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Memorials Unveiled Honoring UN Personnel Killed in Service - 2003-10-24

U.N. officials have unveiled memorials in New York and Geneva to honor staff killed in service. The memorials were completed as U.N. officials consider overhauling security for employees worldwide.

The memorial at U.N. headquarters in New York is located in a quiet, wooded section of a garden.

It was constructed with slabs from quarries in all five continents, 191 stones to represent all U.N. member states, and a fountain pool to reflect hope, time and life.

At its center is a glass wall with the phrase "remember here those who gave their lives for peace," written in the United Nations' six official languages.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan unveiled the memorial at a ceremony with hundreds of United Nations staff and diplomats, marking the 48th anniversary of the organization's founding. "It is an ideal space for contemplation and for paying tribute to our fallen colleagues. After more than half a century of U.N. field operations, we finally have a site fit to honor our heroes, who made the ultimate sacrifice," Mr. Annan said.

U.N. officials held the ceremony as they prepare to overhaul security operations, following a bombing in August at the United Nations Baghdad headquarters, in which 22 people were killed. Among them was the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Last month, a second bomb at U.N. offices in Baghdad left two Iraqi police officers dead.

In a scathing report this week, an independent panel described U.N. security in Baghdad as "dysfunctional." Secretary-General Annan, who has pulled the bulk of his staff out of Iraq, has said the United Nations will have to change its security system.

At the dedication ceremony, Mr. Annan again underscored the urgent need to protect United Nations personnel.

"In the increasingly high risk environment in which we operate, there is no more serious or solemn duty than our responsibility to protect United Nations staff in the field. It is a responsibility we all bear - Secretariat and member states," he said.

The ceremony ended with the playing of taps, after participants observed a moment of silence for U.N. staff killed in service.

Officials also dedicated a separate memorial at headquarters in Geneva, Friday, on the annual United Nations Day.