


In the increasingly high-risk environment in which we operate, there is no more serious or solemn duty than our responsibility to protect United Nations staff in the field.  It is a responsibility we all bear -– Secretariat and Member States.


Today, we attempt to fulfil another responsibility -- our responsibility as colleagues and friends, as comrades in peace:  to salute the memory of the fallen; to carry forward their legacy; to continue their work; to be inspired by their example.


That inspiration reaches far beyond the walls of the United Nations itself. Yesterday, the European Parliament awarded its Sakharov human rights prize to the United Nations, in honour of our staff “who have lost their lives in carrying out their work for peace in the world”.  That award, as well as the Nobel Peace Prizes of 1988 and 2001, is something we should all take pride in.


Pride in our work is best expressed in respect for our colleagues.  I would suggest that from time to time, we stop whatever we are doing to visit this Memorial to the Fallen, and -- as the inscription on this glass wall tells us, in the beautiful words of Brian Urquhart -- remember here those who gave their lives for peace.


Let us remember them now by joining together in a minute of silence.


* *** *