Thank you, Ms. Bibi Sherifa Khan, President of the United Nations Staff Union.
It is a pleasure to join you for Staff Day.
This is a day to recognize the remarkable staff who bring the United Nations to life around the world and around the clock.
Today we celebrate also our ideals: Peace. Sustainable development. Human Rights. Solidarity. And compassion.
It is also a day to celebrate the skills, commitments and talent that UN staff demonstrate in so many ways, and on so many challenges.
So it is appropriate that we start this day by remembering all the cherished colleagues who gave their lives pursuing this mission.
This year alone, more than 30 of our military and civilian personnel have died in deliberate, malicious attacks.
Across our history, so many others have met the same fate or perished in earthquakes and other circumstances in the line of duty.
And I have to tell you that in my ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, I was always extremely impressed by the courage shown by our colleagues in the most dangerous situations in the world.
I remember in Eastern Chad, in Abéché, a moment in which rebels were expecting to take the city where our team was working to protect refugees from Darfur.
On the phone, talking to our Head of Office there, I said, “Look, you should evacuate Abéché,” and she refused. The staff refused. They stayed.
The rebels came and the rebels went. The government retook the position. Houses were sacked everywhere. And they stayed in Abéché.
I remember Yemen. At a certain moment, a few years ago, in a very dramatic situation in which the security of our staff was enormously endangered, I asked them to come out.
They refused and they decided to stay. We couldn’t convince them to come out even if all our security people were saying that they should leave.
But they said “No, because the people we are protecting need us. We have not the right to leave.”
Now these examples are something that should inspire all of us.
We have a number of heroes in our organizations that we should be able to permanently celebrate because every single day in many of the scenarios we face around the world, every single day there are heroic gestures of UN staff that many – those that criticize the UN – are probably not aware of, because if they were, they wouldn’t say some of the things that we sometimes listen to.
But I pay tribute to all these colleagues in the most dangerous duty stations for their courage, their commitment, and unfortunately, as we have seen, 30 of them have perished since the beginning of the year.
Indeed, we are living in challenging times. We face and the world faces a dramatic number of serious threats. There are enormous demands on the United Nations -- on us all – to continue doing what we do, do it the best we can and to keep pace with changing times.
I have no doubt that we can rise to the moment if we do it together as we have been doing.
UN staff give me hope – for the future of our world, and for the betterment of our Organization.
I thank staff for upholding UN values and enabling our blue flag to fly with meaning every day, throughout the world and especially in the most dangerous places where the UN protects the most vulnerable of the people of our planet.