23 March 2009
Press Release
Note No. 6195

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Note to Correspondents




With at least 19 United Nations staff members imprisoned or “disappeared” around the world, the twenty-fourth annual Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members will be marked by a ceremony on Wednesday, 25 March, at 11 a.m. in the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Club on the third floor of the Secretariat Building.

This year’s ceremony will highlight the dangers faced daily by staff members and associated personnel, as well as journalists, around the world.  Recent high-profile hostage incidents in Niger and Pakistan have underscored the urgency of the problem.

Invited speakers include Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann; Pierre Bertrand, Chief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Liaison Office; Andrew Whitley, Chief of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Liaison Office; and Stephen Kisambira, President of the United Nations Staff Union.

The Day of Solidarity marks the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett by armed men in 1985 near Beirut Airport.  Mr. Collett, a British journalist and former Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Accra, was on assignment for UNRWA, and his fate has never been determined.  Following his abduction, UNCA made Mr. Collett their Honorary President, a title he has retained ever since.

State authorities arrested 160 staff members from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 and there were 39 cases of detention by militia and other groups, according to the latest report of the Secretary-General on the matter (A/63/305).  Locally recruited humanitarian and United Nations personnel remain the most vulnerable and have accounted for the majority of arrests, according to the report.

At least 125 journalists are behind bars around the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and at least 30 have “disappeared”.

The event is organized by the Staff Council Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service.

For information, please contact Guy Candusso at tel.:  212 963 7074; e-mail:  candusso@un.org; or Edoardo Bellando at tel.:  212 963 8275; e-mail:  bellando@un.org.

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For information media • not an official record