Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged all countries to support the international treaty protecting UN staff and associated personnel, to ensure all those who carry out the vital work of the organization have the safety they need to fulfill their mission.

In a message commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, the top UN official highlighted the “extreme dangers” encountered by UN staff and personnel globally.

“The threats vary – from deliberate and deadly ambushes to kidnappings, intimidation and unlawful detention. But the thread is the same: these are unacceptable obstacles to fulfilling our mandates and advancing peace, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian assistance around the globe. National staff are often at particular risk,” he said.

According to UN data, as of March 15, 20 UN personnel are in detention, including six who were arrested this year, five in 2020, and the rest before that. Peacekeeping operations are a particular target, with at least 10 personnel having lost their lives this year to malicious attacks.

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 when he was abducted by armed gunman in 1985.

His body was finally found in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in 2009. The day also honors his memory, and that of all those who have suffered a similar fate.

In his message, the UN chief urged all countries to support the 1994 Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel as well as its 2005 Optional Protocol, which extends protection to UN personnel delivering humanitarian, political or development assistance. To date, only 95 countries are party to the convention, and only 33 to the protocol.

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