It was just four months ago that I had the great pleasure and honour of spending time with you and seeing first-hand the vitally important work you do for the people of Nigeria.
My visits to Maitama General Hospital and Dutse Makaranta Primary Health Care Centre, my meeting with the Presidential Committee on the status of the Millennium Development Goals –these and other encounters painted a moving picture of the UN presence in Nigeria, a picture of partnership and progress.
I left Nigeria truly impressed by the life-saving work being done from UN House, and by your life-affirming commitment to our shared global mission of peace, development and human rights.
So it is with particular sadness that I again convey my profound condolences to all of you as you remember and pay tribute to the colleagues who perished in last month's heinous attack on the UN compound. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, with those who were injured, and with all of you as you carry on despite trauma at what just happened and and fear for the future.
This terrorist attack showed utter disregard for human life. It was an assault not just on our premises, but on our values and our work. There can be no justification for such wanton killing and destruction.
The victims were concerned only with helping Nigeria's poor and vulnerable, and with supporting the country in addressing its varied challenges. Colleagues working on crime prevention, health services and many other urgent issues had their lives cut short. I am told of one young man who died on what was to be his last day of work before departing to further his education –a path he chose because he had been so inspired by his association with the United Nations. There are many more such stories, of dreams brutally denied.
I commend all of the partners who stood with us during our time of need, including the host Government, other governments, and many doctors and medical professionals.
I also want to commend all of you for the admirable resolve with which you are continuing your work and adapting to the new and more difficult circumstances in which we must now operate. Our work is with people, and would suffer if we are confined to a fortress-like environment. Yet our work also depends crucially on safety. That is the conundrum we face; that is the balance we must strive to find.
The Government is investigating the attack, with help from other countries that have the relevant expertise and capacities. The United Nations is re-assessing security both in Nigeria and elsewhere, given the implications of what was the first attack of its kind in this country. We are all painfully aware that such attacks on UN premises around the world have only increased in recent years.
Today, our solemn duty is to remember the colleagues and friends who died in the line of duty, serving the causes that drive our Organization and bind us together as a team. The lives we mourn today personify the deep commitment that characterizes the work of the United Nations in Nigeria and globally. At this time of sorrow and loss, let us pledge to honour their sacrifice by continuing to make the UN presence in Nigeria a beacon of peace and hope.