United Nations flag at Headquarters flies at half-mast
The United Nations flag at Headquarters flies at half-mast in memory of the United Nations peacekeepers who lost their lives in a helicopter crash in Sierra Leone. (2004) UN Photo/Mark Garten

Whether in their home countries or abroad, United Nations staff members have an admirable commitment to service. Their safety must be our priority. On this International Day of Solidarity, I call on the Member States and the international community to strengthen resolve to give them the protection they need to continue their work for peace and prosperity for all.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Protecting UN staff

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, hundreds of brave men and women have lost their lives in its service. During the 1990s, the growing number and scale of UN peacekeeping missions put many more at risk. More lives were lost during the 1990s than in the previous four decades combined.

At that time, an awareness began to develop among Member States and staff, that the more active the UN became in the future, the more it was going to be targeted.

The first resolution on staff security was adopted by the UN Security Council in September 1993.

Complex negotiations subsequently took place in the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the General Assembly on an international legal convention to protect UN personnel.

The result of those negotiations was the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1994.

Origin

The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members is marked each year on the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett, a former journalist who was working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) when he was abducted by armed gunman in 1985.  His body was finally found in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in 2009.

The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members has taken on even greater importance in recent years, as attacks against the United Nations intensify.  This is a day to mobilize action, demand justice and strengthen our resolve to protect UN staff and peacekeepers, as well as our colleagues in the non-governmental community and the press.

Purpose

This is a day to mobilize action, demand justice and strengthen our resolve to protect UN staff and peacekeepers, as well as our colleagues in the non-governmental community and the press.

Documents

 

Alec Collett
Portrait of Alec Collett upon his appointment as Director of the UN Information Centre in Accra, Ghana (1979). UN Photo/Milton Grant
Staff at the UN Secretariat mourn their colleagues who perished in the Baghdad bombing of 2003.

Serving the cause of peace in a violent world is a dangerous occupation. Since the founding of the United Nations, more than 3,500 brave men and women have lost their lives in its service. Natural disasters also claim the lives of those serving the UN. Here we remember those often forgotten – the fallen.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.