Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the annual memorial service for fallen staff, in New York today:
Each year, it is my solemn duty to honour our colleagues and friends who have lost their lives in the course of their service to the United Nations.
This year, because of the pandemic, we cannot be together in person. But, please know that each of our fallen colleagues is firmly in my heart, I believe is firmly in all our hearts.
It is a sad fact that, due to the nature of our responsibilities, our personnel often have to face perilous situations where crisis, conflict and instability reign. That so many of our colleagues choose to serve where risk prevails is testament to their unstinting commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable people, who rely on us for peace, shelter, food, vaccinations and so much more.
This year, we pay tribute to 77 United Nations personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty between 16 March and 31 December 2019. Thirty-eight were military, which underscores the increasingly complex and dangerous work our peacekeepers are asked to perform. Three were police and 36 were civilian personnel. They came from 41 nations. We mourn their passing and cherish their memories.
Allow me to express my deepest condolences to all their families and loved ones, many of whom are online today with us. Please join me in a moment of silence as we reflect on their sacrifice.
This year, when the world is facing the unprecedented upheaval of the COVID‑19 pandemic, we are also commemorating 75 years of the United Nations. Our Organization was born from the ashes of the Second World War and has promoted peace and human progress ever since.
All around the world, especially in the most fragile contexts, the blue flag of the United Nations symbolizes hope. That hope is part of the legacy of the colleagues we mourn today. They paid the ultimate sacrifice so that others could look forward to better days.
I am keenly aware of my responsibility to them, to you, their families and loved ones, and to all United Nations staff who serve in unstable and dangerous environments. Even one death is one too many.
So, my pledge to you today is to continue to ensure that our Organization constantly reviews and improves our practices related to the safety and care of staff.
When our colleagues pay the ultimate sacrifice, it is our duty to honour them and support their families.
For, without our brave colleagues in the field, we cannot do what we have been asked to do by Member States — to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to pursue better standards of living for all in larger freedom.
On this solemn occasion, let us honour the memory of our fallen colleagues by recommitting ourselves to the noble cause of promoting peace, prosperity and opportunity for everyone, everywhere, for generations to come.