UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that UN staff members have increasingly become targets of attack despite the world body’s efforts to ensure their safety and security.
In the second half of 2017, 140 UN personnel from 42 nations were killed — 123 military, three police, and 14 civilian, Guterres told an event to commemorate the fallen UN staff in the line of duty.
“I remember in my 10 years as High Commissioner for Refugees seeing this maddening evolution,” he said.
“I remember in the beginning, when symbols like the Red Cross and Red Crescent or the UN were symbols that were respected even by militant groups and armed militias that were creating havoc in several parts of the world.
“Then progressively, I saw how this respect was being lost and in the end, I was starting to see situations in which our staff was targeted exactly because they were our staff, either in peacekeeping missions or in humanitarian work or in any other form of support to populations.”
All around the world, the blue flag of the United Nations represents the hopes of some of the world’s most vulnerable people for peace, security and an opportunity for a better future, said Guterres.
Those people depend on the women and men who dedicate themselves to serving the United Nations — uniformed personnel, international civil servants, national staff and UN volunteers.
“It grieves me that anyone should perish doing this essential work. And it angers me that there is so little accountability for attacks on us, which in some cases constitute a war crime.”
“Without the courage and commitment of our peacekeepers and humanitarians and all our other colleagues, we could not accomplish what we do — every day — in some of the most difficult and dangerous environments,” he said.
He admitted that it is a terrible dilemma for those that have to take decisions about where and when to send staff into the most difficult areas in the world and in the most dangerous moments. Enditem