“We are here to mourn together, to remember together, and to pay our respects together,” Secretary-General António Guterres said at the solemn ceremony, held in the Trusteeship Council chamber at UN Headquarters in New York.
Relatives of the fallen personnel, members of the diplomatic community and UN staff from around the world attended the event, both in-person and online.
Honouring dear colleagues
At the start of the ceremony, the Secretary-General alongside UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi and the Security Council President for July, Ambassador Barbara Woodward of the United Kingdom, lit a candle representing an eternal flame.
The UN chief called for a minute of silence “for all our dear, dear colleagues that have given their lives for others to be able to live.”
The names of the 77 military, police and civilian personnel who died serving the Organization last year were read out during the ceremony.
Courage and commitment
Mr. Guterres said these men and women, who came from 36 countries, were both colleagues and friends.
“Their service embodied the principle and the promise of the United Nations: The principle of our common humanity and the promise to act on it – to work together to solve shared challenges, and build a world of peace, prosperity and human rights for all,” he said.
The Secretary-General underscored how UN staff “breathe life into the noble vision” each day, and frequently in difficult conditions, such as peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers.
“Yet whatever their role, and whatever the circumstance, all those we honour today dedicated themselves to others,” he said.
“Their courage saved lives, their commitment safeguarded those in need, and their expertise helped to build a better world – now and in the future.”
Keeping their memory alive
Mr. Guterres noted that in a divided and dangerous world, the vision and values that the UN flag represents are more important than ever.
He upheld commitment to continue the UN’s essential mission, in honour of those who gave their lives in service to the Organization.
“We pledge to keep supporting families. We commit to continually review and improve the safety, care and wellbeing of our staff. And we vow to keep the memories of our fallen colleagues alive: In our thoughts, in our hearts, and in our work to build a life of dignity and hope for all,” he said.
More protection needed
UN Staff Union representative Camille Mckenzie extended deepest condolences to the families, saying “the loved ones you are mourning have also left a painful void in our own lives.”
She also highlighted the need for greater protection for UN personnel.
Although working for the Organization is never fully devoid of risk, “we know all too well that despite our best efforts, some of the losses we are mourning today could have been avoided,” said Ms. Mckenzie, the Union’s Second Vice-President.
“Today’s ceremony should therefore serve as a sharp reminder that we must never let our guard down in ensuring the maximum protection for United Nations personnel in the areas of safety and security, occupational health and safety, and mental health and well-being,” she added.
She underlined the UN Staff Union’s steadfast commitment to continue efforts towards strengthening those protections, “as well as to ensure that prompt and effective support is available to family members when the unthinkable comes to pass.”
‘A lasting inspiration’
Atul Khare, head of the UN Department of Operational Support, said the fallen colleagues were sterling examples of dedication and belief in the work of the UN.
“Their memory will be a lasting inspiration to all of us,” he said. “Let us carry forward the noble work of the United Nations as a way to honor their memory.”